Valentine Special: Pink Sparkling Wine, Cheese, and Chocolate

Valentine’s Day Recommendations (Under $20)

Sophisticated Sparkling Ladies

The results are in on the dry sparkling pinks and what a shocker!  With our blind tastings, we have no idea what we are drinking until the drum roll.  Of the six dry bruts we tasted, we each gave our highest score (or tied for highest score) to a sparkler that was an afterthought, a wine I found for less than our price point at the grocery store:  Juame Serra Cristalino Cava, Brut Rosé.  Coming in a close second was the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs.  (We did not taste the Korbel Brut Rosé, but have heard good things about it, so you may want to try it.)

Juame Serra Cristalino Cava, Brut Rosé

This gorgeous pink rose colored Cava is dry with the slightest sweet on the tongue.  It has complex flavors of honey, green apple, cherry, tea, minerals, and a hint of rosehip tea.  The relatively short finish is clean, dry, and warm.  What a perfect Valentine!  When you drink it with cheese, chocolate, or with a meal, the problem with its short finish disappears!  We rated this 4 ½ glasses.

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs

This tart sparkling brut is a pale peach blush with flavors of tart green apple, blueberry, strawberry, honey, and minerals, with a hint of yeast.  The warm lingering dry finish tastes like apple cider.  Yum. We rated this 4 ½ glasses.  For an even more sophisticated lady, try the Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé at about $42 per bottle, rated 91 points by the Wine Enthusiast and 90 points by the Wine Spectator Insider, and only available from the winery.

Cheese and Chocolate (and Other Food) Pairings

Both of these brut rosés taste particularly good with Irish cheddar, dry and soft gouda, brie, fontina, and Monterey Jack.  Also pair the Gloria Ferrer with extra sharp cheddar.  Do not pair either with goat or bleu cheeses. Both sparklers taste great with milk chocolate and dark chocolate at 60-72 percent cocoa.  Also pair the Gloria Ferrer with bittersweet (85 percent) chocolate. Due to their dryness and complexity, these two sparklers also taste great with most food – even beef if it is cooked simply.  However, avoid tomato sauces or other highly acidic foods.

Vivacious Sparkling Lady

Mumm Napa Brut Rosé

This lovely pale pink wine is the most effervescent of the bruts and is a more balanced bubbly in that it is tart, yet sweet on the tongue.  This sparkling lady tastes of strawberry, nectarine, apple, and minerals and has a slightly sweet, fruity finish. We rated this wine 3 ¾ glasses and recommend it when one person loves dry wine and the other loves sweet (or if a person does not like really dry brut).  What a lovely wine.

Cheese and Chocolate Pairings

This sparkler tastes particularly good with Irish and sharp cheddar, goat cheese, brie, fontina, and Monterey Jack.  It also tastes great with milk and 60 percent dark chocolate, and in particular, with creamy chocolates.  The darker chocolates do not pair well with this wine.

Sweet Bubbly Ladies

Banfi Rosa Regale

This wine is a ruby/cranberry red and is the prettiest of the sweet wines.  Although sweet, this wine is well-balanced with acid and has complex flavors of grape, rose, rosehip tea, blackberry, pomegranate (grenadine), and grapefruit.  The medium finish is warm, clean, and tastes of pomegranate.  This is a tasty and amazing wine that our young panel members rated 4 ¾ glasses!

Berringer White Zinfandel

This peachy pink rose-colored wine has lots of bubbles and is tart, demi-sec, and well balanced.  It has flavors of raspberries, strawberries, honey, minerals, and apple, with a hint of flowers.  The marvelous long, smooth finish is warm, tart, and clean.  We rated this wine 4 ¼ glasses.

Cheese and Chocolate Pairings

These sweet bubbly ladies taste great with most cheese: Irish and sharp cheddar, dry and regular gouda, goat cheese, brie, fontina, and Monterey Jack.  However, do not pair with bleu cheese. The Berringer White Zinfandel pairs best with milk and 60 percent dark chocolate.  The Banfi Rosa Regale tastes fabulous with all chocolate:  milk and 60, 70, and 80 percent dark chocolates.  Creamy chocolates pair best with both wines.

The Bubbly Giggling Girl

Il Conte Stella Rosa Imperiale Brachetto d’Acqui

This wine is a lovely cranberry/raspberry color with a touch of orange.  This is the sweetest bubbly we tasted with flavors of cherry, black cherry, rose, Hawaiian punch, apple, raspberry, and strawberry.  The cool finish is sweet and sugary.  What a perfect wine for the non-wine drinker who loves sweet things, as it tastes like a delicious, tasty soda pop!   And what an easy to drink bubbly – a hangover in the making!  We rated this wine 4 glasses.

