As the end of another year rapidly approaches, one seasonal drink seems to be top of everyone’s mind: Sparkling wine.
But with so many types of bubbles to choose from, how do you know where to turn? From different production techniques and variety compositions to questions of food pairings and glassware, the possibilities seem near endless.
In this episode, Associate Managing Editor Layla Schlack talks with Assistant Tasting Director Fiona Adams and Assistant Digital Editor J’nai Gaither about all things sparkling, including their fave picks and tips for bubbly bliss.
With all the great suggestions served up in today’s conversation, you’ll be hard pressed to be at a loss next time you’re staring down the aisles of corks and cages. For additional recommendations, check out recent reviews of sparkling wines here, or read our list of the best sparkling wines from Napa and Sonoma to buy now, the six best sparkling wines to cellar, or, for something a little different, this guide to sparkling red wines from around the world.
No matter what’s in your glass when the ball drops, let’s all raise our glass to a delicious New Year.
Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.
Lauren Buzzeo 0:08
Hello and welcome to the Wine Enthusiast Podcast, your serving of drinks culture and the people who drive it. I’m Lauren Buzzeo, the managing editor at Wine Enthusiast, and in this episode, we’re taking a look at everyone’s favorite end-of-year drink, sparkling wine. Everyone loves a glass of bubbles around the holidays, but with so many to choose from, how do you know where to turn? From different production techniques and variety compositions to questions of food pairings and glassware, Associate Managing Editor Layla Schlack talks with Assistant Tasting Director Fiona Adams and Assistant Digital Editor J’nai Gaither about all things sparkling, including their fave picks and tips for bubbly bliss. So grab a glass of your favorite fizz and enjoy this oh-so-very-bubbly conversation.
But first, a word from today’s sponsor. Spread holiday cheers at Total Wine and More, a wonderland for every wine, spirits and beer lover on your list, including you. ‘Tis the season for sparkling. Great for toasts and roast and anything on your holiday table. Why not uncork joy with a merry Cabernet and meet under the mistletoe. And Riesling makes a jolly match for your figgy pudding. Don’t miss this year’s top 20 wines, handpicked by elves with a little holiday magic. Balls dropping, corks are popping. Break open the bubbly and ring in the new year with their top picks. And with our wine gifts under $30, you’ll have gift giving in the bag. Of course, there’s always their flurry of festive, fizzy and flavorful hard seltzers. With over 8,000 wines, 4,000 spirits and 2,500 beers to choose from. You’ll find the just-right bottle that’ll look great and about always at prices that feel like a present with the best service in town. Choose curbside pickup, in-store pickup, shipping or delivery in select markets. Fill your sleigh in-store or online at TotalWine.com. Spirits not available in Virginia or North Carolina.
Layla Schlack 2:07
Right. Hello, this is assistant managing editor of print, Layla Schlack. I’m here with the rest of the Wine Enthusiast crew. I’m gonna let everyone introduce themselves.
J’nai Gaither 2:16
Hello, I am J’nai Gaither. I am the assistant editor on the digital side. And I am a Champagne lover.
Fiona Adams 2:27
And I’m Fiona Adams, the assistant tasting director. And I like all sparkling wines.
Layla Schlack 2:36
And you just wrote a great column for us about how we should be branching out beyond Champagne for sparkling wines. But we’re not here to fight about it. We’re here to share in our mutual love of sparkling wine. Can either of you remember, like a glass or a bottle or a moment or an occasion when you just fell in love with sparkling wine?
J’nai Gaither 2:57
Absolutely. This was probably around 10 or 11 years ago, and I was at a dinner party with a bunch of people in the wine industry. There were about eight of us, and most of them worked for distributors and importers, some were retailers as well. And they brought a lot of wine. I think we had about 25 wines for eight people. And one of the wines that was brought was Champagne Tarlant. And I had never heard of it before. I’d never seen it before. But I remember after it being poured in my glass, and I tasted it, I was kind of like, “Whoa, what the hell is this?” There was such a purity of fruit. There was this kind of like searing acidity that like actually didn’t scare me off, and I was just so confused. I was like, “Why have I never tasted sparkling like this before? It’s unbelievable.” And the texture that it left on my on my palate, almost like prickly tingly little like pecks on my palate, was just so intriguing to me and I was figuring like okay, this wine probably has no sugar. Lo and behold Tarlant’s range is mostly zero dosage. And from that point on, Tarlant was my all time favorite Champagne out of every producer ever. And zero dosage Champagne and Champagnes with zero mellow, you know, things that were like, rip my face off, torture porn acidity, those are the Champagnes that I have loved ever since.
Fiona Adams 4:47
No more enamel on your teeth, right?
J’nai Gaither 4:49
No enamel. Rip it right off.
