The Case For Bubbles

If you've ever stopped by the store - why, of course you have, it's the place to be - then you've likely heard me express my love for all things sparkling wine. From Champagne to, I love it all.

Part of that love is due to the fact that there are few things on this planet that brighten up a room like a popped bottle of bubbles. Part of it, too, is that there are few types of wine that I feel have been more cornered into a niche section of the market, unfairly, than sparkling wine.

For centuries, Champagne and wines like it have been principally enjoyed on special occasions, New Year's Eve to birthdays to weddings and anniversaries. Like I said, that distinctive "pop" is what gives this genre part of its pizazz. While I'm not going to tell anyone to stop enjoying their spumante during such events, the reality is that sparkling wine deserves so much more than simply being reserved for them.

Take grower Champagne as an example - "grower Champagne" being defined as a wine that is made by the growers of the grapes themselves, from their own vineyards that they themselves tend and nurture along during the growing season, as opposed to House Champagne, like Möet Chandon or Veuve Cliquot, where the grapes for the wines are sourced externally and blending together for a house style.

Grower Champagne aims to create a cuvée (blend) that reflects the vineyards themselves, providing an expression of terroir that can show off the soil, the region, and ultimately, the grapes themselves. These wines have distinct characteristics like complex minerality or impressive structure that pair wonderfully with your every night cheese plate, selections of cured meats, or even an entrée course. Personally, I make it a point to enjoy these wines with my Sunday brunch (bacon, Benedict, and more bacon) whenever possible.

With estimations putting grower Champagne around only 5% of all Champagne imports to the U.S., you may be concerned about the availability to of these beautiful wines at prices accessible to the average consumer. Take Pierre Brigandat and Jean Velut as examples that are priced competitively against the big name brands and offer more than those big boys could ever dream of.

If you're the kind of consumer that likes to stay on a tighter wine budget, which we all are at one point or another, don't live in fear. There are plenty of sparkling wines from around the world produced in the grower method that offer up lively individuality at a bargain.

One can enjoy (and surely will enjoy) grower Cava and Domaine produced Vouvray for under $20, not to mention 100% Pinot Noir from New York. The choices are endless.

So next time you wander into Grain & Vine, don't be afraid to ask for grower sparkling wine for whatever the occasion, even if it's just a relaxing Wednesday evening in front of the television. It's never a bad time for bubbles.

Winter Whites to Soothe the Soul

The effect that winter weather has on us all is unmistakable, from our morning fashion choices to our willingness to brave long lines outside of New York City's trendiest bars and night clubs.

It goes deeper than that though, changing our dietary disposition as well. Refreshing salads are replaced by roasts with root vegetables and hearty soups that function as much like a down comforter as they do a simple culinary craving. The same, too, can be said for our wine buying habits.

Rosé and beach pounding Sauvignon Blanc--or even delicate, easy going Pinot Noir--are often passed over in favor of dense, rich, and full bodied reds that make the perfect accompaniment to our food or fireplace. But what about those of us who lean towards white wine more often than its blush counterpart?

Contrary to popular opinion, there are a wide variety of whites that shine within the confines that these months try to establish upon us.

What you might consider going for are wines that pack a bit more punch than you may be used to. Whites coming out of Spain, Germany, Hungary, and even the U.S. can have the weight to stand up next to your meal pairing needs, while also hitting on the classic points of reference (with regards to finish and fruit profile) that white wine drinkers look for in their purchases.

Right off the bat, my mind goes to Verdejo of the old vine variety, coming out of Spain's famed Rueda region. A select few of the best vines from this region are nearly 100 years old, resulting in wines that are so eclectically deep in both concentration and character--meaning that these wines aren't just summer sippers, but something you can throw alongside your more savory winter dinners or simply drink alone after a long commute. The best part? They're almost always awesomely affordable.


A personal favorite, I find white Burgundy to hit the spot no matter the weather conditions, food pairing options, or even mood. Whether or not California-style Chardonnay is your jam, I highly encourage you to give the varietal another shot from its native region. Burgundy is producing crisp, clean, yet complex Chardonnay that has inspired generations of wine drinkers to rethink the way they view one of the most controversial varietals in the market. If you're trying to keep things within budget, consider Chablis or even non-1er Cru village level offerings.


There is so much more than just Verdejo and Chardonnay, obviously. Winter classics like Riesling, Vermentino, or more earthy natural-style wines will bring the kind of body, aromatics, and mouthfeel to keep things interesting while you're snowed in.

Of course, more important than my recommendations, is that you keep drinking what you want, when you want, and that you do it shamelessly. There's nothing wrong with someone drinking Sancerre when it's zero-degrees outside, or Grüner Veltliner when the wind chill is obscene. Drinking to your tastes is more imperative than drinking to an occasion or meal pairing.

If you're ready to try something new, though, stop on by the shop and it would be our pleasure to lend a helping hand.