The Hippo


Dec 6, 2019








Hermit Woods. Courtesy photo.

Make your own 

If you’re interested in making your own sparkling wine, you can do so at Incredibrew (112 Daniel Webster Highway, Nashua, 891-2477,, which has over 30 varieties, with standards like pinot grigio and pinot noir as well as fruit-flavored wines including Kiwi-Pear Sauvignon Blanc, Acai Raspberry, Peach Perfection, Pomegranate Zinfandel, White Cranberry Pinot Grigio and Green Apple Riesling. 
“Our most popular wines to sparkle are the fruit wines,” Incredibrew owner Erik Croswell said. “Those ones are so good as a sparkling because they’re very light and crisp, but still dry and not overly sweet.” 
To make sparkling wine at Incredibrew, you can schedule a private session and make a whole batch for yourself, or you can participate in one of the periodic split-a-batch events and make wine in a group session. First, you’ll mix all the ingredients yourself and leave them to ferment. Then, you’ll return in four to six weeks to bottle them — just make sure to specify that you want them sparkling, and Incredibrew will do the carbonation process for you before you bottle them.  
Croswell said it’s also popular for people to make a wine with half of the batch as a still wine and half of it sparkling.
“Why not get half of them sparkled and half not, because it’s almost like different varieties. They’re getting two different wines,” he said. 
Check the Incredibrew website for details on pricing on making your own batch and upcoming dates for split-a-batch events.  
Granite State sparkles
Though New Hampshire is still in its early stages as a sparkling wine producer, it has already begun to develop a signature style that often incorporates native varieties of fruits not found in other wine regions. Get a taste of what the Granite State has to offer with these sparkling wines created by local wineries.  
Flag Hill Distillery & Winery (297 N. River Road, Lee, 659-2949,
Cayuga Sparkling White Wine, $22.95
A bright, sweet and aromatic varietal wine made with 100 percent Cayuga grapes. Features citrus and exotic fruit flavors and a lingering well-balanced acidity. Pair with pasta dishes or with brunch, alone or in a mimosa. 
Hermit Woods Winery (72 Main St., Meredith, 253-7968,
• Sparkling Harvest Apple, $24.95 
Made with French and English heirloom apples, quince and crabapple. Crisp, light and fruity with a long finish. Pair with light appetizers, spicy foods or lobster.
• Sparkling Heirloom Crabapple, $24.95
Full-bodied wine made with whole heirloom Dolgo crabapples. Medium dry with a long and tangy finish. Pairs with spicy dishes, light meals or roast turkey. 
• Sparkling Kiwi Berry, $29.95
Dry, full-bodied wine made with local organic kiwi berries. Features unique fruity aromas and flavors and a bright acidity. Pair with robust cheeses, savory dishes like pork and smoked salmon, and light summer fare like prosciutto and melon. 
• Sparkling Three-Honey, $34.95 
A sparkling mead made with a blend of three raw and unfiltered local wildflower honeys. Features a light floral aroma and finish. Pair with Thai or Chinese cuisine. 
LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101, Amherst, 672-9898,
• Shimmer, $25
Semi-dry sparkling white wine made from a blend of 50 percent dry riesling and 50 percent dry apple wines. Aromatic and bright acidity with crisp fruit and floral tones. Pair with salads or small plates and cream-based dishes. Awarded Bronze, 2013, and Silver, 2014, at The Big E. 
• Sparkling Cranberry, $25
Semi-sweet and refreshing rosé wine made with New England cranberries. Pair with salad course and holiday meals. Premier exhibitor and winner of the “Best New Hampshire Wine” award at The Big E, 2016.   
• Tempest, $25
Semi-sweet sparkling red wine made from a blend of LaBelle’s Red Raspberry and Seyval Blanc wines and the red grape baco noir. Fresh raspberry aroma and flavors. Pair with chocolate or a rich dessert. Awarded Gold at The Big E, 2014.  