Layla Schlack 4:52
I love that you were like kind of already in the industry. So you you had the vocabulary to express what it was that was so magical about that because, I mean, the first sparkling wine I ever drank I’m pretty sure was you know like a $5 bottle in college but like not not a memorable wine. But I did like the sensation of it. Before I knew anything about wine—and I’m not a soda drinker—but before I knew anything about wine, I knew I liked bubbles. Fiona, you kind of spent a lot of time around wine.
Fiona Adams 5:26
Oh, yeah, I’ve always been a wine drinker since, too young for legal reasons, or my parents will get in trouble. And I’ve always always loved sparkling wines. I’ve loved Champagne. Oh, you know, you just feel fancier drinking sparkling wine. But my like, favorite sparkling wine moment for me has pretty much nothing to do with me. I had invited some new friends to a birthday party and we were drinking some bottles of Bugey-Cerdon because it’s usually pretty cheap and always very delicious. And it just like blew all of their minds. And now I’ve created this group of dorky wine monsters. Now they’re always texting me, like I just got a text yesterday with a bunch of bottles of Burgundy like, “Found a great deal. Which one should I get?” And before this birthday party, they were more of like a Highlife and whiskey kind of crowd and now we’re having a Champagne-only dinner. I’ve created monsters and I will not apologize for it.
Layla Schlack 6:42
Yeah, I mean, I think what is our job if not to create dorky wine monsters? I think you should probably get a promotion for that.
Fiona Adams 6:52
I’m personally creating new wine drinkers every day.
J’nai Gaither 6:57
Good at your job, Fiona. Great at your job.
Layla Schlack 7:03
So, J’nai, would you say Champagne, like not even a question, like if you had to pick one one region? Is it just Champagne?
J’nai Gaither 7:11
Champagne would probably be 1A, Burgundy would be 1B. Burgundy is actually what got me into wine. But Champagne is what keeps me drinking and what probably has replaced the blood in my body.
Fiona Adams 7:29
I support that.
Layla Schlack 7:36
Fi, do you have a favorite region for sparkling wine or style?
Fiona Adams 7:41
I mean, I know I just wrote about how I’m over Champagne, but then I was just drinking Champagne this past Saturday evening. And I was like, right that’s why it’s the you know, reigning champ of sparkling wine. And also like, I mean, there’s few things that be vintage Champagne. But yeah, I mix it up. I went through the pet nat craze. It’s still one of my favorite summer drinks. And then I’ve been really into just like sparkling Reisling, rip the enamel off your teeth, high acid. Give me all that, give me all that severity. But then make it bubbly.
Layla Schlack 8:28
Yeah, because to me like sparkling wine is so food friendly. So like it can’t be too acidic because you want to be able to pair it was like rich, greasy foods. Like that’s always such a great combo. I’ve got to put in a plug for Alsace sparkling wines because they’re fantastic. And I’m also very into some of the Loire Valley sparkling wines that I’ve had. It’s one of those things that’s , maybe for 2022, my New Year’s resolution, like I want to spend more time exploring the Loire because most of the stuff I have from there I just love. So there’s just so much to explore.
Fiona Adams 9:05
Huge Loire fan myself. I fully support that journey. I love some Loire bubbles, like that’s a good look. You can’t go wrong.
Layla Schlack 9:19
No and J’nai and I were just talking about Trento, great sparkling wines there.
Fiona Adams 9:25
Franciacorta is awesome too. Franciacorta is when, that’s my like if you don’t want to get Champagne but you want Champagne quality and kind of more of that like heftier style. Franciacorta has got it all going on. It’s just like Champagne but weightier.
J’nai Gaither 9:44
It sucks to say this, like I actually have to admit this, but I actually—and please don’t think I’m like a snobby person because I know somebody’s gonna say something perjorative about what I’m about to say—but I don’t drink a lot of bubbly outside of Champagne. And I probably should. I drink, you know, every now and then some like domestic sparklers, but most of the time I drink Champagne. But there’s like, as you just were saying Fiona, there’s such a variety of amazing bubbly from around the world, whether it’s like German Sekt or Italian Lambrusco. I mean, there’s so many really delicious things. Sparkling, like you have all these crements from France, outside of Champagne and so many people are doing some amazing things with bubbly and I need to kind of like get on it and explore more and buy more and see what’s up.
Fiona Adams 10:51
You just got to drink more.
Layla Schlack 10:54
Do a lot of really grueling work. Yeah.
J’nai Gaither 10:58
It’s such grueling work, such grueling well.
