Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut ($15) California
Never has one kind of wine been so confusing to so many people. Once, all sparkling was called champagne, even if it didn’t come from the Champagne region of France. Today, for a variety of reasons, only bubbly that comes from Champagne can be called Champagne — which, as it turns out, is perfectly fine with producers in Spain, where it’s called cava; in Italy, where it’s called Prosecco; and in the rest of the France, where it’s called cremant.
Those wines, which cost a fraction of the price of Champagne, are markedly improved in quality and deliver value far above their price. Yes, there is nothing like Champagne, but if you want to spend $20 or less, there are literally hundreds of great wines to choose from.
These wines are just a glimpse of what’s available:
• Miguel Pons Cava Brut Nature ($16): This cava is soft and generous, with sweet lemon fruit and bubbles that won’t quit. It doesn’t have the edge that many other cavas have, but that’s not a problem.
• Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut ($15): A California sparkler that never disappoints. Look for a bit of spice, minerals, apple fruit and even a certain yeastiness, which is usually found only in more expensive wines.
• Francois Labet Cremant Brut ($15): Outstanding chardonnay-based effort from Burgundy region of France that has some apple, wonderful bubbles and even a bit of caramel in the back. Not as fruity as cava, but more austere than real Champagne.
Jeff Siegel’s weekly wine reviews appear every Wednesday.
Ask the wine guy
Q. Why does sparkling wine have bubbles?
A. It’s from carbonation, just like soft drinks — though the process is much more complicated with champagne-style wines and involves two rounds of fermentation, as opposed to one for still wine. The second round produces the bubbles.
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With your wine: Texas pecan cake
Pecans, though popular in Texas and the South, aren’t as well-known in the rest of the world. This knockoff of a Spanish-style almond cake shows just how versatile pecans can be.
1 c sugar
1/3 c oil
1/2 c milk
3/4 c flour
1/4 c ground pecans
3/4 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp pecan pieces
powdered sugar for garnishing
1. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in sugar and oil, and then add milk, flour, ground pecans, and baking powder. Mix well.
2. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle pecan pieces on top. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Garnish with powdered sugar.
Makes one 9-inch cake; takes 45 minutes to an hour.