It’s time for this year‘s last and most important task, picking the bubbly for New Year’s Eve. While Champagne’s appeal is undeniable, there are some luscious, quirky, little Italian sparklers well worth sipping when the clock strikes twelve.
After all, Italians were the first to deliberately induce effervescence in their winemaking, despite the practice commonly being misattributed to the French Benedictine monk, Dom Pérignon. Contrary to popular myth, at one time an important part of his job as cellar master at the Abbey Saint-Pierre d’Hautvilliers, was to prevent a secondary fermentation in the juice under his watch.
Although fizziness in wine has been noted as far back as ancient Greek and Roman times, the first written account of its intentional creation was in 1622 by Francesco Scacchi, an Italian monk and physician from Fabriano. In his work, De Salubri potu dissertatio, he described adding sugar to wine to create bubbles, then conjectured whether they were good or bad for one’s health, including spiritual.
The wines recommended here are unlikely to lead to moral turpitude, but their deliciousness might make you giddy enough to grab the nearest stranger for a kiss at midnight. Both are from Italy's Marche, a stone’s throw from Scacchi’s home, and can be found at The Wine House in limited supply.
Made with red grapes, a touch of tannin gives these wines the backbone to hold up with a range of foods: anything fried, antipasti, cured meats, pastas with red sauce and roasted fish and meats are ideal.
NV Conti di Buscareto Lacrima di Morro d’Alba Brut Rosé, $21.99. Lacrima di Morro d’Alba is rarely seen in its still form far from its native Marche, but a sparkler? The most jaded wine geeks in your circle will be impressed with its rarity. This one is made in the Méthode Champenoise. Not usually a sucker for packaging, the sexy curves of the bottle and pale pink foil scream celebration. The wine is an intriguing dusky rose with a fine, persistent bead. Aromas of dried flowers and gorgeous herbs (mint, lavender, tarragon and sage) persist on the palate, ending with a finish of red berries and a hint of yeast. Dry, with a medium finish. Well-balanced and captivating.
2010 Fattoria Colmone della Marca Il Ciarliero, $15.99. Made in the Méthode Charmat from the even more obscure red vernaccia grape, this semi-sparkler is a deep, purply-magenta. It is a fun, frothy drink with a bit of residual sugar, that also has a serious side. Layers of bracing acidity, bright red fruit, sage and good structure rouse the brain as well as the palate. The bottle has a unique closure. There’s a bottle cap (think Coca Cola) under the foil, sitting atop the cork, so you’ll need a wine opener that can do double duty.