Fiona Adams 11:01
And if Layla’s gonna plug Alsace, I’ve got to plug my regions where I have some really good sparkling wines from—
Layla Schlack 11:10
Fiona Adams 11:13
New Mexico’s got Gruet which is like the sparkling giant. The wines are insanely good and you can buy them anywhere. And they’ve got adorable little half bottles for when I’m drinking alone. But yeah, Gruet’s a huge power. I mean, Michigan’s got some crazy good bubbles.
Layla Schlack 11:34
Colorado’s got a few.
Fiona Adams 11:38
New Jersey is doing some great sparkling wines too, which, listen, as a lifelong New Yorker, no one was more shocked than I was that New Jersey has really good wine.
Layla Schlack 11:52
Is it like hard for you to say that out loud?
Fiona Adams 11:54
It’s honestly, it’s been an emotional journey. But I tasted a whole big group this past year and I was like, “Wait a minute. These are really good.” And there’s one winery that I’m like obsessed with. And now I’m going to make sure I remember their name correctly. Let me look it up, because that will be embarrassing.
Layla Schlack 12:24
I’m going to throw a curveball at you, which is Fiona, have you had any sparkling wines like it’s not a grape that you would think would be very good or it’s like that it just kind of completely surprised you or you’re like I didn’t think that could work, but here we are?
Fiona Adams 12:39
All of the sparkling wine, all of the sparkling Shiraz from Australia. In my heart of hearts, I think, no, because I’m a Blanc de Blanc girl. I want that high acid, orchard fruit, super light, super playful. And I look at Shiraz on the label. Like there’s no way. This isn’t it. This isn’t gonna be it. And every single time I have one I’m like, “Okay, yeah, this is still delicious.” Like yes, it’s very Shiraz-y. It’s got a little bit more umph. It doesn’t have, you know, the peaches and white flowers thing that I love. But it’s still really good. And then if you’re going to be sitting down and having some snacks, it’s like yeah, sparkling Shiraz, why not?
Layla Schlack 13:25
That’s a hot tip. Yeah, thanks for thanks for sharing that.
J’nai Gaither 13:29
Yeah, I don’t know if I can answer that question. Again, maybe I suck at this podcast because like, I don’t diversify my tastes as much as I should. So if I’m drinking, it’s usually going to be Meunier, a Pinot Noir and a Chard blend. And, you know, every now and then, grapes from, kind of like the forgotten foregrapes of Champagne, which are Pinot Blanc and Gris and then Arbane and Petite Meslier. So I will say that, you know, in having kind of like Petite Meslier and Arbane Champagnes, they are incredibly acidic, which is probably why—and you know, most of the plantings are gone. There’s like .3% of plantings in Champagne or something like that is planted to like Arbane and Petite Meslier and, like, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. But in having those wines, like it’s kind of just like eye opening because you’re kind of like, “Wow, these are truly amazing.” I can see why very few of them are versatile, but also as varietal wines, they’re incredible. If you like disrespectful, aggressive, high acid, again, knock you in the face, torture porn acidity, they’re amazing. But I know that a lot of people don’t drink those wines. And then even fewer people actually produce those wines because there’s so few plantings, but they make really incredible wines. And there are a few producers who are actually making them, like I said, varietally, but also who are blending just those forgotten four grapes into a blend itself. And then there are some producers that are blending all seven of the Champagne grapes together. I think each of those categories, you know, makes for amazing Champagne.
Layla Schlack 15:39
Well, there are also some really great Champagnes that are either varietal Pinot Meunier or just kind of heavy on the Pinot Meunier, which I love.
J’nai Gaither 15:49
I’m obsessed with Meunier-based Champagne. Like, obsessed. Champagne Salmon is a wonderful, wonderful Meunier-based producer. Cédric Moussé is like really, really cool. And he’s wonderful at what he does. People are doing some amazing things. Like, Jose Michelle does a wonderful Meunier-based Champagne, Georges Laval does as well. And they’re amazing. Like I love Meunier-based Champagne. I think I drink a lot more Meunier-based Champagne than anything else, just because I’m always intrigued to find out who’s the next producer who’s going to do something amazing with this once-underdog grape.
Fiona Adams 16:31
I remember my first 100% Meunier Champagne and I was like, blown out of the water. I was like, “What are you talking about? What do you mean this is Champagne? This is crazy.” But I was just like, but more of this all the time, please. Layla, what’s your surprise grape?
Layla Schlack 16:48
My surprise grape? I’ve been like I’ve been sitting here quietly trying to think of one this whole time. I don’t know if I have a surprise grape. Like I’ve had some great sparkling wine from Oregon but it’s Pinot Noir-based, so it’s not exactly a surprise. We know that Pinot Noir makes makes good. I had a really beautiful sparkling Chenin recently, but again, not exactly a surprise. This one was not from the Loire, but obviously they’ve been doing that in Loire for a while and it’s very good. Again, like I would say that kind of my dark horse, my underdog sparkling grape that I would like to taste more of and see more of out in the world is Chenin probably.
