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Sparkling wines are not created equally

Ron Smith, World of Wine columnist

FARGO — Some of my wine-loving colleagues asked about differences between sparkling wines and why some cost so much. All agreed they were enjoyable to drink, giving an air of celebration, no matter if it is a good dinner with someone, a group of friends, or a special occasion.

While Champagne gets rock star status, just about any wine-producing country can have a sparkling version that they would probably like to promote. American wine producers have a version that comes close to Champagne in that it goes through a second fermentation in the bottle, often mistakenly referring to it as American Champagne.

Spain and Italy also have their sparkling wines that are very popular with American wine lovers because of their high quality, different styles and often more wallet-friendly prices.

Popular during Lent because of good pairing with seafood, a couple of good sparkling wines from Italy deserve consideration whether for Lenten meals or otherwise: Valdo Brut Prosecco and Bacio della Luna Italia Spumante Extra Dry. Made from the same grape — 100 percent glera — but each with a distinctively different tasting experience, both of which I must quickly add are very enjoyable.

Valdo Brut Prosecco has worked progressively for more than 90 years to perfect this sparkling wine by respecting the vineyards and winemaking traditions of the region. This dedication has made this the top-selling prosecco in Italy for more than 15 years. The grapes are handpicked at the end of September and then soft pressed at 64 degrees F in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, which maintains quality and the fruity character typical of this wine.

After tank fermentation for three months, known as Charmat method, it rests in the bottle for one month before being released for distribution. With a selection of natural yeasts to carry on the fermentation, the drinkers are rewarded with a "perlage" of fine bubbles to tickle noses upon sipping.

Bacio della Luna Italia Spumante Extra Dry grows in the same appellation — Valdobbiadene — as the Valdo Brut, and it also has a distinctly fruit forward taste, with an easily detectable hint of lime, which for me, helps to get the appestat kicked in. The very small bubbles in this prosecco could be classed as "perlage" as well, making it a fun drink from the right glasses, known as 'flutes,' which give the small bubbles a more direct path to you nose.

Test question: which is the drier of the two prosecco wines?

If you picked "Extra Dry" you were wrong.

The 'Brut' designation has a lower residual sugar, making it the drier of the two. Ironically, the Extra Dry has a detectable sweeter taste. The term used for fully sweet wine is 'Dolce.' If you really want to examine a bottle's label, look for residual sugar (RS) — grams/liter, the lower that number, the drier the wine.

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