These sparkling wines make a flirtatious statement

With most (if any) flirting taking place on virtual first dates or behind face masks, our first Valentine’s Day in a pandemic calls for finding other ways to get fresh. Here are a few bottles that can help break the ice, warm the heart, or simply give you a fresh take during a time when we’re All. So. Tired.

Breathless Brut Rosé, Healdsburg. This wine, with its Art Deco vibe has a feminine appeal, and with good reason: the label is owned by three sisters who consider their winemaker a fourth sister. Made in the traditional method with grapes sourced from six vineyards in Sonoma and Napa valleys, this Pinot-Noir-driven (90%) sparkler has a sweeter pop of ripe fruit and pink grapefruit pith. Good day drinking spring wine or your pre-game splash for a big night out, if you’re still having one of those. $33

Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvee Madame de la Pompadour. The “youngest” in this trio of sister wines is named for Louis XV’s paramour who was said to introduce sparkling wine to the courts. Pinot Noir-driven, it’s a sprightly frolic, with a light expression of brioche, bright strawberries and young orchard fruit (fresh peach and cherries; $38). Our panel tasted the middle sister wine, the Brut Rosé 2017 ($45), from two different glasses in the new Karen MacNeil (Wine Bible) line. In the “Creamy and Silky” glass—so contoured for round, rich wines, it was fleshy and ripe. True to its name, in the “Crisp and Fresh” glass, it was a leaner expression with notes of linen, steal and focused citrus. In either glass, it’s a great food wine with concentrated strawberry and raspberry, savory notes. The ultra-sophisticated older sister Le Reve 2015 ($140) is an haute-couture blend with subtle spice notes, stone orchard fruit, elevated by a bit of guava and lychee—I wanted this with sweet-meated lobster tails. All three are reliable performers—deceptively light, but powerful.


Famille Geisse Cava Amadeu, Pinto Bandeira, Brazil. Chilean winemaker Mario Geisse was recruited to launch Chandon’s Brazil production before branching out on his own. This 100% Pinot Noir traditional-method sparkler pushes forward with big hits of strawberry and tropical fruit. A little rustic in character with aggressive but not off-putting bubbles. $25+/-

Gran Moraine Brut Rosé, Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Oregon. Very light, delicate shell pink color. Clean, light and elegant with floral tones. Slightly creamy, generous mouthfeel. Makes its point of view more through texture than fruit. Nice showing from a lesser-known sub-area within the Willamette Valley. $50

Mionetto Cartizze DOCG Prosecco, Veneto. The O.G. Prosecco producer makes this fizz from a micro zone within the high-altitude, high-quality district of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. Its secondary fermentation in tank preserves its fruit-forward freshness with green apple, white pear and lemon in the lead. It leans on the off-dry side, but with enough acid to offset and make it a good companion with dessert. $35

Nyetimber Brut Rosé. A serene British Chardonnay-driven sparkler that’s more about earth and texture than in-your-face fruit. Very subtle on the nose, it comes alive on the palate: watermelon, young red berries, saline with chalky subtext, sharp minerality. It’s a clean expression that demonstrates the potential of English sparkling wine as a major player (this area of southern England shares the same chalky geology as the Champagne region). $70

Simonsig “Kaapse Vonkel” Brut 2017, Stellenbosch, South Africa. This Chardonnay-driven (55%) sparkler lays claim to being South African’s first made in the Method Cap Classique, the same second fermentation in the bottle process made famous in Champagne and copied elsewhere. This wine is less yeasty/brioche than what you’d find in the Old World; the Pinot Noir component (44%) provides the red-fruit backbone and the Chardonnay contributes green apple, pear and lemon twist. $20

Schlumberger Grüner Veltliner “Klassik” 2017, Österreichischer Sekt, Austria. This dry expression of sparkling Gruner, made in the traditional method, is a fresh take on Sekt. Floral and honeydew melon notes prevail, followed by a light fizz, peach and apricot notes. The lovely delicate label makes a gift-worthy presentation—too pretty to hide in an ice bucket. $24

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