Exuberant. It’s how you want to feel when there’s something in a glass in front of you, full of skyrocketing-to-the-surface bubbles. Even its appearance is part of the experience. Bubbles are… expectations. They are mystery. They are a shy smile, or a big smile. They are possibility and hope. Which is why we love drinking them this time of year so very much.
Certainly you’ve heard the drum beat of bubble evangelists: You should drink bubbles always, any day. Everyday! Agreed, especially bubbles in the style of Christopher Tracy’s line of petillant naturel style sparklers. While today, the proclivity of producers making pet nat-style wines abound, Tracy may well have been the first on eastern Long Island to make sparkling wine in this stripped-down, texturally exciting way.
In sparkling wine made in the traditional method (that is, how they do it in the best-known example: Champagne), it starts as a still wine, gets bottles, and then a second fermentation inside the bottle is kicked into gear by adding a little extra dose of yeast and sugar. Once that yeast starts chomping on the sugar, the carbon dioxide it creates is trapped and, voila, bubbles! The petillant natural style goes back a bit further, before that smart two-step process was figured out. Here, the crushed grapes and yeast start their work of fermenting juice into wine, and just before it’s finished, it goes straight into the bottle, a nice little cap goes on top, and the first fermentation finishes out there. The bubbles are a little less powerful than your typical Champers or other traditional method sparkling wines, and it doesn’t get filtered, so there’s a fun bit of yeasty sediment.
Pet nats aren’t made to be preciously preserved things under glass; they’re meant to be opened and drunk with smiles and clinking glasses. Tracy makes a bevy of these brilliant bubbles, but we’re particularly digging the Tocai Friulano (sold directly at Channing Daughters Winery or at Kidd Squid in Sag Harbor). He’s one of few producers to grow this northern Italian grape outside of Italy, and it’s a great pick if you’re a little bored of Sauvignon Blanc but still want that same crisp, minerally zippiness. Hold the bottle to the light, and it gives the appearance of the bright morning sun clearing the fog. It smells and tastes of pear, grapefruit, and tarragon, but with a softness to the texture and just-right bubbles that will keep you toasting into the night, as will the very low-fi 10% alcohol by volume. Pop open a bottle, or two, or three with your near and dear this New Year’s, and toast to both the extraordinary and the everyday. Happy New Year, friends.