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In order to be great, a sparkling wine doesn't have to be white.
You're probably used to sparkling wines being white or salmon-hued—so don’t be surprised if these four wines look a little different in the glass than you anticipated. They’re supposed to be red. While the category in and of itself may seem like an oddity, each example has a deep-rooted tradition within its respective region. For anyone not used to bubbles in their reds, think of them as lighthearted, easy-to-throw-back mind trips, although some can be seriously expressive, small-production gems. The styles range from bone dry to semi-sweet, the colors from deep rosé to inky-dark. So pick your pleasure based on your mood—and the food you're planning to eat or serve. Chill, and enjoy.
Lambrusco has a long history within the gastronomic tradition of its home region—Italy’s Emilia-Romagna, which is also famous for treasures like Parmagiano Reggiano and aceto balsamico di Modena. The frizzante wine takes its name from the grape, which comes in more than a few varieties, but the most common are: lambrusco grasparossa, lambrusco salamino and lambrusco di sorbara. It used to be assumed that all Lambrusco was sweet, since the U.S. market was flooded with that type in the ’70s and ’80s, but secco (dry) styles are now widely available and great as an aperitivo—like a vivacious, bitter and fruity warm-up for another more serious wine—or with anything from salumi and cheese to simple savory fare.
Try: Podere il Saliceto ‘L’Albone’ Lambrusco di Modena, $19
The name Bugey refers to a small French winegrowing region that most people lump together with Savoie, but its coordinates place it approximately halfway between Lyon and the Swiss border. It’s a melting pot in terms of grape varieties, pulling from those associated with neighboring regions like the Jura and Beaujolais. Such is the case for Cerdon, which can be made from all Gamay or a blend of Gamay and the Jura’s Poulsard and is a decidedly dark rosé. Producers here use a technique they call méthode ancestrale, which may predate the method used in Champagne and results in a fresh, bright, lightly sparkling and lightly sweet pick-me-up that also pairs impressively well with chocolate.
Try: Patrick Bottex ‘La Cueille’ Vin du Bugey-Cerdon, $19
Americans aren't necessarily in the habit of drinking sparkling Shiraz, but Aussies have several occasions for doing so: brunch, Christmas and barbecues. The red fizz is as broodingly dark violet in the glass as its still counterpart, and while it tends to sport gobs of brambly fruit, it can also share still Shiraz’s savory bacon-and-herb aromas. The category extends beyond the bounds of a single winegrowing region, as producers from all over Australia have dabbled with it. A great, albeit esoteric, go-to for burgers.
Try: 2011 Best’s Great Western Sparkling Shiraz, $32
The red answer to Piedmont’s Moscato d’Asti, Brachetto, like Lambrusco, also doubles as the name of the grape. Produced in the same Monferrato hills that are home to barbera and dolcetto, it is low in alcohol, high in perfume (think strawberry and rose) and typically off-dry to notably sweet. Its soft, delicate bubbles make it a great canvas for any dessert involving both chocolate and fruit, but it’s also a great sub for sweets after a meal.
Try: 2014 Braida Brachetto d’Acqui, $23