BY RICK RIOZZA
Kids have their soda; beer lovers have their suds. Cocktailians have their seltzer and we vino enthusiasts have our sparklers. Who doesn’t crave a refreshing fizzy drink on a hot summer day?
We could get a bit nerdy and offer a science explanation: Bubblies and sparklers—alcoholic or not—are refreshing because of the carbonation effect provides a cooling and clean mouth feel. It’s found that bubbles can decrease a drinker’s perception of sweetness and, along the same lines, can increase the perception of sourness.
And while we’re at it: there is a little touch and sensation game going on in the mouth where the tongue is at play with the slight “pain” perception of the carbonation. It’s that quick rough “bite” that we seem to appreciate and even desire—fifty shades of sparks, shall we say?
I’ve heard it said that “yesterday’s childhood soda drinkers are today’s sparkling wine quaffers.” Could be; in my youth, my favorite sodas were Cream Soda, 7–Up, and Royal Crown Cola, where now, I don’t do sweet sodas. Although—I’ll still crave 7–Up on ice with fresh squeezed lemon & lime when I’m under-the-weather; and, if I can’t find an ice cold beer or a nice glass of red wine to enjoy with my grilled cheeseburger, I can happily pop open an ice cold Coke! That’s a fun American flavor combo, what do you think?
And let’s not forget the fact that bubbles within the drink also convey aromatic compounds up to the drinker’s nose. In fact, there’s a wine expression—perhaps you’ve heard it: optimal aroma release—when it comes to sparkling wines, it’s the perfect time bubbles leave the liquid to explode their load of essence. It’s a sexy sensation. Further, wine chemists have found that quality sparklers produce pesky smaller bubbles which dart up quickly on their mission to burst out loud their concentrated gist.
While we’re at it, what about the rumor that the tiny bubbles in Champagne and sparkling wine “get one to feel the effects of the wine quicker”? Well—again, here’s the science on that: When digested, bubbles actually assist the alcohol to be absorbed faster by increasing pressure in your stomach and therefore pushing the alcohol through your stomach lining more quickly. In other words, the more bubbles in your drink, the less time it takes for your body to feel the buzz.
But let’s get back to the romance of the bubbly. Easily 90% of true wine lovers have a bona fide passion for it. French Champagne, Italian Prosecco, Spanish Cava, and California Sparkling wines chilling atop our wine bars and/or on our tables bring mouth-watering smiles and kid-like anticipation for that festive tingly sensation playing through a range of styles and flavors, fruit and complexities.
When we get close to the holiday season, we’ll no doubt chime in on some charming Champagne. Right now in our hot, dry, muggy and/or sultry weather, allow me to discuss three different types of sparkling wines that are terrifically tasty and really refreshing.
The wine world has fallen in love with the Italian Prosseco. A couple of decades ago, most Prosecco was part of the white peach cocktail known as the Bellini invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice. It then caught on as a “cheaper Champagne”; but unfortunately—a lot of it was simple and either watery or overly sweet.
Today, Prosecco is world class—and, still so reasonably priced! One of the best examples of both quality and price is the Zonin Prosecco DOC Cuvée 1821 ($13). I have a particular zest for this Zonin. When I traveled to Verona this past Spring, I stayed in a resort town at the southern tip of Italy’s Lake Garda, called Peschiera del Garda. My hotel was situated among the soft hills there; my bedroom window looked out into the Zonin Vineyards. I couldn’t resist walking through the vines and slapping them!
We cannot get enough of this delicious refreshing Prosecco DOC Cuvée 1821 in our desert! The aroma signals elegance with a focus of fresh green apple with a squeeze of lemon. On the palate, the wine is wonderfully dry and pleasantly fruity with fresh notes of apple, pear, apricots, and lemon grass along with that characteristic almond finish.
Choosing this bubbly for your summer parties is a no-brainer! We’ve enjoyed it with a Caprese salad, hot & spicy chicken wings, pan-seared salmon with lemon & basil, and, with black pepper, grated cheese & olive oil drenched pasta. It’s also great with light desserts, or as a dessert itself.
Along some different lines in sparkling wines on the touch-sweeter side, we have the Castello del Poggio Sparkling Moscato ($13). Not everyone always desires a brut bubbly. Sure there is some very sweet Moscato; but, most Italian Moscato is slightly-sweet as with this Castello Del Poggio that is quite refreshing with its low-alcohol (7%) content. The wine carries classic Moscato flavors of peach, musk, honey and white flowers; soft bubbles with a light, agile and elegant palate.
Chill it up! This wine pairs perfectly with smoky cheeses, Thai cuisine, delicate desserts—and with its low alcohol, how about breakfast? Try a glass alongside crispy bacon: its bubbles cut through the fat and its sweetness perfectly complements the salty & savory.
Finally, on yet another front, a brut sparkling wine, Dos Almas from the Chilean valleys where stellar Chardonnay (90%) grows in Casablanca and Moscatel (10%) grows in Itata. This is Zonin’s first venture into the pure and clean vineyards of Chile.
World class bubbly that costs $15!! I poured this white sparkling wine around the table and everyone thought it was a Champagne! The nose bloomed notes of grapefruit, lime and soft floral aromas with the palate carrying dry blanc de blanc Chardonnay flavors. The Moscatel (from the Muscat grape family) brought a touch of roundness. An elegant wine in an elegant bottle—impressive all the way around!
To the summertime cheers!