Making carbonated wine is fairly simple, but making a wine that tastes better carbonated than it does as a still wine is a much trickier proposition. Simply trapping the natural bubbles generated during fermentation makes interesting wines only if they’re quite sweet, like Moscato. The key to making wines that are not just sparkling but also dry and delicious is a laborious process known as the “Champagne method.” It requires making and bottling a still base wine first, then adding cane sugar and special cultured yeast to spark a second fermentation that adds the bubbles. Because this boosts alcohol without adding flavor, though, vintners can’t just start with a normal white wine. The final wine will taste balanced only if the base wine is made from underripe grapes and if it ages on its yeast sediments for at least 18 months after the final fermentation. Champagne is not the only region where that can be perfected, though, as demonstrated by this delightful sparkler from New Mexico. Made using the native grapes of Champagne by a French family, this wine has all the hallmarks of that region’s eponymous wines — excellent tension between bracing acidity and tactile opulence, a fine mousse that feels more creamy than prickly, and flavors that marry the zing of lemons or apples with the decadent toasted flavor of freshly baked bread.
Gruet Brut, New Mexico, $14.99 (regularly $16.99; sale price through Dec. 31). PLCB Item #1476.