Fiona Adams 17:29
South Africa does some killer sparkling.
Layla Schlack 17:31
Yeah, some methode cap classique. Yeah, they do some really great stuff there. But I can’t think of one where I was like, “There’s no way that this is gonna work,” and it has. But maybe I’m just more just kind of open to anything. I’m like sure if you made it I’m sure it’s wonderful and you did a good job. I’ve had some really beautiful sparkling wines from Vinho Verde with Loureiro and those grapes, but it’s not again, it’s not surprising that they’d make you know that these light bodied high acid grapes would make good sparkling wine.
Fiona Adams 18:09
Vino Verde is halfway to sparkling as it is.
Layla Schlack 18:11
Right. Just let it go a little longer. Yeah. Or a little farther, rather. But yeah, I don’t know. I like it all. I’ll try anything.
J’nai Gaither 18:25
Layla Schlack 18:26
So what’s your desert island bottle, your one sparkling wine. You get as much of it as you want. But that’s it.
Fiona Adams 18:34
I have been thinking about this for weeks and just constantly changing my mind. I mean, the one that I keep coming back to is really two Champagnes that every time I have them, I mean they’re classics. So it’s like yeah, vintage Blanc de Blanc Krug, which is amazing. And then I also love the Paul Roger Winston Churchill Champagne. And it’s just like, this is why these are world-class classic champagnes that everyone raves about. And I’m just like, I’m over the hype. And then I’ll taste it again and I’ll be like, I am fully in on the hype. It’s so good. I get it. I’m a convert. I will sign up for this cult.
Layla Schlack 19:32
I know it’s kind of hard to be like, “Oh, Champagne’s alright if you’re into that sort of thing. Everyone’s into Champagne, there’s nothing not to be into.
J’nai Gaither 19:40
Exactly. It’s hard to say no.
Layla Schlack 19:43
J’nai, what’s yours?
J’nai Gaither 19:45
I think I might have to kind of go with Fiona on one. It would be Krug, but instead of vintage Krug, I’d probably take a Grande Cuvee because I prefer Grande Cuvee over vintage Krug.
Fiona Adams 20:01
Now we’re going to fight.
J’nai Gaither 20:08
I think if I had a second it would probably be Tarlant Bam!, which is the one that is Pinot Blanc, Arbane and Petit Meslier. It will be between that and Champagne Salmon Special Club Rose de Saignee Meunier.
Fiona Adams 20:33
Can I change my answer?
J’nai Gaither 20:36
That’s just off the top of my head like, what I’m thinking of probably because I’m like really thirsty right now. But if I had more thought and could be more deliberate, I might change my answers. But just like quickly, I love those three. So any one of those three would make me happy.
Layla Schlack 20:52
I would probably also go vintage Blanc de Blanc Krug. I also like, and you know, this is a sentimental thing, but I’m just thinking about the bottle of, I think it was a 2009 Perrier-Jouët that I was gifted as a wedding present. We opened it the Christmas after my wedding and I got to share it with my family because like a lot of the time when I’m drinking really great wines, I don’t get to share it with my family. And my mother-in-law loves sparkling wine, like almost exclusively drinks sparkling wine. But my mother is not a big fan—until she tasted this wine and she was like, “Oh, okay, like now I get what the big deal is about Champagne.” Because she’d never had one that would that had some age on it and had all that like great brioche flavor. And so that’s kind of like a special one to my heart. And it’s also a very pretty bottle.
J’nai Gaither 21:48
That’s how it happens. You just got to give somebody the right one. The whole world changes, like perspective on life changes. You feel like a different person. It’s just yeah, like life changing.
Layla Schlack 22:02
Right? It’s like love at first sight. Like everything else fades to the background, but it’s with your it’s on your tongue instead of with your eyes. Yeah, I mean, like I, again, there’s so many other sparkling wines from other parts of the world that I drink regularly that I love. But Champagne’s pretty special. They know what they’re doing.
J’nai Gaither 22:25
It is really special. And I like that you said it’s kind of a everything fades to the background. I’m thinking it’s kind of like Apple’s “bokeh” effect, right? You know, everything in the foreground and then like, the background is blurred. Things are amplified. The flavor is amplified, the color oftentimes looks amplified when you get a wine or Champagne that you just absolutely have to love. It just like glows and it’s almost fluorescent, and it’s like, “drink me, drink me,” kind of thing. I totally get what you’re saying. Without being melodramatic, but yeah…
Fiona Adams 22:58
You have to be melodramatic about Champagne.
J’nai Gaither 23:01
I mean this is the only way to describe wine. Like, really, the only way to describe bubbly.