A world of bubbles 
Explore the range of styles found in some of the best sparkling wine regions of the world with these recommendations from Svetlana Yanushkevich, sommelier, wine educator and owner of WineNot Boutique and The Wine Steward in Nashua. You can find all of them at WineNot, and many are available at other independent wine shops and at New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlets, either in the stores or through special order. 
• Steininger Cabernet Sauvignon Rose Sekt 2013, Kamptal, Austria, $33.99
Dry and refreshing, traditional-method pale pink rosé with blackcurrant leaf aroma and a soft fizz that exudes notes of tart blackcurrant.  
Food pairings: salads, cheeses, fruit and seafood. 
• Miolo Brut, NV, Serra Gaúcha, Brazil, $21.99
Pale yellow with fine bubbles and creamy texture, bright acidity and a pleasant aftertaste. Complex aroma includes a range of fruits and aging florals.
Food pairings: shellfish, mild cheeses and salads.
• Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir, NV, Carneros, Sonoma, $27.99
Made from a blend of pinot noir rose and vin gris (pinot noir white wine). Has a creamy texture, lively bubbles and lingering finish. Features red berry, cherry, lemon and cola flavors, floral notes and strawberry, black cherry and subtle vanilla aromas.
Food pairings: crab, roast pork, quail, foie gras, Thai cuisine, semi-sweet desserts and triple-aged gouda or hard-aged cheeses with persimmons and hazelnuts.  
• Baron de Seillac Brut Rose, NV, Provence, France, $15.99
Dry rosé made with 100 percent grenache grapes that exudes a white cherry flavor, subtle mandarin acidity and fresh floral aroma. 
Food pairings: cold cuts, barbecue, small game and lightly smoked fish.
• 90+ Magic Door Champagne La Cle de la Femme, Champagne, France, $38.99
Champagne made from a blend of 80 percent pinot meunier and 20 percent chardonnay, featuring apple and white pear aromas and subtle notes of almond, buttered toast and baking spices. 
Food pairings: triple cream brie-style cheese, mascarpone, buttered popcorn, seafood, butter cream sauce, salami, stuffed mushrooms, egg dishes, foie gras and sweetbread. 
• Charles Heidsieck Brut Rose, NV, Champagne, France, $84.99
Rosé Champagne made with the classic three-grape blend and matured for over three years. Features a light sparkle and a complex aroma of strawberry jam, peach, gingerbread and subtle notes of cinnamon, with a deep, aromatic finish. 
Food pairings: appetizers and dishes with intense but delicate flavors such as seafood, pasta and braised white meats. 
• Benvolio Prosecco NV, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy, $21.99 
Vibrant gold-colored wine with finely textured but lingering bubbles; citrus, honey and floral aromas; flavors of peach, lemon, green apple and grapefruit; and a crispy acidity with a light and refreshing finish. 
Food pairings: spring and Caesar salads, prosciutto with melon, seafood, cold soups, risottos, polenta, broiled chicken, summer pasta and Asian cuisines such as Chinese, Thai, Indian and sushi. 
 • Villa Jolanda Coconut Moscato NV, Piedmont, Italy, $14.99
Sweet and delicate wine with natural coconut flavor and an intense straw-yellow coloring. 
Food pairings: desserts, especially pastries. 
• Turina Garda Spumanti Brut Rose NV, Lago di Garda, Italy, $25.99
Dry, light-medium rosé made from a blend of 50 percent groppello and 50 percent marzemino grapes. Features steady fine-textured bubbles, intense aromas of fresh strawberry, red cherry, watermelon and bubblegum, and fairly high acidity with a clean, quinine-like bitterness on the finish. 
Food pairings: appetizers, fish, shellfish and lobster.
Fizzy cocktails  
You can easily take a mixed drink from basic to bubbly with a splash of sparkling wine. Check out these sparkling cocktail recipes, courtesy of Flag Hill Distillery & Winery in Lee and LaBelle Winery in Amherst.
½ ounce Flag Hill Josiah Bartlett Apple Brandy (or apple brandy of your choice) 
1 ounce fresh apple cider 
2 drops maple bitters 
Flag Hill Sparkling Cayuga White Wine (or sparkling white wine of your choice)
Fill a pint glass with ice and add the Apple Brandy, apple cider and maple bitters
Shake and strain into a martini glass. 
