The Sparkling Fruit Wine Story
Only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can legally be called “Champagne.” And yet the country that cornered the market on elite bubbly actually makes sparkling fruit wine from local plums, rhubarb, red currants and raspberries.
These French sparkling fruit wines might not be made in the Champagne region, but they are made in neighboring regions. Why would the French even bother with fruit wines, one might ask, with all those great vineyards everywhere?
Well, for the same reasons small wineries across the United States make it: sparkling fruit wine is festive, three-dimensionally delicious and people, once they’ve tried it, want it.
The award-winning Chicago restaurant North Pond offers its visitors a choice of Champagnes and sparkling wines that go as high as $475 per bottle, but North Pond’s wine list also includes a sparkling wine made from northern Michigan cherries by Chateau Chantal.
Ginger Henderson was the wine director and general manager of North Pond during the time the sparkling cherry was introduced to the wine list. She says patrons liked it “because people just love bubbles and there is a great sense of romance attached to it — especially in a pink/red hue! We also liked giving it out complimentary for special occasions after dinner or for VIP guests who may not have ordered dessert. Or as a paring to dessert.”
Fruit wines are made with the same “methode champenoise” that Champagnes and other grape sparkling wines are, and they give the drinker the same heady fizz that delivers that dazzling flavor and that famous, celebratory tickle.
These wines are hard to find because they’re made almost exclusively by local wineries that make small batches from local fruit. If you don’t happen to live near one of these wineries, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find bottles like these at your local wine shops.
Now you can use our sparkling wine search function to locate the flavor and style of sparkling fruit wine you’d like to have on hand for the next big occasion, romantic nightcap, or just for pure fun.
Unlike most of the conventional bubblies you find in stores, these wines are all handcrafted, small-batch affairs. And they’re made from fermented fruit, instead of grapes. Besides the price, that’s the only difference.
“A toast!” [smack smack]. “Mm. That’s nice.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is sparkling fruit wine so much less expensive than fancy bubblies?
Because berries and orchard fruit are less expensive than Champagne-making grapes. The price advantage is not a reflection on quality, effort, or craftsmanship. It’s that the art supplies cost less. Also, the smaller, independent wineries that make sparkling fruit wines are not making massive advertising expenditures the way major manufacturers like E &J Gallo (André) and Constellation Wines (Cook’s) are when they do seasonal marketing blitzes during the holidays and New Year’s Eve.
If I was planning a wedding and we had sparkling fruit wine for the rounds of toasts, how would that go over?
Probably pretty great. My guess is that more guests would enjoy a semi-dry, small-batch sparkling fruit wine over most mass-produced “Champagne” selections (which are “average” wines) and even over fancy high-end “Champagnes” (which are devastatingly expensive).
Here’s why: the only way a guest does not like a quality sparkling peach wine is if they do not like peaches. I’m not sure I’ve met too many people who don’t like peaches but I know plenty of people who don’t “get” the taste of “Champagne,” which is usually unrecognizable from grapes.
I really like Champagnes and American bubblies, but I’ve had many sparkling wines under $20/bottle that are simply not that good. I’ve also had “fancy” ones in the $50 range that were so dry they puckered my tongue and gave me instant cotton mouth.
And for your budget, what’s classier? A $20 sparkling cherry or a $20 sparkling grape wine? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that the chances will be excellent that the $20 fruit wine will be better-made and more well-liked.