Fiona Adams 23:05
If I’m truly going to be abandoned alone on an island I think if you just give me like 10 cases of just the Brut Moet in the magnums which are always just the most fun to drink, then I’m good. You could leave me there.
J’nai Gaither 23:25
You said 10 cases and then you said, “In mags!” That’s like 20 cases or something.
Fiona Adams 23:37
Yeah, that’s the standard six bottle mag cases. I want 12 bottle cases. I’ll make it about a week. That’ll be the best vacation I’ve ever had.
J’nai Gaither 23:54
I hope you make it out alive.
Layla Schlack 23:56
On a beautiful desert island, throwing empties around all over the place.
J’nai Gaither 24:03
They’ll double as tools.
Layla Schlack 24:07
What do you like to eat with your sparkling wine?
Fiona Adams 24:11
Everything. I think most sparkling wine needs food. I love a toast. I love like a brunch with no food. That’s fine, but like good sparkling wine should be with a meal and it can be steak and foie gras or it can be chicken nuggets, and you’re going to be thrilled either way. But it’s just like, stop bookending your meals with sparkling wine. Just drink sparkling wine the entire time and you’ll be so much happier. That’s why it has all that teeth ripping acidity in the first place, like cut through my foie.
J’nai Gaither 24:58
You know, it’s so funny. I feel like you. I love sparkling-paired dinners, like I love Champagne dinners. But because I have Champagne literally just about every day, I often don’t drink it with food.
Fiona Adams 25:16
You’re a legend.
Layla Schlack 25:19
Just an icon, yeah.
J’nai Gaither 25:24
Oh my god, that’s so funny. But like, this has been like, for years I’ve done this. I will start like drinking at like 8am because it’s a great palate cleanser, I’ll have a glass. And not with orange juice. But it cleanses my palate, it kind of wakes me up. Like the effervescence actually kind of wakes me up. Because coffee actually puts me to sleep. So, usually I don’t have it with food. It’s kind of like a meal in itself. I find it incredibly fulfilling depending on what style I’m drinking. It could be something that’s gone like full mallow or a lot of mallow and, you know, it’s more viscous and a bit denser and heavier, a little waxy and oily. So it has that kind of like fullness to it. Or it could be something light and like searing acidity, zero mallow, no dosage. And even that, like I drink often without food. But I know that I never start a meal, like if I’m at a dinner, I will never start a meal without bubbles. And me and a few friends were just in New York for La Fete du Champagne last month. And we went to One White Street, which is Dustin Wilson’s new restaurant in Tribeca. And, you know, somebody had brought some wine. She brought like some Ovid with her and, and one other bottle for us to pop open and we were gonna start with that. And I said, “Excuse me, what are you guys doing? You don’t start a meal without bubbles.” Like I literally interrupted the rest of them. They were looking at me. I’m like, “You’re kidding, right? Like, you cannot start a meal without bubbles. And like, give me this wine list.” Like, the Pinot Meunier, and then, you know, Audrey Frick, who was the wine director, she brought it out and poured it for us and my friend Noel Burgess, he was like, “Good call on the bubbles for real.” Like, I know you will never, ever make that mistake again. You do not have a meal without bubbles first. It was so funny, but I can do both. You know I can do with food. But I often do it without food. And I think one of my favorite pairings would probably be like vintage rose Champagne and barbecue. I think that’s a great pairing.
Layla Schlack 27:57
That’s a great pairing, yeah.
Fiona Adams 28:00
Are we talking ribs? Are we talking briscuit?
J’nai Gaither 28:03
Girl, I’m talking about it all. I’m talking about meat, sauce, seasonings. I’m talking about it all. I’m talking about pork.
Layla Schlack 28:19
Yeah, yeah, I think sparkling rose is so, so versatile with food. It’s got the texture, it can stand up to just about anything.
Fiona Adams 28:31
And sparkling is just the best wine for day. It’s, you know, it doesn’t matter what time of day. It can be—ugh, I have upgrade my mornings.
Layla Schlack 28:46
So what’s your stance on Champagne cocktails?
Fiona Adams 28:51
Oh, that’s funny. If someone ever tried to give me a Champagne cocktail I’d throw it in their face.
Layla Schlack 28:57
Hard no for J’nai.
J’nai Gaither 28:59
Fiona Adams 29:01
I don’t ever want to disrespect Champagne. Or wine. However, I love a French 75.
Layla Schlack 29:14
Fiona Adams 29:14
I mean, talk about a morning drink. Like, that’s the best. I hosted my cousin’s bridal shower. And that was the only option, it was you’re drinking straight sparkling wine or you were drinking French 75s. And like, maybe you can get some water from the tap. But that’s it. These are our options and you’re gonna like it.
