Sparkling wines and a recipe for Acadiana pralines

Segura Viudas brut rosé, Spain

Sparkling wine has traditionally been something the wine business loved to hate. Save for expensive Champagne — bubbly from the Champagne region of France, and the only stuff allowed to be called Champagne on the label — sparklers are hard to sell except at this time of year.

But a funny thing has happened since the recession started in 2008. Lots of producers from some odd places are making sparkling wine, and it seems to be selling. Barefoot, the massive subsidiary of the Gallo empire, makes bubbly. So does Yellow Tail, the Australian wine behemoth. Each has recognized that there is a market for sparkling wine that is a little sweet and doesn’t cost a lot of money.

Which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who regularly reads this part of the magazine. I’m not a huge fan of those wines, because I think you can find better quality for more or less the same price. But the Barefoots and Yellow Tails, which are solid wines, have opened the sparkling market to people who never would have tried a $45 Champagne — which is a good thing.

So as you look for something to toast the holidays, keep in mind that bubbly doesn’t have to cost a fortune:

• Segura Viudas Brut Rosé NV ($10): This cava (what the Spanish call sparkling wine) may be my favorite bubbly, even more than my beloved Cristalino. It’s cheap, it’s got lots of tiny, wonderful bubbles, and it pairs with all sorts of food.

• De Bortoli Sauvignon Blanc Emeri NV ($11): Unusual Australian bubbly made with sauvignon blanc, with sweet tropical fruit but not as much citrus as one would expect. Less tight and bubbly than cava, but not as soft as some Italian sparklers.

• Pommery Brut NV ($35): This is the real thing — Champagne at about as reasonable a price as you’re going to find. Look for yeast and crème caramel aromas and some apple flavor. It’s very straightforward, but not as simple as it seems.

Ask the wine guy

Q. I see the word “brut” on sparkling wine. What does that mean?
A. Brut signifies that the wine is dry. If the wine is sweet, it will say “extra dry.” No, this doesn’t make sense, but it’s one of the charms of Champagne and sparkling wine.

• Have questions about wine? Ask the Advocate’s resident Wine Guy Jeff Siegel at jsiegel@advocatemag.com.

With your wine: Acadiana pralines recipe

If pralines aren’t the perfect holiday treat, what is? These are a little creamy, but not as much as those you’ll find in Texas kitchens or Tex-Mex restaurants. And if they aren’t easy to make, they’re worth the trouble — and they do pair nicely with bubbly.

Grocery list
3 c light brown sugar, packed
1/8 tsp salt
1 c milk
2 Tbsp white corn syrup
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c pecan halves

Directions
1. Mix sugar, salt, milk and corn syrup in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook to soft ball stage (about 235 degrees on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat and work quickly, since the caramel hardens quickly. Add butter and vanilla, and mix well. Finally, add pecans as the mixture hardens.
2. Drop the mixture by tablespoons onto wax paper or parchment paper. Cool until firm.

Makes about two dozen, takes about an hour


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