Host a Sparkling Wine Tasting, Perfect for New Year’s Eve
In case you haven’t noticed, we’re in love with bubbly. We find any excuse to drink it and also sneak it into a lot of our cocktails (what drink isn’t better with a prosecco float?). It’s just so good when it hits your lips.
But recently, Vanessa and Rachel agreed that they didn’t actually know very much about sparkling wine. They were aware that there are a number of different kinds – like Brut, Cava, Cuvée, Prosecco and Champagne – but they didn’t know too much about each one or the differences between them (other than the fact that they’re all delicious). So, it was time for them to learn a little bit more about their drink of choice.
I have a level three certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), so I took Vanessa and Rachel through a little sparkling wine 101 – just in time for our New Years Eve party.
The tasting process was quite simple: I chose four different types of sparkling wine and paired them with canapés using ingredients that bring out their flavours: Cava, sparkling Rosé, Champagne and Asti Spumante.
The first wine we tasted was a Cava, a sparkling wine made in Spain. You’ll want to start with Cava as it’s the lightest tasting wine of the four. When tasting wine you’ll always want to move through the bottles from lightest to heaviest, finishing with your sweetest bottle – your palette will thank you. Cava is a great choice if you’re interested in sparkling wine but you’re on a budget because it is made in the same way as Champagne but it comes at a much lower price point for two reasons: 1) it doesn’t have the same reputation as Champagne and 2) they traditionally don’t age Cava as long. This is why Cava is cheap. But don’t let the price point fool you, Cava has delicious fresh fruit flavours like lemon, lime and green apple and it’s actually my go-to sparkling wine. We paired it with a creamy cheese to balance the acidity, fresh green apple to compliment the notes in the wine and then kicked it up with some toasted pecans and a drizzle of honey to bring out the toasty notes of yeast autolysis in the wine.
The second wine we tasted was Rosé, which is a wine made from a wide variety of grapes and produced all around the globe. They’re made still, semi-sparkling or sparkling and with a wide range of sweetness levels from dry to sweet. They can be made by blending red and white grapes or by using juice from red grapes that have had very little contact with their skins. They produce beautiful wines with notes of red berries like strawberry and cranberry. They pair nicely with savoury foods like duck and rosemary as well as berries.
Champagne is a sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region in France. Many people use the term champagne as a generic term for sparkling wine but it’s actually not Champagne unless it comes from the Champagne region. Here, they have the absolute best conditions for growing sparkling wine grapes (the three main grapes being Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier) and they have mastered the technique over centuries. Champagne is made in a traditional method and has strict laws around wine making and aging requirements. For these reasons, Champagne fetches a heftier price at the market. The flavour profile of Champagne is bready, yeasty – kind of like a brioche as well as subtle fruit flavours (such as apricot or bruised apple) and a high acidity. For this reason, it pairs well with rich, nutty flavours like hazelnut and squash, as well as fattier foods like creamy cheeses and oysters.
The last wine we tasted was Asti Spumante, which is made from the Moscato Bianco grape and is both sweet and low in alcohol (7%) because it’s only partially fermented before it’s carbonated using CO2. It’s often served as a dessert wine. Asti pairs well with light and fresh flavours like mascarpone, fresh fruits like strawberries and apricots as well as simple cookies or cakes.
- 4 bottles of bubbly: Champagne, Cava, Sparkling Rosé and Asti Spumante
- Champagne flutes
- Canapés (recipes below)
- Also check out our New Year’s Eve party post to get the lowdown on how to integrate this tasting into your party
- Water cracker
- Brie cheese
- Pear, sliced
- Pecans halves
- Pound cake, cut into thin squares
- Canned peaches, sliced
- 1 cup of mascarpone
- 1 tbs of white sugar
- Juice of half a lemon
- Mint leaves, either use small leaves or cut larger leaves into think strips
Sparkling Rosé Canapé
- Duck pate
- Sour cherry compote
- Rosemary cracker
- 1 cup of pumpkin puree
- 1 tbs of brown sugar
- 1 tsp of cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
- Hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- Sage leaves, chopped
Start by assembling the canapés , here’s the directions for each one:
Grab a water cracker, and place a slice of brie cheese on top followed by a slice of pear. Top with a drizzle of honey and a pecan half.
Start by making the mascarpone mixture. Mix the white sugar and lemon juice in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved. Then add in the mascarpone and vanilla extract and stir until combined. Grab a piece of pound cake and add a dollop of the mascarpone mixture on top. Place a sliced peach on top of the mascarpone, followed by a sprinkle of mint.
Sparkling Rosé Canapé
Start by adding a generous amount of pate to a crostini. Follow with a dollop of sour cherry compote followed by a sprig of rosemary.
Start by making the pumpkin spread. Mix pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl. Slather the cracker with the pumpkin mixture. Follow with a dollop of mascarpone, a sprinkle of hazelnuts and sage.
Then, place the four bottles in a row on a table with the flutes in front of each one – this way you won’t lose track of which wine you’re tasting. You’ll want to have one flute for each wine, per person. So, if you have minimal flutes this is a great excuse to invest. Start with the Cava because it is the lightest and freshest, moving to the sparkling Rosé next, followed by your Champagne and finishing with Asti Spumonte for dessert.
Pour a small amount of wine into each glass and swirl it around. Put your whole nose into the glass and smell the different notes that come out. Take a small sip and coat your whole mouth. Now take another sip and notice the same notes on your palette. Now try the canapé. Then, take another sip of wine. Different notes will come out in both the food and wine as you continue to sip and nibble…it truly is the best thing ever!
A Motown New Year’s
These jams will have you feeling super classy while you sip on all that bubbly.