I don’t have a particular memory associated with sparkling wine. It’s sort of a ubiquitous alcoholic blanket across my history. It’s always been around. But I can pinpoint the time when it became a beverage I could enjoy all on its own on any day of the week rather than just for the highlights like graduations and anniversaries, etc.
Mimosa is the gateway cocktail to my love of sparkling wine. I throw marathon brunches that sometimes last for 10 hours. During one of these marathons, we drink 8 bottles of cheap bubbly between the six of us, which we mixed with less and less orange juice as the hours passed until we made “naked mimosa.” Two trips to the liquor store, one “Icing” (“Icing” is a cult phenomenon marketed by the Seagram’s people where you say, “You’ve been iced,” thrust a bottle of the saccharine citrus cooler upon victim, who must then immediately genuflect and chug the entire bottle on the spot), and $100 worth of Chinese take out for dinner, the brunch is over.
It’s the only drink I know that has no stigma attached to it when you’re seen sipping on it at 11 in the morning at the local bar. Bloody Mary says you’re nursing a hangover with more booze after a late night at the bar, which says alcoholic. Beer says you never actually left the bar from the night before, which says alcoholic. Nobody drinks liquor for breakfast in public though I’m sure some people do in the privacy of their homes, including the homeless dude at Central Square. But drinking mimosas, maybe because of the real juice, maybe because of the Vitamin C, maybe because of the long slender flute it’s served in, is considered totally kosher, even stylish for breakfast.
And I love that bubbly buzz in the early afternoon. It’s like being privy to a delightful secret that only you and your brunch friends know about. The state of tipsy, usually associated with artificial lighting and seeing the world through muted colors, meets the world of big, brilliant, buzzing sunlight, the two introduced by the mimosa.
Christmas 2010, I inaugurate my love of sparkling wine in the early afternoon with my mom and sister. The baked French toast is bubbling in the oven and the aroma of pan fried thick cut bacon fills the house. And no orange juice! Jesus Christ. “On Christmas?” I think, shaking my imaginary fist at the bastard whose birthday we are trying to toast. But then he gives us a break by touching my sister with inspiration: “I have POM!”
My sister decided to call her blessed beverage, a POM version of the mimosa, “Pomosa!”
Not pomosa, but Pomosa!
This year, I’m introduced to Prosecco! by a fellow writer friend. She’s involved in a drawn out love affair with Italy, Florence in particular, speaks Italian and sign language, and has a fabulous sense of humor, which comes through with particular brilliance in her writing.
Prosecco! is what the Italians call sparkling wine and, like the French who insist that geography ought to control wine labels, this variety is produced in the regions of Veneto in Italy and the label is enforced by the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata, the Italian equivalent of the French AOC, Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée). Bella!
(A while back I was told that Champagne is the sparkling wine from La Champagne, France. If you see a sparkling white wine from California labeled as Champagne, they are out of AOC order! and merely masquerading as Champagne. Mon Dieu!
The Americans, following precedence set by their genesis, do things their own way. Unlike the French, they give primacy to trademark rather than geography when it comes to labeling wines. American winemaking history consists of borrowing regional designations from France to give cachet to their manifestly non-French wines. Champagne, thus, became synonymous with sparkling wine in the US. In the spirit of “When in Rome,” I feel free to call non-La Champagne Champagne Champagne.)
A great Prosecco! is much cheaper than a bottle of Vueve Clicquot or Cristal, and tastes lovely. Perhaps I simply have not had enough opportunities to tutor my palate to the wonders of the Premier Cru Champagnes to know better. But my ignorance leaves me also ignorant as to whether this is a case of better or worse. And in this case, I’d rather not know better: my current alcohol threshold is such that I can finish a bottle of Prosecco alone within an hour. The burdened to sip slower because of the price tag on the bottle is one best avoided.
Sparkling wine or Champagne or Prosecco! isn’t just for birthdays, New Years, weddings, brunches, and retirement parties. It’s the other pinot noir as far as I’m concerned, that is, to be enjoy every day with any meal. (Except if you’re pregnant.)