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Various sparklers are less available this year because of supply chain issues. Here are a few alternative fizz suggestions:
La Battagliola Lambrusco ($20, helenswines.com) from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region is “a delicious chilled sparkling red,” says Helen Johannesen of L.A.’s Helen’s Wines.
Domaine LA owner Jill Bernheimer’s favorite champagne is Georges Laval Cumières ($100). “But we are getting a sparse six bottles or so this year,” she says, suggesting something more readily available: Laherte Frères Ultradition Extra-Brut ($45)
American label Une Femme offers a “great sparkling rosé, The Callie, made by California winemaker Samantha Sheehan,” says wine director and vintner Taylor Grant. “And I love that part of the proceeds go to Dress for Success.” The Callie ($32) and Une Femme’s The Juliette Champagne ($69), which is made by grower-producers in France, are available at unefemmewines.com.
Antonino Scaglione, the somm at the new Enoteca 5 wine bar in Pacific Palisades, points to Berlucchi ’61 Brut ($38, wine.com), noting that in 1961 the winemaker created the first Franciacorta (Italy’s version of the famous French bubbles — the C-word mustn’t be spoken). “The Franciacorta Method is one of the strictest sets of specifications in the world,” Scaglione says.
Champagne Lallier is now more widely available in the U.S. Lallier’s chef de caves Dominique Demarville’s choice for the holidays is their Ouvrage Extra Brut ($150, wine.com), hand-harvested from two pesticide-free Grand Cru plots.
ORANGE REALLY IS THE NEW ROSÉ
Orange wine — created from a maceration of white grape skins and juice during fermentation — has eclipsed the rosé frenzy that’s dominated oenological trends in the U.S. over the past decade. “Orange wine has become a parody of itself in terms of the demand for it,” says Domaine LA wine shop owner and former film exec Jill Bernheimer. For years, “you couldn’t have a rosé pale enough to suit people’s tastes, now they want their wines to be as orange as possible.”
Taste palettes are changing, says André Hueston Mack, the winemaker behind Oregon’s Maison Noir Wines. America’s fascination with more savory libations, such as kombucha and sour beers, also has cracked things open. Mack says orange wines are what “my generation of sommeliers brought to the table. ‘Orange’ was slang that sommeliers used on the floor, and that term carried over.”
Orange or amber winemaking has been around for millennia. “It’s an old [Georgian] style that’s been pushed to the forefront,” explains Taylor Grant of Valle de Guadalupe’s Tresomm winery, who worked at Paradigm before entering the wine biz. The demand has spawned “massive amounts of orange wines from Italy to Chile,” she says. “The hues can vary greatly. It depends on the grape itself, and how long they stay on the skins.” For instance, a pinot gris-based type from Italy yields a coppery tint dubbed “ramato.” A version is offered by Mary J. Blige, who worked with Friulian winemaker Marco Fantinel to create her 2019 Sun Goddess Pinot Grigio Ramato ($18, vivino.com).
Natural wine isn’t a trend but a philosophy, say proponents of the increasingly popular space. It’s an umbrella term for not-messed-with drink that can involve organic, biodynamic, sustainable and regenerative farming methods and low-intervention, additive-free winemaking processes.
Helen Johannesen of L.A.’s Helen’s Wines — which recently added a third shop at 4400 W. Slauson Ave., inside Jon & Vinny’s Slauson — says it’s amazing to see the rise in interest for natural wines. She remembers the times “when people were looking at me like I have 20 heads” when she’d suggest “a biodynamic wine from Umbria.” They now care about whether “the farming is on point.” Another concern: “Are you paying the people who are picking your grapes a living wage?” says Daryl Nuhn, managing partner of New York’s Peoples Wine.
Natural wines tend to be lower in alcohol than conventional wines, which can clock in at 14 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) or higher. People are looking for a “lighter, fresher experience,” says Nuhn. “Having a bottle of 15 to 16 percent wine and a big steak dinner can leave you feeling like you have to go straight to bed.” Johannesen suggests trying Jus Jus Night ($41, helenswines.com), an organic sparkling verjus from Sonoma County’s Martha Stoumen and Julia Sherman, with just 7 percent ABV.
Cameron Diaz and entrepreneur Katherine Power recently launched an organic, additive-free wine brand called Avaline. They team with winemakers in Europe and the U.S. who also espouse low-impact practices. Diaz’s favorite Red ($20, wine.com) is made by France’s EthicDrinks, which emphasizes a carbon-neutral footprint and sustainable packaging.
Many established wine houses are dialing up their eco-friendly practices. “Sustainability is not only about the vineyards,” says Lallier Champagne’s new chef de caves Dominique Demarville (previously at Veuve Clicquot for over a decade). “It is essential to look at the whole process: the use of water and energy, how we are shipping the product, biodiversity, our relationship with suppliers.”
Telmont Champagne (just named the “official supplier” of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival) has set a goal of becoming a “100 percent organic estate by 2025.” Telmont’s sustainability objectives include switching to recycled glass bottles without packaging, as well as using only renewable energy and banning the use of air transport.
Wine professionals are keenly aware of the connection between the environment and their business. Climate-change events reverberate deeply. Nuhn says the recent wildfires in California, and frosts in France will impact output from those regions. “Red wines from California will be harder to come by,” she says. Sonoma vintner Jamie Kutch, known for his Pinot Noirs, reports, “We sadly lost 80 percent of our production due to smoke taint.”
Plus-size bottles — magnums and jeroboams — are the best pours, say wine pros. “Mags are always my go-to choice of format,” says Jorge Riera, wine director at New York’s Frenchette bistro. “People need to be less afraid of a mag when it’s [equivalent to] only two [750-ml] bottles.” (A jeroboam is four bottles.)
“The natural atomic structure of the wine has more space to expand in a larger bottle,” Riera explains. “Due to the size difference and overall surface volume, wine in a magnum or jero will always taste better and more open” than wine from a standard 750-ml bottle.
Adds winemaker André Hueston Mack, “Nothing screams the holidays like large-format wine.” He recommends his Maison Noir Wines XL Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2020 ($55, maisonnoirwines.com). “This is only made in magnums. It is the top-barrel selection of our ever-so-popular Other People’s Pinot Noir.”
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A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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