When to drink sparkling wines? Now!: Uncork the Forks

Bedell Cellars sparkling rosé. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

This time of year, dry rosé and crisp white wines get a fair amount of press. I find myself writing a lot about those wines, too. Long Island wineries produce some great rosé, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, unoaked chardonnays and even rieslings. All are well suited to summer sipping, either with food, on your patio, at the beach, by the pool or on the boat.

But there is one major wine category that doesn’t get the attention it deserves when it’s hot out and you’re looking for refreshment: sparkling wine.

Sparkling wine, whether locally produced or from classic regions like Champagne, has many of the same attributes that make local sauvignon blanc or rosé so well suited to summer: fresh acidity and clean flavors, and they are served chilled. Plus, sparkling wine has bubbles, which makes it even more refreshing and palate-cleansing.

“Sparkling wine is usually high in acidity and, of course, it is carbonated. Plus it is usually served ice-cold,” Kareem Massoud, winemaker at Paumanok Vineyards, told me in a recent email. “These characteristics make it perfect as a summertime drink: crisp, thirst-quenching, refreshing and sensational. Great on its own or, my preference, with seafood.”

Bubbly is a great pairing with local fin- and shellfish but, depending on the style, I enjoy it with salads and even grilled poultry or meat. Good sparkling wine will go with almost anything. Don’t let sommeliers overcomplicate wine pairings for you.

Now, it’s also true that well-made sparkling wine tends to be more expensive than white or rosé wines of similar quality, so I’m not suggesting that you should replace all of those wines with bubbly, but it is an often overlooked option.

Oh, and if you’re going to use sparkling wine in a cocktail — if you must — feel free to use sub-$15 cava or Prosecco. Don’t use your good stuff for those.

But you should absolutely be drinking sparkling wine right now. Or this fall. Or next spring. Or any time, really. Don’t save it strictly for New Year’s Eve and other celebrations. Buy some. Chill it. Drink it.

“Sparkling wine is great to enjoy every month of the year. It goes well with any occasion and cuisine any time of the year, in my opinion,” said Bedell Cellars winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich when we were talking about this last week. “What’s not to like?”

Long Island isn’t particularly known for sparkling wine, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some terrific options available. Not surprisingly, you should look to the region’s best wineries overall to find the best sparkling wines. Here are some wines to start with, along with some other producers to check out. And by all means, if you see bubbly on a tasting room menu that you don’t see here, give it a go. You may find a new summer favorite.

Bedell Cellars 2017 Sparkling Rosé ($45)

Unique in that it’s a blend of 60 percent cabernet sauvignon and 40 percent merlot — most classic sparkling wine is made from chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier or some combination — this pretty pink sparkling rosé shows delicate cherry and raspberry fruit flavors with fresh acidity and a long, dry finish.

Lenz Winery 2013 Cuvée ($40)

Made with 100 percent estate-grown pinot noir, this has nice fruit aromas reminiscent of white cherry, green apple and pear. There are also layers of toasty, biscuit-y and yeasty notes. The palate brings a beam of apple-cherry with the toasty, yeasty notes there, too, and a faint citrusy quality. Medium-light in body, this bubbly offers crisp acidity and a very dry finish that lingers nicely with a touch of lemon-citrus at the very end.

Macari Vineyards 2012 Cuvée Gabriella Brut Rosé ($35)

Named for owners Joe and Alexandra Macari’s daughter — who now works for the winery — this 100 percent pinot noir sparkling wine is beautifully fresh, with strawberry and raspberry fruit, subtle yeastiness and a wonderful mouthfeel.

Paumanok Vineyards 2013 Blanc de Blancs ($45)

Made from 100 percent estate-grown chardonnay, it spent 36 months on the lees — spent yeast cells and other sediment — giving this a richness and roundness that combines with bright fruit flavors of mixed apples and sweet citrus. Background notes of pie crust bring a nice bit of complexity to a wine that is quite dry and focused, showing beautifully bright acidity.

Sparkling Pointe 2015 Brut ($29)

I have yet to taste the newly released 2015, but the 2014 was a pure, focused stunner. It was delicious enough that I’m listing the follow-up vintage.

Other local wineries making terrific local sparkling wine include Channing Daughters, Jamesport Vineyards, Lieb Cellars, Palmer Vineyards and Wölffer Estate.