Bubblyfest By The Sea will be uncorked on the Central Coast in early October
Before San Luis Obispo County’s premiere sparkling wine festival kicks off Oct. 6, here’s a chance to brush up on your bubbles knowledge with Robin Puricelli, wine director at Lido at Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa in Shell Beach. A level two-certified sommelier, she has been with Lido almost a year and a half.
Q: Could you give me an overview of sparkling wines?
A: Sparkling wines have always embodied a sense of elegance, sophistication and celebration. However, the stigma of being pricey and pretentious have steered the wine consumer into often overlooking their value and versatility. “Bubbles,” as they are often referred to, are highly food-friendly, vast in style and experience and often a fantastic counterpart to a night out with friends and colleagues.
The main types of sparkling wines are crémant and Champagne from France, cava from Spain, prosecco from Italy and sparkling wine from the United States.
Q: How does making a sparkling wine differ from the process of making a still wine?
A: In a still wine, the yeasts consume the natural sugars of the grapes and the byproduct is alcohol and released carbon dioxide (primary fermentation). When more sugars and yeasts are introduced, another fermentation must begin. What creates the bubbles is the secondary fermentation that releases more carbon dioxide but in a closed environment and the bubbles become trapped.
Q: Are there distinct stylistic differences between types of sparkling wine?
A: A sparkling wine made in the methode Champenoise (Champagne method) — also known asmethode traditionnelle (traditional method) or classic — will undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle. The bubbles, or “mousse,” created are more refined, creamy and add a softer mouthfeel. What’s so magical about Champagne is the seamless balance of the electric acidity, creaminess of the bubbles and the luscious texture.
Another popular trending style … is called pétillant naturel, or, “pet-nat.” Here the wine is bottled before primary fermentation is complete. Typically, the result is a more wild and rustic style that can be cloudy and unfiltered, but deliciously textured. What’s really exciting about pet-nats is that a few local producers (Sinor-Lavallee in Avila Beach and Scar of the Sea in Santa Maria) have succeeded with this method and delivered an exceptional product, but with very limited availability.
Italian prosecco can deliver some of the best value bubbles and typically is made in the charmat method where the secondary fermentation takes place in a large tank rather than the individual bottle. These should be consumed younger and can lack the complexity and texture of Champagne but are definitely great with mixers!
Lastly, it’s safe to say those very inexpensive grocery store brands under $5 are made with forced carbonation, like a soda pop. This is that Champagne headache you’re scared of!
Q: What are some terms consumers should know and look for when shopping for sparkling wines?
A: There are some useful common terms that will enhance your buying experience. First, knowing if you like a dry style or a hint of sweetness will determine how you select your bubbles. A bottle labeled “brut” can be dry with a tiny touch of perceivable sweetness, “extra brut” is drier with barely noticeable sweetness and “brut nature” is the driest with no sweetness and zero dosage. To confuse you more, “dry” on a sparkling bottle is actually sweeter than the brut.
“Blanc de blancs” means white juice from white grapes, like chardonnay, where you get more brightness with lean and lively fruit. “Blanc de noir” means white juice from red grapes, like pinot noir.
Q: What are some of the best food pairings with sparkling wines?
A: Of course, Champagne and oysters, but there are many other ways sparkling wines are amazing with all different types of food. Higher-acid bubbles can counterbalance the saltiness of fried food, the oiliness of fattier fish, or stand up to richer, creamier dishes all while cleansing and enlivening the palate. Rosés tend to have a bit more weight and pair well with the same type of foods.
Depending on the sugar level (dosage), sparkling wines are always a match for spicy foods. (Pair) crémant d’Alsace with sushi and Asian fusion, cava with tapas and happy hour snacks, California sparkling rosé with a stinky cheese and French Champagne with Lido’s eggs benedict with duck confit and béarnaise sauce — and yes that’s for breakfast!
Q: What are some options that are easy on the pocketbook?
A: Any crémants are worth a try since they’ve been made in the traditional Champagne method. Spanish cavas are also made in this classic method and over-deliver for the price. California sparklers often emulate those of Champagne and are usually dry with delicious fruit expressions.
My local favorites are from Laetitia (Vineyard and Winery in Arroyo Grande) — especially their Brut Coquard and rosé — and Baileyana (Winery)’s Blanc de Blanc and Sinor La-Vallee’s Pet Nat, along with several Paso Robles producers experimenting with varietals outside of the classical pinot noir and chardonnay.
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lido at Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa
2727 Shell Beach Road, Shell Beach
805-773-4300 or www.thedolphinbay.com/lido
Hours: Breakfast 8 to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday; brunch 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday through Monday; lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday; bistro menu 2 to 5 p.m. daily; dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m., Friday through Saturday. Happy hour is 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The scene: Oceanside dining that’s perfect for a special occasion, weeknight treat or a casual happy hour.
Bubblyfest by the Sea
Bubblyfest by the Sea returns to the Central Coast Oct. 6 through 8. A series of events celebrating sparkling wines will be held at various venues around San Luis Obispo County, culminating in the $75 Grand Tasting event from 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 8 at Avila Beach Golf Resort. For tickets and a full schedule of events, go to www.bubblyfest.com.