Sparkling wine will be called on to make many a Valentine’s Day dinner romantic, but the bubbles needn’t burst the budget. This week I have three moderately priced sparklers to set the mood. Two are made from riesling, one from Germany’s Mosel region, the other from New York’s Finger Lakes. The third is a charming Italian spumante from Campania that takes us on time travel back to an ancient era.
Salvatore Martusciello Trentapioli Asprinio d’Aversa 2019
Asprinio is, according to some sources, a local name for the greco grape. Greco suggests the variety was brought to Italy by the ancient Greeks. The name asprinio derives from the Latin word for “tart” and is generally used in the region just north of Naples. The vine puts out long creepers that since ancient times have been trained upward between poplar trees. Salvatore Martusciello posts a video on his website of harvest workers climbing 50-foot ladders to harvest the grapes. It’s dizzying to watch. The name Trentapioli refers to the 30 rungs in the ladders, denoted also by the phrase “da vigneti ad alberata” on the label. The wine is indeed tart, with flavors of green apple and maybe a little ginger. The cultivation is ancient, but the winemaking is modern — the bubbles come through the Charmat method of forced carbonation, the technique used with prosecco. The result is a refreshing, slightly bitter, almost cider-like quaff that demonstrates wine’s ability to connect us to the past. It also proves the benefit of knowing the story behind the wine. Bravo! Alcohol by volume: 11.5 percent. Bottle weight: 705 grams (Sparkling).
Imported and distributed locally by Michael R. Downey Selections.
Markus Molitor, Molitor Brut Sekt
When I visited the Mosel region many years ago, at each winery I was treated to an impressive array of wines from various terroirs and soils and sundials (a traditional fixture in Mosel vineyards). Each tasting was a lesson in geology and the subtle differences in flavor stemming from aspect to the sun and blue slate or red slate. But when the tasting was done and it was time to relax over a meal, each producer would pop open a bottle of sekt, their dry sparkling wine made from riesling in the traditional champagne method. This was their fun wine — fun to make and fun to drink. This recent example by Markus Molitor took me back to that visit. More importantly, it brought a smile to my face as I reveled over the bright berry and citrus flavors. This may not be priced as an everyday wine, but I recommend having a few bottles on hand for when a celebration breaks out. ABV: 12.5 percent. BW: 570 grams (Light for sparkling).
Imported by Banville Wine Merchants. Distributed locally by Banville Wine Merchants and Artisans & Vines.
Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard Extra Brut 2017
Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, N.Y., $38
Hermann J. Wiemer was a Finger Lakes pioneer in riesling and sparkling wine. The winery, now owned by Fred Merwarth and Oskar Bynke, continues to excel in these and other areas. The 2017 Extra Brut sparkling wine is 100 percent riesling, soothing with a gentle fizz and flavors of apples, apricots and peaches. All that fruitiness is grounded in a soft but focused acidity leading to a long, satisfying finish. Superb. ABV: 12 percent. BW: 840 grams (Sparkling).
Distributed locally by Lanterna.
Prices are approximate. For availability, check Wine.com, Wine-searcher.com and the websites and social media feeds of the wineries, importers or distributors. You can also ask your local retailer to order wines from the distributors listed.