Champagne

Enjoy a bottle of sparkling wine this summer from Scharffenberger, left, or Sand-Reckoner.

Whoever issued the decree that the first Saturday in June shall be National Bubbly Day forevermore obviously spent some time in Southern Arizona.

This is generally the time of year when light and bright plays best on our palates as we begin yet another months-long tango with triple-digit temperatures, and bubbly, whether it’s Champagne, Cava, Prosecco or other expressions of effervescence, is ready to serve.

But wouldn’t logic dictate that National Bubbly Day should correspond with a holiday or celebration? As I learned upon talking with two local wine professionals, that logic is simply illogical.

“Sparkling wines have traditionally been celebratory drinks for celebratory times, but because they’re so refreshing, vibrant and food-friendly, we should be drinking them on a weekly basis,” said Sarah Fox Hammelman, co-owner of Sand-Reckoner Vineyards in Willcox. 

Hammelman’s latest entry into the bubbly market is a sparkling wine made exclusively from Malvasia Bianca grapes in the pét-nat, or pétillant naturel, tradition. In this process, the wine is bottled before the fermentation process is complete, with the resultant bubbles coming from what she called “the yeast’s final push to convert the natural sugars into alcohol.” 

Hammelman said this process accentuates the floral notes of the Malvasia grapes, which she sources from nearby Rhumb Line Vineyard in Willcox, and that its deep soil with limestone and clay plays a central role as well. 

“You definitely get a lot of floral and jasmine notes on the nose, with fresh jasmine carrying through and dominating the palate, with a light minerality shining through on the finish,” Hammelman said.

While her bubbly reportedly pairs well with salads, seafood and other dishes, Hammelman’s favorite companion is salt and vinegar potato chips. Really. 

This wine is available locally at Sand-Reckoner’s Tucson tasting room, 510 N. Seventh Ave.

Sharing Hammelman’s sentiments about bubbly’s save-it-for-the-celebration paradox is Jessica Nenadic, a local wine distributor who represents a number of bubbly brands including Perrier-Jouet, G.H. Mumm and Mumm Napa.

“When people historically thought about bubbly, it was an anniversary, New Year’s Eve or smashing a bottle against the bow of a ship to christen it,” said Nenadic, Southern Arizona key account manager for Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits.

“But for us in modern times, bubbles are far more affordable than they’ve ever been,” she said, “and there’s always a great selection at any price point,” a comment indicative of her crusade to break down the special occasion box that has defined this category for years.

And for the record, she likes sparkling wines with French fries.

One of those wines in Southern’s portfolio is the Brut Excellence from Scharffenberger Cellars in Anderson Valley, CA. Nenadic says its proximity to the coast, and its marine terroir, is yielding great grapes for bubbly. 

“This part of the country has a coastal climate and soil that’s rich with shale and lime,” Nenadic said, “and a fog that rolls in to keep the grapes cool at night so they can ripen during the day.”

The Brut Excellence is individually bottle-fermented as well. It’s made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes that produces a vanilla cream profile.

While I can’t guarantee current inventory, I’ve seen this wine at Casino Del Sol and Hacienda Del Sol in the past. 

There’s no need for a special occasion to mark National Bubbly Day on June 1. I’ll be sipping and sparkling poolside. What about you? 

Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at mrussell@russellpublic.com. Russell is also a regular contributor to “Tales of the Keg” on ESPN Tucson, KFFN 1490 AM & 104.9 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Sow” on KVOI 1030 AM.  

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