Layla Schlack 29:43
Yeah, like a French 75. I like a Negroni Spagliato. But, you know, I’m not using something that I’m as interested in drinking on its own if I’m making a cocktail, right? I’m still using something good, but I’m not spending as much, I’m using something that is going to be a supporting player. And I know it’s going to be a supporting player and that’s fine.
Fiona Adams 30:07
You have to use something that you are happy to drink on its own because if you put bad ingredients in a cocktail, your cocktail is bad.
Layla Schlack 30:16
Yeah, it’s like anything, right? Yeah, yeah.
Fiona Adams 30:21
But yeah, you know, save the vintage stuff for another time.
Layla Schlack 30:28
J’nai Gaither 30:29
Yeah. I think when I think about cocktails though, and sparkling cocktails I don’t often think about Champagne as the as the main ingredient. It’s probably because I have this kind of like very healthy respect for Champagne and like really just taste it on its own because it does not need to be diluted with anything. I don’t care if there’s you know, a lovely elderflower or cassis in it. It just needs to be, you know, savored for its own sake. So if I think about like a sparkling cocktail, I usually think about, okay, it’s gonna be blended or mixed with Prosecco or some other kind of, you know, a Cremant on or something like that. Which is why I’m like, if somebody gave me a Champagne cocktail I’d be like I hope there’s not Champagne in that. Don’t disrespect Champagne like that. I hope this is Prosecco. Not to diss Prosecco. Prosecco is wonderful and lovely, like every sparkling wine. But I just think that the terroir of Champagne and just how it’s vinified and how laborious it is, and it just really needs to be savored and respected on its own. My opinion only.
Fiona Adams 31:51
It’s a solid opinion.
Layla Schlack 31:53
Yeah. I mean, and to your point, Fiona, like there are plenty of wines sparkling or still from various places around the world that I don’t want with food because I want to experience them on their own. I think with Champagne and certainly with a lot of other sparkling wines, like the food makes them better. Like it’s the kind of alchemy of the pairing that’s really so special. And again, not every Champagne and not every sparkling wine, but there are a lot of them that they need something to balance the acidity and the bubble. The mousse can be a little bit much. So yeah, I mean, like because,, as you know, I eat a lot of beans, and you know, and I eat a lot of vegetables and I eat a lot of like really earthy foods, so it to have something with some acid, they just balanced each other really nicely to have like a really acidic wine with some bubbles, some texture and then like my pot of beans. It sounds funny, but it works really well.
Fiona Adams 32:54
Because Champagne, you know, it was talking about bubbles and not just Champagne, but like as these light, bubbly, fun drinks, but like a lot of these like Blanc de Noirs are like very serious. They’re so structured, they can be so tight and self serious. And then once you throw in some food there everything lightens up and it’s just like, “Oh, I understand you now, you just needed a friend.”
J’nai Gaither 33:20
You just needed a friend—that’s so funny. I think that for me, Layla, you said something about pairings like some kind of the acid needs to balance each other out. My response to that is, the thing it needs balance it out is me. But like I actually—look, I’m like an acid hound. I will eat horseradish with the spoon. Like I love anything pickled. Like I will drink vinegar also every morning because like I love the flavor. I love anything pickled. So like, probably my palate is very used to acidity. My digestive system is probably like all kinds of effed up.
Fiona Adams 34:10
Yeah, our bodies are so sad.
J’nai Gaither 34:14
But it’s been it’s been so lovely. What a wonderful, lovely journey even though it’s been probably very unhealthy.
Fiona Adams 34:20
It’s worth the pain.
J’nai Gaither 34:21
It’s worth the pain, right? But yeah, I think that my because of the way my palate works and my love of acid like for me like, as I mentioned, for me, it’s just kind of like a full meal sometimes. Whether it’s like searing acidity or whether it has that kind of heft from the autolysis and those brioche-y, kind of yeasty notes, you know? Yeah, I think the only thing that Champagne needs to balance out is…me.
Layla Schlack 34:51
It’s you. Maybe I’m just naturally more sour than you are so I don’t provide enough balance for the acidity.
J’nai Gaither 35:04
Layla Schlack 35:07
Um, is there we talked about this little Is there any styles or regions that you’re really hoping to explore more. Are you going to break out of the Champagne bubble, as it were?
J’nai Gaither 35:18
The Champagne bubble, I love it. I just think in general, I need to drink more global bubbly. I don’t drink a lot of sparkling Chenin, but I do like sparkling Chenin. I don’t drink a lot of Crémant from anywhere, whether it’s Bourgogne, whether it’s Limoux, whether it’s Loire, whether it’s Jura, like I just don’t drink it. I don’t drink a lot of Sekt.
Layla Schlack 35:48
Well, and Sekt is not super easy for us to get here also.
