The SOMM Journal

August/September 2014

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Page 103 of 119

104 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014 { observations } ALTHOUGH THE NATIONAL RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION show always brings a sense of excitement and anticipation, Chicago's embrace of the 2014 edition nearly bubbled over. Whether it was winter-weary Midwesterners saying hello to a long-awaited spring, or welcoming a whiff of economic recovery, there were some celebratory moments. One of those joyous occasions had a particular effervescence: A panel of Chicago-area sommeliers discussed Champagne and sparkling wine at a session that was no mere sideshow. Five styles were tasted by the panel to spur quite a "sparkling" discussion, with many topics both on the table, and in the glass. And, while some early speculation about the sparkling wine and Champagne market suggested sagging sales, these Chicago somms blew up that notion: This bubble is not bursting. "We're seeing a lot of different, great styles of sparkling wine com - ing into the market," says Certified Sommelier Daniel Freedman, also the panel's moderator. "What I always find is, people really want bubbles, something exciting. This is true for either as an aperitif, as a pairing—or in mixology, such as a French 75." Different Times, Different Bubblies There's little argument that the very worst years of the recession buffeted a wide range of luxury brands and items. Sales in the premium sectors of the wine industry were also hit hard. There was also a pivot—especially among more adventuresome wine drinkers—that offset the overall economic malaise. Obscure vari - etals and regions emerged. So did sparkling wine as an overall segment—and from many parts of Europe and worldwide. This shift actually signaled an expansion of festive "clinks," but with different and varied bubbly. "I've seen a lot of different sparkling wines do well," says Arthur Hon, Sommelier and Beverage Director at Michelin-starred Sepia, in Chicago's West Loop. "Sparkling wine is perhaps the most versatile for pairing with food: It works with spicy dishes, asparagus or artichokes, or anything with a high amount of acid. You can drink sparkling wine throughout your meal; it's not just an aperitif or something to have at the end." The popularity of these sparkling styles not only run the gamut of grapes and geography, but also price. Italian Prosecco and a value-priced French crémant are great entry-level wines for those who want bubbly without blowing up their budgets. "The Prosecco 'bubble' has actually opened the door to higher-end vintage California sparkling wine and Champagne," says Nancy Sabatini, Director of Wine Education and Sales at Mainstreet Wines in Countryside, IL. Crémants are big sellers, too." "There's been such a huge rise in Prosecco," says Scott Quint, Wine Director at Quince Restaurant in north-suburban Evanston, IL. "Sparkling wine, whether it's cava, sparkling Grüner Veltliner or crémant d'Alsace, has been the go-to aperitif at Quince." Sparklers for All THE BUBBLE KEEPS EXPANDING FOR THE SPARKLING WINE MARKET story and photos by Tom Caestecker, Jr. A superlative sparkling wine panel discussed a wide array of "bub- bly" topics at the May, 2014 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. From left to right: Arthur Hon, Sommelier and Beverage Director, Sepia Restaurant; Scott Quint, Wine Director, Quince Restaurant; Daniel Freedman, Certified Sommelier; and Nancy Sabatini, Director of Wine Education and Sales, Mainstreet Wines. Moderator Daniel Freedman takes in the aroma of the Zonin Prosecco, one of five sparkling wines tasted by the panel of Chicago sommeliers.

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