In the realm of sparkling wines, the classics like Champagne and Prosecco have long reigned supreme. However, a growing trend in the wine industry has seen a surge in popularity for alternative varietal sparkling wines. These unique and often lesser-known sparkling options bring diversity to the world of bubbles, offering wine enthusiasts a chance to explore new flavors and styles. In this article, we will take a deep dive into the world of alternative varietal sparkling wines, uncovering the gems that may not be as widely recognized but are certainly worth savoring.
The Rise of Alternatives
While traditional sparkling wines have their place in celebrations and special occasions, alternative varietal sparkling wines are gaining traction for their distinctive characteristics and innovative production methods. Winemakers, always seeking to push the boundaries of conventional winemaking, are experimenting with a variety of grape varieties to create sparkling wines that defy expectations.
Pinot Meunier: The Hidden Gem
One of the rising stars among alternative varietal sparkling wines is Pinot Meunier. Often overshadowed by its more famous counterparts, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier is a red grape variety traditionally associated with Champagne. However, winemakers are increasingly showcasing its potential as a stand-alone varietal for sparkling wine.
Pinot Meunier imparts a unique character to sparkling wines, with notes of red berries, floral aromas, and a subtle spiciness. Its versatility allows winemakers to craft sparkling wines that range from crisp and refreshing to fuller-bodied and complex. The rise of single-varietal Pinot Meunier sparkling wines reflects a growing appreciation for the grape’s individual qualities.
Chenin Blanc: A Sparkling Surprise
Chenin Blanc, a white grape variety originally from the Loire Valley in France, has been a staple in the world of still wines. However, winemakers are now harnessing its potential to create exceptional sparkling wines that showcase its bright acidity, floral notes, and versatility.
Sparkling Chenin Blancs often exhibit a vibrant acidity balanced by a touch of sweetness, making them incredibly food-friendly. South Africa, in particular, has embraced Chenin Blanc as a sparkling wine grape, producing bottles that rival the more traditional options in terms of quality and complexity. As consumers seek out unique and off-the-beaten-path options, Chenin Blanc sparkling wines are finding their way into the spotlight.
Glera Beyond Prosecco
Glera, the grape responsible for Prosecco, has become synonymous with Italian sparkling wine. However, beyond the borders of the Prosecco region, winemakers are experimenting with Glera to create alternative varietal sparkling wines that showcase its versatility.
Glera sparkling wines outside of Prosecco often offer a different expression of the grape, with varying levels of sweetness, acidity, and fruitiness. By exploring Glera beyond the boundaries of traditional Prosecco production, wine enthusiasts can discover new and exciting expressions of this Italian grape.
Savory Sparklers: Grüner Veltliner and Brachetto
While many sparkling wines lean towards the sweet or fruity side, some alternative varietals offer a departure from the norm with their savory profiles. Grüner Veltliner, a white grape native to Austria, is known for its peppery and mineral characteristics. When crafted into sparkling wine, Grüner Veltliner adds a unique savory dimension, creating a sparkling option that stands out from the crowd.
On the sweeter side of the spectrum, Brachetto is an Italian red grape variety that produces aromatic and sweet sparkling wines. With notes of red berries, roses, and a hint of spice, Brachetto sparkling wines offer a delightful alternative for those with a sweet tooth. While not as well-known as other varietals, Brachetto’s unique flavor profile has garnered a devoted following.
The world of alternative varietal sparkling wines is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. From the hidden gem Pinot Meunier to the surprising versatility of Chenin Blanc, and the evolving expressions of Glera and beyond, these sparkling wines offer a diverse and exciting landscape for wine enthusiasts. As the demand for unique and distinctive wines continues to grow, winemakers will likely continue to push boundaries, uncovering new varietals and crafting innovative sparkling options that captivate the palate. So, the next time you’re in the mood for bubbles, consider stepping outside the traditional choices and indulging in the rich and varied world of alternative varietal sparkling wines. Your taste buds might just thank you for the adventure.