J’nai Gaither 35:54
I’ve found a few bottles, it’s just something that’s not kind of in my drinking repertoire, as it were. But I do need to start just exploring more. And I think that that is something that I will do in the new year, probably just kind of get bubbly from all over, from every region and just invite some pals over and have a global bubbly party. And I think because a lot of us are really Champagne heads, I think we’ll all probably find some good bubbly that, you know, we can start drinking more frequently.
Fiona Adams 36:36
I’m into that. I drink tons of sparkling wine from everywhere. But I do want to get more into like demi sec styles. Because I love sweet wines, I love off-dry Rieslings. I love fully sweet Rieslings. I mean, Sauternes. I’m all in on just like dessert-style wines, or even just off-dry wines. But I never go there with bubbles that often and I need to make that leap. If I haven’t ripped all the enamel from my teeth with the acidity, we’ll just throw some sugar in there and then I’ll get dentures, but it will be great. Because like, I mean, sparklings already great for pairing with food, off-dry wine with food is delicious. Now just like skip a few steps, marry the two.
Layla Schlack 37:37
Yeah, no, that’s a great call. I I think I’m gonna–I know where you live. I think I’m gonna pop up for some snacks and demi secs.
Fiona Adams 37:45
Demi sec party.
J’nai Gaither 37:47
I very rarely have demi sec, demi sec Champagne, and I really am always like, I need to drink more demi sec and more doux, just to try it because I don’t have it often. So I think that’s something I’m gonna kind of add to the New Year’s list as well. So thank you for that, Fiona.
Fiona Adams 38:06
I’ve probably only had maybe a dozen and every time I was like, “Huh, that’s really good.”
J’nai Gaither 38:15
Yeah, for sure.
Fiona Adams 38:16
What are you exploring, Layla?
Layla Schlack 38:19
I mean, you know, I’m also all Alsace all the time, really. In my tasting beat, in my tasting life, obviously sparkling wines are part of what I drink and, you know, I want to drink more of them. And also super food friendly. Like you were saying, like those orchard fruits and the acidity, I just can’t say enough good things about those as pairing wines and on their own. But I love Lambrusco. I’ve never kind of been very organized in how I drink it. It’s kind of just like it’s there and I drink it. So for me, it’s not so much trying new things. It’s more just kind of being more organized about it and paying more attention to what I like and don’t like and, you know, I’ve tried this corner of this region, but what about over here? And what’s going on on the schist soils? And just kind of being more kind of comprehensive. So yeah, Alsace has for sure, Lambrusco and other dry sparkling reds. There aren’t a lot of them. But if you come across any, let me know.
Fiona Adams 39:28
I feel like we haven’t really talked about the sparkling red wines, which are, yes, harder to find. But yeah, you know, they’re really good.
Layla Schlack 39:36
They’re delicious and just super fun. Yeah. I was just talking to a friend of mine recently that she doesn’t live in town, but when she was in town we met for lunch and like she was like, “Yeah, anytime you want to go order for the table and drink Lambrusco.” And I was like, “Absolutely, like, that’s one of my favorite things to do.” And then the Loire, you know, again, I’ve had plenty of sparkling wines and I’ve enjoyed them a lot, but I’ve never just been really focused on like which sub-appellations and which producers and, you know. So those are my resolutions.
J’nai Gaither 40:15
I think I want to add something to my list. I want to, you know, drink more Méthode champenoise, because I have not had many, and there are some that are highly acclaimed, but I don’t drink it often. And yes, I would still call it Champagne, even though it lacks bubbles, but I want to kind of explore that style a little more, also in the new year.
Layla Schlack 40:52
Yeah. And I want to try some of this Australian sparkling Shiraz that Fiona was talking about too.
Fiona Adams 40:59
You gotta find it. And like, yeah, I hate to speak disrespectfully about any wine, but every time I see it, I’m just like, “There’s no way this is good. This is just one of these Australian things.”
Layla Schlack 41:18
I’ve got to say like, as soon as you said it, I immediately was like, oh, like a charcuterie board or like even Chex Mix, like something with like big flavors. I can see it. I can see it.
Fiona Adams 41:31
It’s good. It’s annoyingly good. Every time just like, ah, why? It’s funny.
Layla Schlack 41:44
All right. So I’m going to ask sort of a controversial question and then we’ll start wrapping things up. What is your preferred glassware for sparkling wine?
J’nai Gaither 41:52
I love this question.
Layla Schlack 41:56
All right, get in there, J’nai.
Fiona Adams 41:57
I have opinions. J’nai, do you want to go first?