Top with Sparkling Cayuga. 
Garnish with an apple slice.
Violet Sky 
¼ ounce Flag Hill Blueberry Liqueur (or comparable flavored liqueur) 
Flag Hill Sparkling Cayuga White Wine (or sparkling white wine of your choice)
In a Champagne flute, fill glass with Sparkling Cayuga, leaving a half inch at the top. 
Add the ¼ ounce of Blueberry Liqueur. 
Garnish by floating 3 fresh blueberries
New England Royal 
¼ ounce Flag Hill Cranberry Liqueur (or comparable flavored liqueur) 
Flag Hill Sparkling Cayuga White Wine (or sparkling white wine of your choice)
In a Champagne flute, fill glass with Sparkling Cayuga, leaving a half inch at the top. 
Add the ¼ ounce of Cranberry Liqueur. 
Garnish with skewer of cranberries.
Raspberry Champagne Cocktail 
3 ounces LaBelle Winery Red Raspberry (or comparable fruit wine) 
3 ounces LaBelle Winery Shimmer (or sparkling white wine of your choice)  
Pour Red Raspberry and Shimmer into a tall Champagne flute. 
Garnish with frozen red raspberries.
Sparkling Cranberry 
3 ounces LaBelle Winery Shimmer (or sparkling white wine of your choice)
3 ounces LaBelle Winery Cranberry (or comparable fruit wine) 
Pour Shimmer and Cranberry into a Champagne glass. 
Garnish with fresh or frozen cranberries, if desired.

Celebrate with Bubbles
Why sparkling wines are great to uncork for the holidays and every day

By Angie Sykeny

Sparkling wine is often reserved for things like a holiday party, fancy dinner or birthday celebration, but there’s more to this bubbly beverage than the iconic pop of a Champagne bottle. 

Local winemakers and aficionados share their knowledge of different types of sparkling wine, where and how it’s produced and why it’s the perfect wine for any day — not just special occasions. 
Sparkling styles 
Like regular still wines, sparkling wines are grouped into three color categories. 
Svetlana Yanushkevich, sommelier, wine educator and owner of WineNot Boutique and The Wine Steward in Nashua, said white wines are a shade of yellow and are made from green or yellow grapes such as chardonnay, sauvignon and riesling. White wines can also be made from dark-skinned grapes and still maintain their pale coloring through a process in which the grapes are carefully pressed to extract the clear or lightly pigmented inner pulp while excluding the pigmented skin from the wine. This process is commonly used for Champagne made with the black grapes pinot noir and pinot meunier. 
Contrarily, red wine is made from dark-skinned grapes to achieve a shade of violet, red or brown. All of the color is drawn from the pigment in the grape’s skin. 
The third color category is rosé wine, which has a pink color achieved by extracting a small amount of pigment from dark-skinned grapes or by adding a small amount of red wine to a white wine. 
Sparkling wines are also rated on a sweetness/dryness scale, Yanushkevich said. There are seven levels ranging from the driest kind of wine, called “brut nature,” which has only very small traces of sugar, if any, to the sweetest kind of dessert wine, called “doux,” which has the highest sugar content. 
As far as ingredients, there are two types of sparkling wines. A varietal is named after a grape that constitutes at least 85 percent of the wine. A local example of a varietal is the Cayuga Sparkling White Wine from Flag Hill Winery in Lee, named after the cayuga grape, which makes up 100 percent of the wine. Other wines are made with blends of two or more fruits or grapes that each make up less than 85 percent of the wine. 
Amy LaBelle, owner of winemaker of LaBelle Winery in Amherst, said blended sparkling wine, particularly fruit wine, has been a recent trend and something she’s enjoyed working with. 
“It’s like cooking a dish that you love,” she said. “You put a little of this and a little of that, and it gives you freedom to take a single wine varietal and blend it to either express the qualities of that varietal in a different way or transform it into something entirely new.”  
