Picking up a bottle of bubbly before a romantic evening should be a quick errand, but once you're faced with a selection of sparkling wines, it can suddenly become overwhelming. Brut? Demi-Sec? Prosecco? Which is which?
The most famous of the sparkling wines, true Champagne comes only from the Champagne region of France, and is by far the most expensive bubbly. Champagne-style sparkling wines are made all around the world, however, and sometimes a bottle of domestic bubbly (we like Gruet Sparkling Wines from New Mexico and Barefoot Bubbly from California) is as inexpensive as a bottle of table wine. Regardless of the type, there are a few terms you should know when buying bubbly:
Brut: The driest (or least sweet) sparkling wine -- yes, drier than Extra Dry. Extra Brut has less than 1% of residual sugar. Brut is slightly sweeter, but still dry.
Extra Dry: Contains a medium residual sugar content, for a slightly sweet sparkling wine. Just remember that when it comes to bubbly, "dry" means sweeter.
Sec and Demi-Sec: Sweet sparkling wines. Sugar content varies, but is less than 5%.
Doux: Contains the most residual sugar at over 5%, so is the sweetest of the sparkling wines.
Cuvée: Means a blend of different types of grapes or wines were used. Champagne is traditionally blended, as are domestic bubblies such as sparkling Rosé. Cuvée doesn't indicate how sweet or dry it is.
Spumante: Italian sparkling wine, lighter and less complex than Champagne-method sparkling wine. Asti Spumante is a popular sweet sparkling wine, a good choice for those who like a simple and refreshing bubbly. For a dry Spumante, look for Prosecco (or "secco").
Unless you're planning to spend a lot of money, don't worry much about things like vintage -- inexpensive bubblies are best served young. For an expensive Champagne, your best bet is to find a good local wine shop with a knowledgable staff that will match your budget to your perfect bottle.
Now that you've got the bubbly taken care of, let's talk about the gift -- etiquette expert Lizzie Post has great tips for Valentine's Day gifting. And be sure to check out KitchenDaily's recipes for Champagne punches and cocktails.