J’nai Gaither 42:04
Oh, I drink out of white wine glasses or oftentimes I do like tulips. So, you know, they have kind of like the wider bowl like a white wine glass but they are tapered and are reminiscent of a flute but they really allow those kinds of aromas and flavors to hit your mouth like at just the right place and you like get it all, all at once. And you can really, really taste the wine. They’re also really lovely to look at. Philippe Jamesse makes a beautiful one. And he also does some machine-blown glasses that are reminiscent of the kind of mouthblown ones but they are a little less expensive. And they are absolutely stunning to look at and, even if you’re just like drinking, maybe it’s because you’re like pretty well taken care of after having a couple glasses. But you end up like just looking at the glass because it’s just so pretty. Like the shape is just beautiful. You’re like, “Oh my god this is lovely.” And then you’re like, “But it will be even lovelier if I put more sparkling in it.” And so you keep putting more sparkling and it’s like the bubbles kind of like go from the bottom like a tornado of bubbles from the bottom to the top. And I absolutely love love love those glasses. I also like Zalto. The universal glass is great but also their specific one for sparkling I absolutely love. And Grassl. I am a Grassl fanatic now after I discovered those thanks to my friend CeCe Cronin of Prestige PR. She turned me on to Grassl and I am recommending them to people left and right. They have a great Champagne tulip as well.
Fiona Adams 44:11
Tulip. I’ve got to get some tulip glasses.
J’nai Gaither 44:14
Yeah, girl get on it.
Fiona Adams 44:20
I have the worst Champagne glass opinions and preferences. I’d like to apologize to everyone on the planet.
Layla Schlack 44:31
I love a bad opinion.
Fiona Adams 44:34
First Choice, especially at home or with dinner, 99% of the time, just a universal white wine glass or like not the big wide bull, not like a full Chardonnay glass. A universal or like a Viognier glass. I hate flutes. Flutes are the worst.
J’nai Gaither 44:55
Yeah, they are.
Fiona Adams 44:55
Flutes shouldn’t exist. I don’t know why. I guess you can see the bubbles, but it’s just like they’re a pain. You can’t wash them, you can’t store them. They’re not good. Flutes are bad. But my worst take is I love coupe glass at a party. Something about it just feels very classy. I feel I’m living my full Marie Antoinette fantasy, my full Gatsby moment. And they’re awful glasses. They do nothing for the Champagne. They do nothing for anything and you spill on yourself. But it just creates a vibe that’s so magical. I’m here for the vibe.
Layla Schlack 45:53
I love a coupe for a cocktail. That’s where I use my coupes. And actually Wine Enthusiast Zenology brand also makes a Champagne tulip glass. It’s on sale now, hot tip. Yeah, no, I’m with you on the universal. I don’t hate a flute if it’s a party scenario. I think flutes are fun. I get why people like them, but it’s not my preference.
Get a coupe instead. You’ll feel so much fancier.
Well, and I think, again, the tulip does a lot of what people like in the flute. You can see the bubbles and you know it looks really nice. I guess I’m not picky about my glass as long as it’s filled properly.
Fiona Adams 46:43
As long as there’s wine in it. No flutes. I’m going to have to invest in some tulip glasses. I always forget about them, which is foolish because they’re gorgeous.
J’nai Gaither 47:07
They’re so beautiful.
Fiona Adams 47:08
And it’ll be a different vibe for me. A different fantasy.
J’nai Gaither 47:13
Yes. Just look at them and they’re like, they’re like the Adonis of glasses.
Fiona Adams 47:17
J’nai Gaither 47:19
Yes, like totally. Beautiful shape, super curvy. And they’ve got a great body, okay? And then when that body is filled up and like imbued with like loveliness, Lord have mercy, girl. It is just one piece of foreplay after the next.
Fiona Adams 47:40
I’m sold. I’ll buy some right now. That’s the fantasy I’m looking for.
J’nai Gaither 47:54
Layla Schlack 47:56
All right. Well, thank you both so much. I think it’s time to sign off and go pop a bottle.
J’nai Gaither 48:01
Fiona Adams 48:04
Lauren Buzzeo 48:10
Well, I’m ready for a refill and also excited to celebrate the last days of December and the year ahead with a great glass of sparkling wine in hand. Thanks to all of the great bubbly suggestions served up in today’s conversation, no matter what’s in your glass when the ball drops, fizzy or not, I think we can all raise a glass to a delicious New Year. Subscribe to the Wine Enthusiast Podcast on iTunes, Google Podcast, Stitcher or wherever you find podcasts. If you liked today’s episode, we’d love to read your review and hear what you think. And hey, why not tell your wine loving friends to check us out too? You can also drop us a line at email@example.com For more wine reviews, recipes guides, deep dives and stories, visit Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com and connect with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @WineEnthusiast. The Wine Enthusiast Podcast is produced by Lauren Buzzeo and Jenny Groza. Until next episode, cheers.
Last Updated: June 5, 2023