Fruit forward 
Most sparkling wines are made in the traditional fashion using grapes, but wines made from other kinds of fruit have recently entered the scene, particularly in New Hampshire. In fact, all four of the locally produced sparkling wines from Hermit Woods Winery in Meredith and all three produced by LaBelle Winery are made entirely or partially from fruit other than grapes. Because most of the grapes used in sparkling wines don’t grow naturally here, winemakers are turning to native fruits.
“You can do it in human constructs and use sprays and various techniques to help [grapes] grow, but to avoid all that we decided to focus on what grows well here on its own without sprays,” said Ken Hardcastle, winemaker at Hermit Woods Winery. “Wild blueberries, apples, rosehips — those all can be handled in a way to still produce world-class fine wines.”
The winemaking process is the same with fruit as it is with grapes, and Hardcastle said that local fruit wines can turn out just as good if not better than grape wines because the fruits that grow in New Hampshire’s cold climate tend to have high acidity, which makes them ideal ingredients for sparkling wines. 
However, there is still a stigma in the wine community about sparkling fruit wines and a belief that they are cheap, overly sweet and a lower-quality deviation from traditional grape wines. 
“I like to treat fruit wine with the same respect as grape. We don’t use a fruit concentrate; we use fresh fruit just like you would with grapes, so fruit wines don’t all have to be sweet and syrupy,” LaBelle said. “Our dry apple wine is a perfect example of that. It’s dry, crisp and clean with no residual sugar. You don’t feel like you’re drinking a fruit bomb at all.” 
Brian Ferguson, owner and winemaker at Flag Hill Winery, said he doesn’t understand the stigma since a big part of winemaking is about capturing the essence of the region in which the wine is made, and New Hampshire fruit wines are doing just that. 
“This idea in the wine industry that anyone making fruit wine is perpetuating this major atrocity is just a bizarre concept to me, because last I checked, grapes are a fruit, too,” he said. “One of the reasons for winemaking is to use the local agriculture around you, and we have blueberries, cranberries, apples and so many great fruits available here.”
Aged to perfection  
The process of making a sparkling wine begins with making it as a regular still wine; most carbonation methods are performed after the primary fermentation period for the still wine is complete. The length of fermentation varies depending on what the winemaker is trying to achieve. For example, Ferguson stops fermentation for his white wines early so that there is a significant amount of natural sugars left in the wine. 
“It’s a difficult process to do, but by leaving those sugars, it traps and preserves all the aromatic compounds of the grape and doesn’t allow those nice flavors to escape,” he said. 
Hardcastle takes the exact opposite approach to achieve the opposite outcome.
“The bulk of fine wines are made in a dry fashion. In other words, they leave little or no residual sugar,” he said. “So we take our blueberries and blackberries and rosehips and ferment them until there’s no residual sugar, which is totally different than what most people do with fruit wines. But those fruit wines aren’t typically age-worthy like the great wines of the world, and that’s what we’re trying to craft.” 
After a sparkling wine is carbonated and bottled, a winemaker may choose to bottle age it. The aging time for standard sparkling wines is typically between 9 months and 10 years, but that also depends on the winemaker’s preference and the type of wine being aged. 
One of the biggest changes that occurs while a sparkling wine is aging is its flavor profile. Over time, the wine will start to lose the vibrant fruit flavors typical of a young wine, and the more earthy and robust secondary flavors will come to the forefront. The wine’s bubbles will also go through some changes. 
“The longer you age a sparkling wine in a cellar, the more delicate and tiny bubbles it will have,” Yanushkevich said. “Tiny creamy bubbles create a sensation of silk, and that is a sign of a very good-quality sparkling wine. … But if you store it too long the bubbles may disappear, especially with Champagne.” 
Making it sparkle 
Hardcastle said the most common carbonation method is the charmat method, also referred to as the tank method. It’s most famously used for Italian prosecco. After the still wine goes through its primary fermentation, it’s moved to a pressurized steel tank along with sugar and yeast and left for a secondary fermentation period during which it will become carbonated. 
