Celebrate the New Year with a spumante you've never tasted before
When the Ball drops, most people are popping the cork on Champagne, Prosecco, or Franciacorta (the Italian counterpart to Champagne). But why start the new year in the same way the past ten years have begun? To make 2014 a special year, toast with something new, exciting, and that no one else has in their glass.
Carlo of Turin's Cantina Torino, a small wine shop and bar with an incredible offering of Piemontese wines, has several novel ideas for what sparkling wines to drink for the New Year. Each one is unexpected, innovative, and a far cry from the usual. In addition, he says, this list is a "sfida," or a challenge. None of the wines are the usual bianco classico spumante.
Here is the list of the suggested, unique spumante wines paired with a full, Piemontese meal.
Appetizers are a mix of colors, flavors, and textures, so a versatile wine goes best.
San Giorgio, Erbaluce di Caluso Spumante DOC, Cieck, €20.50: This spumante is a metodo classico, and similar to Champagne or Franciacorta. It is the only one on this list that falls in familiar territory. It is sapid, fresh, and young, perfect for stimulating the palate at the beginning of the meal. It is adaptable for many types of finger foods. www.cieck.it
Check out our Focus on Caluso, the town of Erbaluce di Caluso DOC
Curticella, Spumante di Uva Rara, Antico Borgo dei Cavalli, €27.50: A red grape from Alto Piemonte, this red sparkling wine is made using the metodo classico (or champenoise method), and is similarly suited to pairing with several kinds of food. www.vinibarbaglia.it
Discover more about Alto Piemonte, the zone of Uva Rara
On the menu is the Piemontese agnolotti di plin, a fresh-egg pasta shaped as little purses and filled with meat. It has a savoury yet delicate flavor.
S-ciopét, Castello di Verduno 2010 Brut Rosé, €28: Not only is the still, red Pelaverga wine rare, but the spumante metodo classico of the same grape makes this particular bubbly that much more unique. Made in a small, 18-hectare territory in the Langhe that includes Verduno, part of La Morra, and part of Roddi d'Alba, its claim to tasting fame is the distinct white pepper spice in the mouth. www.castellodiverduno.com
Lo Stravagante, Spumante di Barbera Brut, Reginin, €20.50: This is no Barbera frizzante, or Barbera with a slight fizzle. It is Piemonte's most drunk wine remade as metodo classico, and would pair well with this menu's primo as well as with savoury bagna cauda or a cheese plate. www.reginin.it
Gaudio, Spumante di Grignolino, Bricco Mondalino, €21: Like the Pelaverga, this still, red or rosé wine is often hard to come by outside of Piemonte. The sparkling version makes it that much more difficult to find. Beautiful orange-red in color, with strong acidity and fruity aroma. www.briccomondalino.it
Rabbit braised in wine, another Piemontese classic.
Spumante di Nebbiolo Rosé, Cantina del Signore, €25: Perhaps the most surprising wine on this list is the metodo classico Nebbiolo spumante, the first of its kind ever produced, from Gattinara. Like the Nebbiolo-based wines that Piemonte is famous for -- Barolo, Barbaresco -- this spumante has the ability to age well. Unlike its still counterparts, this wine is not red: it has the rosy color of onion skin. www.cantinadelsignore.com
Read all about Nebbiolo wines with our Mini-Guide to the Many Wines of Nebbiolo
For any dessert, there is only one true pairing if it is sparkling.
Moscato Spumante, Borgo Maragliano, €12: Whether you make the traditional Piemontese bunet, the ever-popular panna cotta, or go all-American with a pie or brownies, Moscato d'Asti is perfect with all of those. Certainly the most well-known wine on this list, Moscato is often sold with another classic Italian dessert this time of the year, the panettone; but it is a lovely treat with any sweet. www.borgomaragliano.com
Read about why Moscato is called a "pop" wine here: Moscato d'Asti and Asti DOCG, the Sweet Side of Piemonte
For special guests
Outside of the meal, whether before or after, is a spot reserved for another, very unique sparkling wine.
Sabré, Agrima, €16: This Cortese wine was made from mature grapes, but not so mature that the harvest is called tardiva, or late harvest. It is produced using the metodo di ancestrale, the ancestral method; that is, the fermentation is done in the bottle like metodo classico, but the disgorging is not done at all. Instead, the yeast, or lees, remain in the bottle and the wine is cloudy as a result. An interesting wine, this is for those special guests who would be sure to appreciate its rarity. www.lacuvee.it
Carlo emphasized the role of the grape variety in his unique New Year's wine selection. The above wines are, in some cases, the only ones produced of their type. They are created using unexpected or very unusual grapes, all native to Piemonte. With this paired wine menu, the focus is not on finding the best and most expensive sparkling wines -- always, undoubtedly, appreciated on New Year's -- but on exploring the wonderful possibilities of other grapes.
For the next year, perhaps the same logic can be applied to one's resolutions. Instead of reaching for something bigger and better of the same old thing, search for the unique option. Explore the path less trodden, be daring and take a risk, or try something brand new (such as Nebbiolo spumante). Here's a toast to an exciting New Year!