Cheese and Chocolate Pairings

This sweet girl tastes great with most cheese: Irish and sharp cheddar, dry and regular gouda, goat cheese, brie, fontina, and Monterey Jack.  However, do not pair with bleu cheese.  Pair this bubbly with all chocolate:  milk and 60, 70, and 80 percent dark.  Creamy chocolates taste best.

Sparkling Pinks that We Rated

We tasted the following sparkling pink bruts:

  • Campo Viejo Gran Cava Brut Rose, NV
  • Gloria Ferrar Blanc de Noirs
  • Juame Serra Cristalino Cava, Brut Rose, NV
  • Mumm Napa Brut Rosé, NV
  • Pink by Yellowglen, NV
  • Veuve Ambal Rosé Brut, NV

We then tasted the following bubbly pink sweet wines:

  • Ballatore Spumante Roso, NV
  • Banfi Rosa Regale Acqui,  2010
  • Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato, NV
  • Berringer Sparkling White Zinfandel, NV (non vintage)
  • Il Conte D’Alba Stella Rosa Imperiale Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG, NV

Dry Sparkling Pink Wine (Under $20)

Campo Viejo Gran Cava Brut Rose, NV

  • Alcohol Content: %
  • Price: $11-$17
  • Vineyard location: Rioja, Spain.

In Roman times, soldiers were rewarded with a plot of land in the former Iberia (now Spain) in what is now the Rioja Region. This land was called the Campus Veteranus which evolved to Campo Viejo.  This wine is made from 100 percent Trepat grapes, a black grape variety used specially for Spanish rosé cava.  The wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle, following the traditional method. The resulting cava is aged for a minimum of 9 months in the Campo Viejo cellars.

Tasting Notes (01/22/2012):

Color:  Pink with a touch of orange blush Aroma:  Mineral, honey, floral, strawberry and peach blossoms, with a hint of leather. Flavor:   Tart, dry and a little bitter.  This partially structured complex wine has notes of raisins and other dried fruit, plum, hibiscus flower, and mint.

Rating:

4 glasses

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs

  • Alcohol Content: 12 %
  • Price:  $15-$20
  • Vineyard location: Carneros region, Sonoma County, California

Gloria Ferrer established its winery in 1986.  It now included a 340-acre estate that is planted mainly in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.  The blend for the blanc de noirs is 90 percent Pinot Noir and 10 percent Chardonnay grapes.

Tasting Notes (01/22/2012):

Color:  Pale peach blush. Aroma:   Mild aroma of apple cider, mineral, grass, honey, orange blossoms, lemon tree, strawberry, and peach. Flavor:   Tart.  Tart green apples, blueberry, berry, strawberry, honey, minerals, with a hint of yeast.  The warm, lingering dry finish tastes like apple cider.

4 ½ glasses

This wine is rated 90 points by the Wine Enthusiast and Editor’s Choice.  For an even more sophisticated lady, try the Gloria Ferrer Brut Rose at about $30-$40 per bottle, rated 91 points by the Wine Enthusiast and 90 points by the Wine Spectator Insider.

Juame Serra Cristalino Cava, Brut Rose, NV

  • Alcohol Content: 11.5 %
  • Price:  $6-$10
  • Vineyard location: Alta Penedés, a sub region of Penedés, the largest wine-growing area in Catalonia, Spain.

The oenologist Jaume Serra Guell founded the winery in 1943.  The Jaume Serra Winery imports its yeast from Champagne, France in order to impart the finest quality to its Cavas.  The grapes for the rosé are 60 percent Pinot Noir and 40 percent Trepat.  The cava has been aged for 18 months on the lees and contains 15 grams of residual sugar per liter.[i]

Tasting Notes (01/22/2012):

Color:  Rose, pale strawberry, simply gorgeous. Aroma:    Yeast, honeysuckle, unripe fruit, green leaf, mineral with hints of apple, melon, and cherry. Flavor:  Dry with the slightest sweet on the tongue.  Complex flavors of honey, green apple, cherry, tea, and minerals with a hint of rosehip tea and a warm, dry, tart mineral finish that quickly dissolves. If not for the quickly diminishing finish, one would think this was an expensive rosé.  And as much as I prefer bone dry wines, the residual sugar was not jarring, especially with the clean, dry finish.

