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Fires warm and bubbles bright

In the warm nights of July, the hissing of golden sparklers and popping of fireworks delight us with radiant twinkles. But in the coldness of December, we have a chilled fire of bubbles and the glittering effervescence of sparkling wine to warm us.

The celebratory popping of the cork is on full display in December when we have one year ending and a new one beginning. I suspect, in the ending of 2020, there may be more popping than usual. And we are lucky to have some fine locally made bubbly right here in the Rogue Valley.

First off, what is bubbly? Bubbly is the pet name used for sparkling wine, which can include Champagne. However, although all Champagne is sparkling wine, not all sparkling wine is Champagne. The term Champagne is used only for sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of northeast France. Anywhere else it’s sparkling wine.

What’s the difference? Basically, the name Champagne is protected by a legal agreement and the production must adhere to certain standards; there is more to it, but that’s for another column. The grapes used to create ‘true’ Champagne are chardonnay (blanc de blancs), pinot meunier and pinot noir (blanc de noirs). Sparkling wine can be made from any varietal. There are also a couple of ways to create the bubbles. It’s up to the winemaker to choose which method to employ, but the bottom line is the sparkling wine is only as good as the still wine it’s made from.

In Italian Prosecco, carbon dioxide is pumped into the wine much like a cola. Champagne, Spain’s cava and other sparkling wines use a more laborious and sophisticated method known as the traditional method. This requires a second fermentation by adding yeast and sugar, thus creating carbon dioxide in the bottles. When you hear that lovely pop of the cork, it’s the gas making a merry escape that creates the brilliant bubbles of a sparkling wine.

Maison Jussiaume Wines (maisonjussiaume.com) is one of our Rogue Valley sparkling pleasures. Jean-Michel Jussiaume grew up in a muscadet-producing family in the Loire Valley, France. His current 2017 Brut Blanc de Blancs, made from chardonnay grapes sourced from Del Rio vineyards, where he is the winemaker, has received awards and accolades.

Jussiaume refers to himself as a “one man show” handcrafting a “no rush” slow wine. He requires a minimum of three years aging and riddles (an exacting turning process of the traditional method) each bottle by hand. Most recently his blanc de blancs was chosen for “What Corks Will Wine Pros Be Popping on NYE?” It was described as “elegant and classic, subtle but expressive” (daily.sevenfifty.com). Notes are green aromatics, creamy with Meyer lemon, nuanced wet stone.

Sampling a sparkling flight on the expansive deck at Naumes Suncrest Winery (naumessuncrestwinery.com) is a Southern Oregon bucket list item. They currently offer four sparkling wines, two blanc de noirs, a blanc de blancs and a rosé. A chocolate truffle accompanies the flight and is especially heavenly with the strawberry, rose petal and passion fruit notes in the rosé.

May your holidays be merry and your bubbles bright!

Reach Paula Bandy at pbthegrapevine@gmail.com.