Given the inherent opportunity to celebrate growing inside of you, there is no better time to explore the wonderful world of sparkling wines. If you’re up for “just one glass” of something new and tasty on Valentine’s Day (or any day!), why not dive into some glorious bubbles? And since growing a human being is one of the most empowering life events you’ll ever experience, I say: exploit that sense of “I am creating life, and I can do ANYTHING,” and become a mini-expert on sparkling wines. (Don’t worry, there are more than enough moments in the days to come that will keep you humble.)
Just because you can’t drink as often as you used to, or as often as you’d like, don’t let it stop you from upping your wine knowledge game. And when your bundle of joy arrives, you won’t have to think twice when you are asked what you want to drink to celebrate his/her arrival.
All That Sparkles
Not all bubbles are created equal, just as all sparkling wine is not Champagne. After all, Champagne is a region in France, not a type of wine. It’s like calling all the white wine in the world ‘Napa Valley.’ There are tons of options, so let’s break down the important differences.
Every still wine has the potential to become sparkling wine. As yeast consumes sugar to create alcohol it produces carbon dioxide. With regular still wines, the gas escapes. In sparking wines, the CO2 is captured and then kept in the bottle (by adding more sugar and yeast to the still wine) creating all those beautiful bubbles.
Compared to Champagne, sparkling wine can be and is made from any grape from anywhere in the world. In the U.S. and Australia, you’ll find producers experimenting with lots of interesting varietals and styles. From northern Italy, there is Prosecco, which is slightly lower in alcohol and acidity, making it fresh and accessible. If you love a little sweetness, try Moscato D’Asti, it’s the perfect aperitif or brunch wine. If you want bigger bubbles and full-bodied flavor that tends to be drier than Prosecco, order Cava from Spain. And German sekt is more likely to be sweeter than it is dry.
If you like your sparkling wine under $25 (who wouldn’t?), France produces another sparkling wine called Crémant. Crémants can be made from any grape grown in the region where it’s produced. So, it can be a Crémant de Bourgogne (or Burgundy), made from Chardonnay, or Crémant de Samur, made from Chenin Blanc.
Champagnes are generally acidic, nutty, and bready. Producers work hard to create wines with a signature or “house” specific flavor profile. This takes a lot of work, as most Champagnes are a blend of different grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and from different years (hence the term Non-Vintage or ‘NV’). Single vintage Champagnes are made only in exceptional years and carry an exceptional price tag to boot.
If you want something a little extra special for Valentine’s Day, find yourself a “grower” Champagne. The Champagne region is filled with big names and labels, and big prices to boot. What some folks don’t know is that there are independent producers that make brilliant Champagnes in much smaller quantities, and at prices that are more affordable. The best part: your pregnant brain need not retain too much information to still hit a home run -- all you need to remember is “grower Champagne.” Ask the clerk at any wine store worth its salt for a grower Champagne, or even type it in to the search field at your favorite online wine retailer, and you should find at least one bottle. You’ll impress your partner, and maybe even alter the course of your own understanding and appreciation of sparkling wine with one of these bottles.