Rating:

4 ½ glasses

This sparkling Cava is a steal for the price!  It overshadowed most of its competitors that cost $10 more per bottle. Steve Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar rated it 87 Points and the Wine Spectator rated it 86 points.  I’m pretty sure the short finish brought the ratings down, but drinking this sparkler while eating cheese, chocolate, or a meal, you will not even notice the short finish.

Mumm Napa Brut Rosé, NV

  • Alcohol Content: 12.5 %
  • Price:  $15-$24
  • Vineyard location: Napa Valley, California

Ludvic Dervin is the winemaker of the Brut Rosé.  The blend for the Brut rosé is 85 percent Pinot Noir and 15 percent Chardonnay grapes.

Tasting Notes (01/22/2012):

Color:  Pale pink, effervescent. Aroma:  Yeast, floral, strawberry, honey, apple, apple cider, lavender, soap, mineral, raspberry, and aspen tree. Flavor:   Tart, yet sweet on the tongue, balanced.  This wine has flavors of strawberry, nectarine, apple, with a mostly dry, fruity finish.  This is a lovely wine for people who do not like really dry brut.

Rating:

3 ¾ glasses

The Wine Enthusiast rated this wine 93 points and the Wine Spectator rated this wine 90 points.  We think their ratings are overblown, either that or the bottle we tried was flawed in some way.

Pink by Yellowglen, NV (non vintage)

  • Alcohol Content: 11.5 %
  • Price:  $7-$12
  • Vineyard location:  Southeast Australia

This wine combines Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.  This brand is the most popular brand of bubbly wines in Australia.

Tasting Notes (01/28/2012):

Color:  Pale peach. Aroma:  Honey, fruity, rose, light scents of flower, strawberry, peach, and mineral. Flavor:   Dry and bitter with a slight sweet note.  This wine has the flavors of bitter and sour apple, cherry, and mineral.   The finish is warm, long, dry, and clean. By looking at the bottle, we had thought this was a sweet wine, but it is a brut.  So though we tasted it with the sweet wines, we rated it with the bruts. Note to Yellowglen, write “Brut” in large bold print on the front of the bottle or you will keep selling this wine to the wrong audience. People who love sweet wine detest Pink and will make faces, gag, and spit it out.  Those of us who love bruts will at least give Pink a fair shake.

Rating:

3 ¾ glasses

Only the core wine panel that rates dry wines rated this wine although we tasted it with the full panel.  This is the most divided the panel has ever been with ratings from 3 to 4 ¼.  (We are all usually within a ¼ glass rating of each other with ½ glass difference at most.)  The beer lover rated it the highest, while I personally could not get beyond the bitterness.  This is not a beer, for heaven’s sake!

Veuve Ambal Rosé Brut, NV

  • Alcohol Content: 11.5 %
  • Price:  $10-$12
  • Vineyard location:  Burgundy, France

The Veuve Ambal winery includes four estates where all four varieties of grapes allowed in burgundy are grown:  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Aligoté, and Gamay.  The winery calls this rosé a “blanc de blanc” which generally signifies that it is made of all white grape varieties, usually Chardonnay.  The winery says it uses “grape varieties of great renown.” Given the pink color, one of the other grapes must also be included in this rosé.

Tasting Notes (01/22/2012):

Color:  Pale Peach Aroma:  Yeasty, minerals, strawberry, peach, pear, and cork. Flavor:  Tart and dry with a slight sweet note on the tongue.  This wine has flavors of pear, peach, and nectarine with a dry and marvelous warm, long, mineral (granite) finish.

Rating:

4 glasses

Sweet Bubbly Pink Wine

Ballatore Spumante Roso, NV

  • Alcohol Content: 9 %
  • Price:  $8-$10
  • Vineyard locations:  throughout California

The winery is located in Modesto, California and has won numerous awards for its sweet “spumante” wines.  Spumante means “foaming” and is Italian sparkling wine.  Spumante wines were made about 2,000 years before Champagne was “invented” in France. 

Tasting Notes (01/28/2012):

Color:  Bright dark rose pink or pale raspberry. Aroma:  Nectar (hummingbird food), honey, bouquet of flowers, orange, crushed fruit, and mineral. Flavor:   Sweet with a little tart, balanced and not over sweet.  Apple and sweet apple cider, blackberry, honey, orange, with a warm, sweet finish that tastes of orange soda.

Rating:

4 glasses

The Wine Enthusiast rated this wine 85 and the 2003 San Francisco International Wine Competition gave it a Silver Medal.

