Imagine a tall glass of sparkling wine. The glass is a perfect crystal flute, the bubbles are both teeny and tiny, and deliver just the right amout of fizz without being gassy. The wine itself is sweet without being surgery, and chilled to perfection. The mood is perfect. Mmmmmm – sounds good.
I can guarantee that the imaginary glass of wine that you are holding in your hand is white. Because fizzy wine is only white, right? If that’s what you think then its nul points for you I’m afraid. Because sparkling red wine is a thing, and let me tell you – it’s not the sweet, cheap fizz of the past. In fact, the new wave of sparkling reds is complex, sophisticated and extremely versatile.
While sparkling red wine has still to reach the heady hights of it’s white cousin, it’s still worth knowing about. Wine investment apps such as Vindome.net offer superb guidance on this underrated wine. Is it investable? Not yet. Will it become so? We don’t know. Is it worth it? Read on …
The Most Famous Types of Sparkling Red Wine
Italy boasts the most varieties of sparkling reds, with lambrusco being the most well-known. Australia is hot on Italy’s heels with its very popular sparkling Shirazes, and Portugal is getting in on the act with its refreshing baga grapes creating zesty red sparklers. Even eastern European countries like Slovenia are carving a name for themselves in the fizzy red niche.
Aaah the L-word. Lambrusco is leading the revival of sparkling red wines, offering an interesting and stylish choice in the fashionable trattatorias of northern Italy. We think it’s telling that Lambrusco comes from the Emilia-Romagna region, where you’ll also find other delicious delicacies such as parmesan, parma ham and balsamic vinegar. Today’s Lambruscos are made to be drunk young and fresh. They’re not particularly high in alcohol (around 11-12 ABV) which makes them a perfect daytime or aperitivo wine. Modern Lambrusco has a penetrating acidity that keeps them fresh on the palate, and most use the same tank fermentation process as Italy’s other celebrity fizz, Prosecco. Pair with cured meats, seafood and, you’ve guessed it, pasta dishes.
Over in Australia, you’ll find sparkling Shiraz is drunk at everything from brunch to barbeques. If you’re new to sparkling red, this is a great wine to begin with; it has all the flavours of a great Shiraz – rich red berry fruits and spice – brightened and lifted by the effervescence of a sparkling wine. This wine is imminently popular Down Under, it has been being produced since the 1890s and is one of Australia’s most iconic contributions to the wine world. Sparkling Shiraz uses a portion of red grapes – either Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier (or both) and a good one will be well balanced with fine bubbles. Make like the Aussies and enjoy a bottle with your brunch. Bacon and eggs will never taste so good.
This cheery Italian wine is made in the cooler regions of northern Italy, notably Piedmont. Only wines produced entirely from Brachetto grapes grown in a very limited area around the town of Acqui Terme in the southern Piedmont can qualify as Brachetto d’Acqui wines. This sexy sparkler is one of the few sweet Italian wines to achieve DOCG status, the highest accolade for the country’s winemaking industry. Delicate and lightly sparkling, this is an easy wine to like. The pronounced fruit flavours (think a preponderance of strawberry, raspberry and other red fruit flavours) and the naturally low in alcohol levels (just 5.5-6 ABV) make a great aperitivo wine. Its sweetness makes it ideal as well for dessert time: drizzle it over strawberries and ice cream for best results.
What Does Sparkling Red Wine Taste Like?
Throw away your notions that sparkling reds are cloying, cheap, frothy and sweet. Modern sparkling reds make a mockery of the fizzy grape juice that was inexplicably popular in the early 1990s. The new generation of sparkling reds has it all: a spectrum from dry to sweet, a colour palette from blush to burgundy and varying ABVs that will suit everyone. The flavour profile will err on the side of sweet, but will also be complex and brilliant. Think a fusion of inky berry, violet, pepper, and oak flavours, along with red fruits. Some of the heavier versions (particulary at the end of the Lambrusco and sparkling Shiraz scale) have a notably tannic aftertaste. Whether these tannin levels will help ageing remains to be seen. Sparkling red wine is such a new “invention” that only time will tell if it becomes as investable and popular as Champagne.
How to Serve Sparkling Red Wine?
We have often extolled the virtues of chilled red wines (it a yes from us!) and this is one type of wine that deserves a little time in the fridge. As with Champagne, the cooler temperatures maximise the wine’s fizz and crispness. Be careful not to over chill though – just 30 minutes should be enough. Anything over that and the wine will begin to lose its flavours. If there’s no room in the fridge, an ice bucket will do just as well!
Glasswise, we come to the age old question: Are delicate, stretched, slender Champagne flutes better than the shallow and squat coupe glasses that were fashionable during the Roaring Twenties? Well, while we love the Champagne saucer, the crux of the matter is that tall, skinny glasses preserve the bubbles for longer. If you find the traditional flute too old school for you, then look why not invest in some tulip glasses. These beauties are tall enough to allow the bubbles and aromas to develop to the full, while the narrow top preserves the flavour (we have an excellent article on wine glasses if you’re interested). Bottom line? If you’re looking for bubbly wine, it could be worth considering red for a change.