Champagne is so last year — this holiday season, celebrate with a wide variety of bubbly from right here in Pennsylvania Wine Land.
A lot of us fall into the trap of using “Champagne” as a shorthand for any sparkling wine, but in reality, the only wines that should be called Champagne come from a specific region of northeastern France. In the E.U. and many other countries, including Australia, Chile, Brazil, Canada, and China, it is actually illegal to apply the name to wines produced outside that specific region or without the traditional method, which involves a second fermentation in the bottle.
Things are a bit more complicated in the United States: The name “Champagne” is banned for all new domestically-produced wines, but those that had approval to use the term before 2006 may continue to use it when the label also includes the actual origin (e.g., “Pennsylvania”). You will also occasionally see the phrase “méthode Champenoise,” which means that the wine was produced using the painstaking technique codified in the iconic French region, but with grapes from elsewhere. A couple other terms you might need: “Blanc de Blanc” is white sparkling wine made from white grapes (often Chardonnay) and “Brut” indicates a dry wine.
While there are some grapes that have long hogged the sparkling spotlight, you can use almost any varietal to make fizzy wine — the key is a second fermentation, either in the bottle or in a tank, that produces carbon dioxide (aka bubbles!). Winemakers from across Pennsylvania are experimenting and perfecting their own takes on this festive favorite.
Here are some of the most popular Pennsylvania varietals for sparkling wine.
Sparkling rosé is certainly having its moment, and Pinot Noir is a popular choice as it leads to dry, fruity, complex wines. Bring a bottle to your favorite Rosé lover, and make their year.
This hybrid grape does extremely well in our state’s colder, wetter growing conditions, and can be made into dry, off-dry, and sweet styles. When sipping a sparkling Vidal Blanc, expect high acid, bright fruit flavors, and aromas of grapefruit, pineapple, and pear.
A white hybrid, this grape can be used in Blanc de Blanc production, leading to slightly-sweet, balanced, fruity sparkling wine. Choose this for the Riesling drinkers in your life.
For sweet wine drinkers, Moscato is an excellent choice as it exudes flavors of nectarine, peach, and orange. This sparkler is sure to be a crowd pleaser and would be especially lovely alongside a fruit-centric dessert.