Calamity’s Corner: When the Ball Drops!

Calamity Labs 2

The holidays are winding to a close, presents have been given, food has been consumed, and the year is drawing to a close. New Year’s Eve celebrations have been going on for quite some time, and there’s one tried and true tradition that many of us indulge in. Sparkling wine at midnight!


We used to have a very limited choice when it came to sparkling wines. Brut or Rose seemed to be the only options. These days, however, there is a wider variety available to sample from.

There are differing methods of making sparking wine. The first method is simple injection, similar to how sodas are made. This is generally done only with cheaper sparklers.

Charmat:  The wine is fermented twice in stainless steel tanks rather than in individual bottles, and is bottled under pressure in a continuous process.  Charmat method sparkling wines can be produced at a slightly lower cost than champenoise wines.

Champenoise: In this method the effervescence is produced by secondary fermentation in the bottle. It’s a bit more expensive than the Charmat method

Transfer method: This method will take the cuvee to bottle for secondary fermentation, which allows for the additional complexity, but then will transfer the wine out of the individual bottles into a larger tank after it has spent the desired amount of time on yeast.

Of the varieties of sparkling wine there are:

Champagne: This sparkler hails from the Champagne region of France, and is the most popular style of sparkling wine. That is where the “true” Champagne comes from. There are some British and American sparkling wines labeled as champagne, note the small “c.” Three types of grape make up Champagne: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meaner. These are put through a specific method, Champenoise to create Champagnes signature smell and taste.

Cremant: Also made in France. This drink uses a higher amount of carbon dioxide in it’s making, creating a unique mouth feel and creamy texture.

Cava: A Spanish sparkler, usually pink or white. It is made with the same method as Champagne but uses different grapes more typically associated with Spanish wines. There are many varieties of Cava based on the dryness of the wine.

Espumante: Hails from Portugal and can be made from anywhere in that region. It is made sparkly by either the traditional method or by Champenoise. Espumosos is made by sparkly by carbon dioxide injection and is a cheaper, lower quality drink.

Asti: This is an Italian sparkler made the Asti region. It is lower in alcohol content. Made from Muscat grapes using the charmat method. it is generally a pretty sweet drink.

Prosecco: A dry Italian sparkler, that because of the Prosecco grapes is sweeter than an Asti. Unlike some other sparkling wines Prosecco does not age well and is meant to be consumed at its youngest. So if you receive a bottle of this you should drink it and not let it sit. It is made with the charmut method.

There are several more types of sparkler out there, but the ones I’ve mentioned are probably the ones you’ll find the easiest. Among these styles of sparkling wine you’ll find that there are some sweeter ones and dryer. If you go to a decent wine store they should be able to help you narrow down which one will best please your palate. As for my opinion, if you like sweeter wines, try the Prosecco, go for a nice Brut.

There are generally 3 types of glasses to serve your sparkling wine in. There is the Coupe (or Saucer glass), the Flute, and the Tulip. The coupe is a wide bowled and wide mouthed glass, looking much like a saucer. Back when sparkling wine was served sweeter with syrup this glass was more popular. While it looks pretty classy, and allows the champagne to breath it allows let the bubbles to dissipate making for a flat drink. The flute is a narrower glass from bottom to the mouth, and it holds in the carbonation longer, but much of the aroma and taste gets lost. Lately there has been an upswing in tulip glasses. A tulip has a slightly wider bowl, allowing for aeration and aroma to be enjoyed, but it tapers at the mouth which directs the bubbles and taste to their proper destination.

So, now that you’ve bought some sparkling wine what should you do with it? There is always the tried and true: just pour it into a flute, or a coupe. Try garnishing with a strawberry, always a tasty treat that. If you want to do a little more there are several cocktails available to try. Here are a few ideas: (Most of the recipes call for a flute, which is still the most common glass used for sparkling wines. Feel free to use a coupe or a tulip if you want.)

Mimosa: Pour a bit of OJ into a flute, about 1/3 to halfway, then top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a strawberry.

Bellini: 2 oz Peach juice, or nectar, 3 oz sparkling wine, a dash of lemon juice. Add peach juice and lemon juice to a shaker with ice, shake and strain into a champagne flute and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a cherry. Prosecco is good with this one.

Aperol Royal: 3 oz sparkling wine, dry or sweet would work, but I’d use a nice Brut. 1 oz. Aperol, chilled. Mix in a flute.

Bubbly Martini: 1.5 oz Gin, 3/4 oz Sparkling wine. Pour into a mixing glass half filled with ice, stir gently to chill. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with either olives or a twist of lemon/lime. (Try adding a dash of orange bitters to the drink in the mixing glass before stirring.)

Death in the Afternoon: 5 oz sparkling wine, 1 oz Absinthe. Pour chilled champagne into a flute, top with absinthe.

French 75: 2oz gin, 2 oz lemon juice. 2 tsp superfine sugar, combine in a shaker half filled with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks or cocktail glass, top with champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist.

French 75

St. Germain French 77: 1 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, 1/4 oz lemon juice, sparkling wine. Pour the first two ingredients into a flute, top with champagne, garnish with a lemon twist (and a rasberry dropped into the glass.)

Sparkling Violet (a Labs creation): 1 oz gin, 1.2 oz Creme de Violette, 1/4 oz lemon juice, sparkling wine. Pour first 3 ingredients into a shaker half filled with ice, and shake well. Strain into a flute, top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist.

I hope you enjoy your New Years Eve, drink well, and drink responsibly! Cheers!

~Calamity Dawn


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