The most romanticized carbonation method, used for Champagne and other high-quality wines, he said, is the traditional method, also known as méthode classique or the Champagne method. The still wine is first fermented in a barrel on its own. After that, the wine is bottled along with added yeast and sugar and left for a second fermentation period during which the still wine will become a sparkling wine. 
LaBelle Winery started experimenting with the traditional method for the first time this year. 
“That’s the high-end French method so we’re excited to bring that to our process,” LaBelle said. “I don’t know if the average consumer will notice, but there is a style difference with using that method. The bubbles are a little softer on your palate and a little more elegant than the [artificial] carbonated bubbles.”  
The simplest method, Hardcastle said, is forced carbonation which involves injecting carbon dioxide directly into the wine. The result is large, ephemeral bubbles, and this method is used only for the cheapest tier of wines. It’s more commonly used for many beers, hard ciders and sodas. 
Bubbly benefits 
Carbonation adds more than just bubbles. When it dissolves it creates carbonic acid, which alters the structure and acidity level of the wine.
“That actually changes how you perceive the taste of the wine,” Ferguson said. “Even if you have two identical wines but one is carbonated, you can tell the difference between the two because [the carbonation] really does change the wine’s baseline a little.” 
The carbonic acid from the carbonation can also help to balance out overbearing or clashing flavors and enhance the taste of the wine. 
Hardcastle gives the example of Coca-Cola: when it’s flat, it has an overly sweet and syrupy taste that doesn’t come through when the soda is carbonated. 
“You get that activity of the bubbles and that interplay of sweet and tingly on your tongue,” he said, “and sparkling wines are balanced in the same way to make it work.”  
It’s not uncommon for someone who dislikes a particular style of still wine to have a change of heart about it once they try the sparkling version. The bubbles can help to draw out subtle sweet flavors in the background and carry them forward to make a dry wine more palatable, or they can make a full-bodied wine seem a little softer and more refreshing. 
Erik Croswell, owner of the make-your-own beer and wine lab Incredibrew in Nashua, said he’ll never forget the first customer to inquire about making sparkling wines. She told Croswell that she didn’t like red wine but wanted to drink it for its health benefits. Then she asked if it would be possible to make a sparkling pinot noir. 
“That was the first one we tried, and it came out great,” Croswell said. “Pinot noir is a pretty dry wine, but when we sparkled it, it became more vibrant and had this fruit-forwardness. I was just surprised at how the bubbles could give that sense of the wine being sweet when it had no added fruit flavors.” 
Wines of the world  
Sparkling wine is produced all over the world and has a wide range of styles. Yanushkevich said the most prestigious sparkling wines and many other varieties, particularly white wines, are produced in regions with cool climates, which are conducive to creating the high acidity and delicate, light-bodied quality commonly associated with sparkling wine. Warmer climates tend to foster wines that are flatter, bolder and fuller-bodied than what is typically desirable for sparkling wine, although there are some sparkling red wines designed to be a bit heavier than the whites and rosés that are produced in those climates. 
Here’s a quick look from Yanushkevich at some of the top sparkling wine producing countries and their most notable wines. 
• Germany uses the term sekt to refer to its standard sparkling wines. Sekt encompasses a range of sweet and dry wines and is known for its prominent fizz. The majority of sekt is composed at least partially of imported wine and grapes from other wine regions but premium sekt is made from native grapes such as pinot noir and riesling. Austria also uses the term sekt for its sparkling wines though they are different from Germany’s and are made with their own native grapes. 
• Italy is the second largest sparkling wine producing country. It’s home to some of the most popular sparkling wine varieties, including prosecco, a white wine made from glera grapes or a blend of at least 85 percent glera along with another grape such as chardonnay or pinot grigio. It’s carbonated through fermentation in a pressurized tank and is known for its big foamy bubbles that settle on top when poured. Its fruity and refreshing quality makes it a popular ingredient for mixed drinks such as bellinis and mimosas. 
