Sparkling wine is becoming an everyday wine

LIKE MANY OF YOU, OUR PARENTS USED to reserve sparkling wine and champagne for special occasions—Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and big events. But younger people are embracing sparklers as more of an everyday wine and drinking it year-round.

On a trip to Italy this summer, we noticed scores of younger people drinking Prosecco, Italy’s signature sparkling wine. We also saw sparklers showing up at more summertime food and wine gatherings, in the foothills and Tahoe-Truckee.

“Sparkling wine continued to be among the hottest segments of the drinks market in 2013. Its off-premise volume progressed by 9.4 percent, led by an 8 percent gain for do- mestic sparklers and a 16 percent leap for Italy, driven by the explosion of Prosecco,” according to the Shanken newsletter, a prestigious publication on wine trends.

The reasons are multifaceted. California, Spain and Italy have been introducing dozens of sparklers in the $8-$15 range, far less than a $50 bottle of French champagne. The prices can be comparable, or less, than a good bottle of white or red table wine. The younger generation also tends to prefer lighter, sweeter wines, such as rosé.

Sparklers tend to be lower in calories, and a flute is a real portion controller. The bubbles also can make people drink slower and feel more full. In addition, sparkling wine pairs well with everything from sushi to poultry to cheese. And most of all, the sparklers are just plain fun.

In the foothills, Sierra Starr Winery in Grass Valley has been offering sparklers for years. “A bright sparkler with delightful melon flavors,” reads the tasting notes for Starr Bright Champagne. “It’s fresh, fruity and slightly sweet.” We’ve enjoyed their sparkler at summer music concerts, as well as on New Year’s Eve.

This summer, Pilot Peak Winery introduced its own sparkler called Grand Cuvée Brut. “Pear and pineapple nuances leap out of this sparkler with lively flavors of crisp green apple,” reads the tasting notes.

The sparkling wine is made from a blend of Mendocino County Chardonnay and Sémillon, according to winery co-owner Len Stevens. It was a big seller at Pilot Peak’s “Sunset at the Peak” wine, food and music gatherings on Saturdays this summer.

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