Break Out the Bubbly Without Breaking the Bank: Sparkling Wine 101

Bust out the bubbles, it’s time to celebrate!

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Ah, champagne… flying corks, foaming bottles, glittering crystal champagne flutes, hearty dinner toasts brimming with pomp, glamorous soirees swirling with evening gowns, tuxedos, and string quartets. These are the usual images that come to my mind when I hear the word “champagne.” For many of us, champagne seems elite, unknowable, and seldom appropriate. In our minds, it is reserved only for extremely special occasions (for whatever reason) or it seems too complex and distant to be enjoyed. I aim to change your thinking! Champagne is within your reach and you might be surprised by its potential once you start exploring it more.

For the record, champagne is not truly champagne unless it is produced and bottled in Champagne, France. Anything else is technically a sparkling wine. “Champenoise” refers to the method and style in which champagne is made. If you’d like to read more about this specific process of “methode champenoise,” read here.

I haven’t had much opportunity to try true champagnes, so if you’re reading this and you feel it upon your heart to expand this wine blogger’s horizon into the elevated world of fine French champagnes, be my guest and send me a bottle!

This time of year there is no shortage of graduations and accompanying festivities, honoring those who have completed their educations, be it victorious triumph or barely skating through (also a feat worthy of celebration!). It’s a highly-charged, emotional time, both for the graduate and the loved ones who have supported the graduate along the way, and such occasions call for fine food and drinks to make the celebrations memorable and meaningful. It’s also summer (theoretically, in Seattle) and therefore an opportune time for a chilled, fizzy alcoholic beverage like sparkling wine.

Mumm Napa Valley Cuvee is a fine sparkling wine whose price won’t cause a heart attack and whose quality won’t leave you with a raging headache. I find this wine smooth, refreshingly drinkable and with interesting flavors. It even works well in a mimosa (sparkling wine and orange juice). My husband and I got some as a housewarming gift when we purchased our first home. Nothing makes you feel more grown up than buying a house and being given “champagne” to boot!

The tasting notes are so romantic and poetic, I have the urge to put on a Jane Austen movie and throw a tea party: “Cuvée M is a modern, slightly sweet sparkling release. Light peach rose in the glass, aromas are elegant, rich and complex, showing fresh white and yellow stone fruits with subtle hints of wild strawberry. A heady touch of fresh brioche, with hints of vanilla and honey add to the wine’s complex bouquet. Flavors of peach and pear combine with a creamy caramel character, on a long, satisfying finish. Great for champagne cocktails or as an aperitif with hors d’oeuvres. Cuvee M also matches up beautifully to creamy desserts [and] spicy entrées. Enjoy.”

So far this year I have been to two graduations. One was a very moving high school graduation, for a private high school with six graduating seniors in the class, all of whom had overcome major obstacles in their education. The other was for a friend who obtained his master’s degree from a large public university, with English not being his first language. His mother traveled across the globe to be with her son on that day. I wanted to share the beautiful toast she spoke at his graduation dinner: “For the music in our souls! Let the music in our souls always sound for those we love and care for and those who love and care for us.”

I could not end on a more perfect note. Cheers!