“Champagne is used for special occasions, but prosecco is more affordable, so you can use it as a fun everyday wine for a Sunday brunch or a summertime picnic,” Yanushkevich said. “It’s also not as dry as Champagne; it’s fresher and has younger flavors of pears, peaches and nectarines, so it appeals to a larger group of people.” 
Another popular sparkling wine produced in Italy is moscato d’asti, a low-alcohol white wine made from muscat blanc grapes. Moscato d’asti is characterized primarily by its strong sweetness, featuring fresh floral notes and peachy fruit flavors. It comes in two styles: frizzante, which has very soft and subtle bubbles, and spumante, which is fully sparkling with prominent frothy bubbles.
Flavored varieties of moscato d’asti, such as coconut, watermelon and strawberry, are also popular.  
• Spain is famous for its cava, a high-end white or pink sparkling wine often said to be comparable to Champagne because it is produced through the same traditional method. Cava is available in a range of dry and sweet styles. 
• France is the No. 1 sparkling wine producing country and home to what is arguably the most prestigious sparkling wine in the world, Champagne. Grown, fermented and bottled in the famous Champagne wine region, it is the only wine legally allowed to bear the official name. This and many other regulations surrounding Champagne are meticulously upheld. 
The three grape varieties used for Champagne are the white chardonnay grape and the dark-skinned pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes. Blanc de blanc (“white from white”) Champagnes are made entirely with chardonnay. Blanc de noir (“white from black”) Champagnes are made from 100 percent pinot noir, 100 percent pinot meunier or a mix of the two. Rosé wines and most of the other styles feature a blend of all three grapes. 
Champagne styles range from sweet to dry, though most are on the dryer side. Other characteristics depend on the grapes and blends used. These grapes also act as vessels for the region’s unique terroir, which gives the Champagne an added layer of complexity not found in wines produced in other regions. 
Champagne is made through the traditional method of production. Ideally, the result will be a Champagne dense with lively tiny bubbles that carry the aroma and flavor to the surface and magnify them as they pop. 
“Champagne, one of the greatest sparkling wines from one of the greatest regions in the world, has a much higher acidity level that sets it apart from the warmer, richer wines and really lends itself to the bubbles,” Hardcastle said. 
French wines that aren’t Champagne but use the Champagne production method are classified as cremant, which translates to English as “creamy.” These wines have larger bubbles and a more diluted fizz, resulting in a texture that’s more creamy than sparkling. 
• California has some regions with a cool climate that’s conducive to sparkling wine production, including the production of champagne. Aside from not originating in the Champagne region, California champagnes share the same characteristics that define a French Champagne; they use the same grapes — chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, locally sourced — and the traditional method of production. 
“The only difference is that, because the climate in California is warmer, its champagne has a more tropical fruit, green apple flavor and more sensation of sweetness,” Yanushkevich said. “But the quality of the bubbles [in California champagne] is as good as the quality of Champagne [from France].” 
If you’re looking for something different from the mainstream wines and you’re willing to do a little digging, consider wine from up-and-coming sparkling wine regions such as Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and its neighboring island Tasmania. 
“They can be harder to find on the market, but there are lots of countries and some exotic, unknown regions that are producing beautiful sparkling wines,” Yanushkevich said. 
Anytime wine 
You don’t have to wait for a celebration or party to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine. With so many different styles and price ranges, there are sparkling wines to suit any occasion. 
Croswell said he’s found that more people are enjoying sparkling wine on a casual basis.  
“It’s the new thing that’s trending. It’s like the new wine cooler,” Croswell said. “It tastes great, and it’s certainly a different feel from the non-sparkling wines. People just like bubbly.” 
However, LaBelle said there is still a misconception that sparkling wine is only a celebratory drink, and she wants to disprove that and show that it can be the perfect wine any day of the week. 
“We’re big proponents of having sparkling wine more often than just for special occasions, and we’d love to try and get it brought to the forefront as an everyday wine,” LaBelle said. “When you open a bottle of sparkling wine, it brings an element of celebration to whatever you’re doing, whether it’s a party or just a regular old dinner at home.”  

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