By Rick Riozza

Summertime… and the living is—well, quite honestly, still crazy! You’d think that after pandemics, political knuckleheads, and problems in general—we’d get a break! During these times, you just need a bottle of wine close by—really close by.

Okay—it’s time for some Sparkling Summer Sippers. Below are some of the wines we’re out enjoying like mad dogs and Englishmen in the midday sun.

Not that anyone of you enthusiastic wine readers need any advice, but do remember the rule of wine law in the desert is that one steers clear of anything too boozy or highly tannic (as in heavy tannic reds). You wine outlaws—well, you have at it!


Our friendly L.A. based certified somm, Brianne Cohen, warns: “During summertime, seek out lower-alcohol wines with a strong acid backbone. A good rule of thumb: Wines made with grapes grown in cool climates or at high altitudes tend to naturally offer more acidity.

“Wines with less than 12 percent ABV allow you to imbibe a touch more without the effects of higher alcohol wines—ideal if you plan on day drinking or having more than one glass. Wines with good acidity give a refreshing and crisp sensation, perfect to combat the summertime heat.”

Now okay—as promised, some sparkling summer sippers: We’ve always loved the Franciacorta sparkling wine from the north of Italy just south of the Alps. It always rivals Champagne as to quality and flavor, and, sells for so much less. Berlucchi ’61 Rosé Brut Franciacorta DOCG ($40). This is a non-vintage sparkler made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. A few hours’ maceration of the Pinot Noir on the skins
(rosé maceration) to emphasize the aromas and hue of the grape give this wine a wonderful palate. 12.5% ABV.

We agree that the bubbly is bright, savory, and refreshing with aromas of juicy raspberry, wild cherry, baking spice and a whiff of bread crust. The palate is full of fresh red fruits with a tangy candied nectarine note closes the finish. Exceptional acidity and full-bodied. What else can you ask for with this premium sparkler at the price?

It’s perfect as an aperitif; it will pair well with a summer platter of cold meats and charcuterie, full-flavor first courses, and matured cheeses. Yummy!

So while we’re on the sparkling rosé subject, let’s come back to a California with the ever popular Domaine Chandon Brut Rosé ($18). This is the producer’s non-vintage bubbly with a new chic pink label. For years now, this wine and its main competitor, Mumm, trade back and forth as to which sparkling is the best for the year. This time it’s Domaine Chandon: It’s a festive and happy bubbly to be sure: Vibrant is the word that most wine reviews shout out. You’ve got strawberry, ginger, spice flavors, stone fruits, fresh citrus. It all works very well and will be the hit of any party or meal. It’s the deal!

Another California favorite is the Domaine Carneros Brut Estate 2016. If you wish to treat your household to a vintage bubbly, this is the ticket at around $34. “Creamy, crisp, and luscious with layered Asian pear, brioche and fresh ginger flavors that build vibrancy on the rich lingering finish”, is what Wine Spectator lauds on this wine. This always does a great job. And if you’re counting, it’s one of the highest scoring sparklers out right now at 93 points!

Another great California bubbly is the Decoy NV Brut Cuvée Sparkling ($20). The world seems to love anything the Decoy/Duckhorn brand is pouring. The same goes for its bubbly. Surely it’s a delicious work and everyone in the house is happy when the cork is popped. One enthusiast writes: “an enticing sparkling wine that offers alluring layers of baked apple, white peach and orange zest, as well as aromatic hints of honeysuckle and vanilla. On the palate, a delicate sweetness is perfectly balanced by bright acidity, which adds poise and energy to the lush, pure fruit flavors.”

Wine Spectator writes: “Snappy and fresh, with layered and steely lemon and orange zest flavors accented by floral vanilla notes. Drink now.”—well okay then!

We haven’t written on a Spanish Cava is some time. One of our go-to favorites at the great price of $15 a bottle is the venerable non-vintage Segura Viudas Riserva Brut Cava. The sparkler has complexity as you’d expect from a “reserve” wine. There’s green apple, pear, citrus and orange blossom. Such a deal—who can pass it up?

Okaysince we mentioned the Domaine Chandon brand, we’ll do a shout-out to the Mumm Napa Brut Prestige Napa County NV ($20). This is Mumm’s recognizable “black label” that’s also reasonably priced and meets up with the quality of the Chandon Brut. Brut Prestige features bright citrus, red apple, stone fruit and creamy
vanilla aromas, with hints of toast, honey and gingerbread spice. Its vibrant flavors are balanced by fine acidity and a rich, lingering finish.

Our series of summer sippers will continue throughout the season, covering whites & rosés from all over—the sparklers, stills & nash. So please stay tuned. Cheers!