New Zealand Bubbly Deserves A Toast

Champagne, without doubt the world’s best bubbly, is a good but pricey way to alleviate end-of-summer blues. Often, we must make do with a less-expensive alternative, sparkling wine.

Notwithstanding the label of some California sparkling wines, true champagne comes only from a specified method using chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grown in the Champagne region of France, about 100 miles east of Paris. But winemakers everywhere, using a variety of grapes, can make sparkling wine. And the pop of the cork, a sound that lifts everyone’s spirits, is the same regardless of the grapes.

New Zealand’s largest wine company, Montana Wines, known as Brancott Vineyards in the United States, has been making Lindauer sparkling wine for over 20 years. Although it is New Zealand’s most widely exported wine, according to the company’s website, it is a recent arrival in this country. The grapes pinot noir, chardonnay, and chenin blanc come from vineyards throughout both islands. Even though the blend is atypical for sparkling wine, the grapes work well together to make a clean, fresh wine. Its restrained fruitiness is a relief compared with many inexpensive sparkling wines, and means you won’t tire of it after one glass. It’s one of the best buys in sparkling wines this year.

If this sparkling wine is any indication, New Zealand bubbly will be met with open arms here, just as the excellent pinot noir from Central Otago in the southern part of the South Island has been.

Like champagne and other sparklings wines, Lindauer is versatile. You can have a glass as an aperitif and continue to drink it during a meal. It is especially good with foods that are hard to match with wine, such as roast pork, slightly spicy dishes, or seafood dribbled with butter or olive oil.

Lindauer, Brut, Non-Vintage (about $12). Distributed by Ruby Wines, 508-588-7007.

September 22, 2005.