Sparkling Wines

Regardless of whether you just got married or just won the Indianapolis 500, you celebrate exactly the same way: with a bottle of champagne. In recent years, however, sparkling wines of all type have transcended their association with formal occasions and milestone events. Today, they are everyday affairs — and with good reason. You can find sparkling wines at every price point, and with great variety, making them accessible and enjoyable for anyone, anytime.

But which are shoppers most eager to try? To find out, I asked Julie Joy, the Director of Beer, Wine and Spirits for Rouses Markets. She told me that, right now, the hottest sparklers are not from France, but rather, from Italy. “Prosecco is the big trend right now,” she said, “And that is not going away.” She credits its surge in popularity to its affordability — especially compared to its French counterpart, Champagne.

Winemaking in Europe is a highly regulated industry. In Champagne, you can only make sparkling wine a certain way — “méthode traditionnelle,” or the “traditional method” — a labor-intensive process that uses certain grapes, in certain barrels, with certain aging practices. Every Champagne also gets its “secondary fermentation” — the step that gives it those glorious bubbles — in the bottle.

With such refinement comes a higher price point. “Champagnes come from a world of tradition and hand-holding,” said Julie. But Prosecco, she continued, is not treated like that at all. “It’s more about the grapes than the method in which it’s created.”

Like Champagne, Prosecco is named for the region in which it is made. Rather than using the traditional method, Prosecco’s secondary fermentation occurs in large stainless steel tanks, and the wine is then bottled.

At your local Rouses Markets, you can find a bottle of Dacastello Prosecco at the $10 price point. “We sell a ton of it,” said Julie. “It’s the perfect extra dry sparkling wine. You can pair it with food, or just open a bottle — it really holds up on its own. And it’s the perfect price.” Rouses even has a buy-more-save-more program, where you can mix and match all kinds of wines and spirits. If you are taking advantage of that, the price comes down even further, to $9. “It is great to just keep in your fridge to have ready when friends come over. It’s just a super easygoing wine.”

Rouses also carries Dacastello in rosé — the pink sparking line. But don’t get confused about what the color means. “A lot of people think the rosé is going to be sweet, but it’s not. It is the same type of extra dry sparkling wine, but is a little bit fruitier, with strawberry notes on the palate. It is really a lot of fun.”

She also recommends a Prosecco called Social Bird. “That one has just a little bit more body to it,” she said, and comes in at about $12. “I have to admit that I came to the label because it reminds me of the best wine scenario: having sparkly with friends. You’re a social bird and you’re hanging out with your people.”

California has also seen an uptick in its sparkling wine popularity.

Brands like Chandon Napa and Gloria Ferrer are known quantities, but there’s plenty of room for exploration, says Julie. “When it comes to sparkling wines from California, I will give anything a try just to see what it’s like. I always say that a mediocre sparkling is better than a semi-decent chardonnay.” (Not because chardonnay is not its own treat, but sparkling wines are such a safe bet.) “The flaws in sparkling are not as easy to spot. It’s almost never going to offend a drinker.”

Julie encourages store guests to be adventurous in the wine section. There’s something for everybody. All those sparkling wines on the shelf can be intimidating, but they don’t have to be. You should no more worry in the wine section than you do when browsing the two-liter bottles of Coke. It’s just a drink. The best wine is the one you like.

Whether it’s the affordable yet authentic Prosecco, the traditional and luxurious Champagne, or the familiar bottles from California, there’s a sparkling wine for every occasion and every pocket. Perhaps the best part of the rise in sparkling wine? Breakfast! Sure, you pull a bottle of Prosecco from the fridge at seven in the morning and pour a glass, and people might think something is off. But add a splash of orange juice, and you’re just having a mimosa! Perfectly normal way to start an effervescent day. And really, that is what makes sparklers so special. Why wait for a special occasion, when you can create one yourself?