Banfi Rosa Regale Acqui,  2010

  • Alcohol Content: 7 %
  • Price: $15-20
  • Vineyard location:  Strevi, Italy in the Acqui district of the Piemonte region, Italy

This wine is imported by Banfi Vinters, New York.  It is a DOCG Brachetto D’Acui  (sparkling Dolce red) wine.  It is made from 100 percent Brachetto grapes.

Tasting Notes (01/28/2012):

Color:  Ruby and cranberry red, the prettiest sweet wine that we tasted. Aroma:  Rose and other floral, sweet rose tea, blackberry, grapefruit pith and peel, orange peel, lime, nectar, perfume, and a hint of soap. Flavor:   Sweet and tart with a hint of bitter.  This is a well-balanced wine with complex flavors of grape, rose, rosehip tea, blackberry, pomegranate (grenadine), and grapefruit.  The medium finish is warm, clean, and tastes of pomegranate.  This is a tasty wine for those who love sweet or dessert wines!  Our young panel members call this wine “amazing.”

Rating:

4 ¾ glasses

Although I rated this wine 4-½ glasses, we let the young people’s votes count.  After all, they are the ones who will purchase this wine.  Wilfred Wong rated it 89 points, Wine & Spirits Magazine scored past vintages with 88 and 90 points, and the 2009 and 2010 San Francisco International Wine Competitions gave the Banfi Rosa Regale a gold medal.

Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato, NV

  • Alcohol Content: 9.5 %
  • Price:  $8-$11
  • Vineyard location: California

The winery is located in Modesto, California, and the wine is made from Moscato grapes.

Tasting Notes (01/28/2012):

Color:  Pale, ballet-slipper pink. Aroma:  Rose, floral hand soap, honey, cherry blossoms, cherry, glycerin. Flavor:  Sweet, but balanced with a little acid.  Rose petal preserves, cranberry, soap, lavender, dried fruit, and minerals with a smooth sweet soapy finish.

Rating:

3 glasses

As the wine opens up, the soap becomes more pronounced.  As the wine sits, it becomes almost undrinkable due to its soapiness and we lowered our initial ratings.  If you do buy this wine, drink it up really quickly.

Berringer Sparkling White Zinfandel, NV (non vintage)

  • Alcohol Content: 11 %
  • Price:  $7-$13
  • Vineyard location:  California

The winery is located in Ceres California and the wine is made from Zinfandel grapes.   After gentle crushing, the base wine for the cuvée was made by keeping the juice in contact with the grapes’ red skins for approximately three hours to extract a light blush color. Beringer’s winemakers then used slow, cool fermentation.  After the primary vinification, the winemakers added small amount of additional sugar and yeast to induce the secondary fermentation and a lively effervescence. Finally, a “dosage” of wine with floral characteristics was blended to the wine.

Tasting Notes (01/28/2012):

Color:  Pink rose, peachy pink, and lots of bubbles. Aroma:  Mineral, raspberry, honey, white cherry, light floral, honeysuckle, and hints of peach and geranium. Flavor:  Tart, demi-sec, balanced.  Raspberries, strawberries, honey, minerals, apple, with a hint of flowers. This wine has a marvelous smooth, warm, tart long, clean finish.

Rating:

4 ¼ glasses

Wilfred Wong rated this wine 86 points.

Il Conte D’Alba Stella Rosa Imperiale Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG, NV

  • Alcohol Content: 6 %
  • Price:  $18-$20
  • Vineyard location:  Asti and Allesandria near the town of Aqui Terme in the Piemonte region, Italy.

The Il Conte D’Alba winery is located in the small town of Santo Stefano Belbo in the Piemonte region of Italy.  The wine is s a DOCG Brachetto D’Acui  (sparkling Dolce red) wine.  Thus it made from Brachetto grapes.   The grape is first soaked with unfermented juice to achieve its color.  Then it is fermented in pressurized stainless steel tanks and aged in the bottle.

Tasting Notes (01/28/2012):

Color:  Cranberry, raspberry with a touch of orange. Aroma:  Rose, floral, cherry, orange, apple, and strawberry. Flavor:   Sweet, sweet, and sweet!  Cherry, black cherry, rose, Hawaiian punch, apple, raspberry, and strawberry.  This has a sweet, sugary, cool finish and drinks likes a delicious, tasty soda pop. Really easy to drink, a hangover in the making!

Rating:

4 glasses

The Wine Enthusiast gave this wine a rating of 85.


[i] Lees means the sediment settling during a wine’s fermentation and aging process that includes dead yeast, grape seeds, pulp, and other grape particles.

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