You know how there are certain situations where everything is just about guaranteed to go sideways in spite of everyone’s good intentions? And that usually it’s more like “everyone’s good intentions were exactly what made this situation suck?” Yeah. Mother’s Day. Nothing wrong with the concept. Reasonable. By some folks’ lights, noble. Set aside one day to actively recognize the contributions of mothers. Why not? We’ve freaking earned that. And yet, long before These Troubling Times, Mother’s Day has been a source of angst and even pain for many of us. People who had toxic moms, people who wanted to be moms and it didn’t happen, people who didn’t want to be moms and their family nags them into the earth’s molten core about it; divorced moms, single moms. This year, the good-news-bad-news reality is that most people’s go-to options for this oddly fraught Hallmark holiday don’t exist. Crowded brunch buffets are out (sigh of relief). Spa days are not a thing (weeping). Tempers are frayed, and most of us are jonesing for a vacation not only from our homes and routines but from the contents of our own heads. So thank goodness the lockdowns have created excellent conditions for day drinking.
Sparkling wine. I talk about it a lot, for a reason. It has magical properties, including a wealth of polyphenols, effective temporary pain reduction, a blessed gateway to relief from your own traitorous limbic brain, and the ability to not only complement a festive occasion but to be a festive occasion should the need arise.
Brethren, the need has arisen. Score some bubbly for your mom. Or your children’s mom. Or raise a glass to the mom you wish you had, or the one you wish you were. It’s all good. The point is, sparkling wine is an incredibly effective shorthand for “let’s appreciate what’s good for a sec” and I ask you, for whom is that a bad plan?
Following are my bubbly picks for Mother’s Day. Hopefully there’s something for everyone here with a range of price points and regions represented.
There are lots and lots of Champagnes that I like and admire, and several that I love. And then there are a couple where it really gets personal. Of the many extremely tasty wines that come from this region, Billecart-Salmon is one that never fails to get an emotional reaction out of me. These people have figured out how to bottle happiness. Every expression they produce is distinct, but they all taste like joy. Their latest, Brut Sous Bois, is a blanc de noirs composed of all three Champagne grapes (Chardonnay, and Pinots Noir and Meunier) and aged for a good long time in oak. Perhaps you’re wondering if this makes it weird, excessively ponderous or dull. Not. At. All. This wine is full-bodied and pleasingly rich, with a luminous gold color, beautiful bubbles and notes of almond and yellow flowers, plum and brioche dough, tangelo and white peach, pear and apple. Delectable and technically flawless.
Sparkling wine is perfectly lovely young, but man, it ages like a boss. Ten years have put this one firmly into the “liquid gold” category, with a rich, concentrated hue and a perfumed nose (caramel apple, wet stone, white nectarine, and pastry notes). The 100% Pinot Nero wine is lithe and elegant, with complex layers including a lot of buttered-bread, graham cracker and marzipan notes. There’s a pronounced nuttiness to it (almond and hazelnut) and a long, lingering, emphatic finish with a trace of gingerbread. It’s aged but not “old,” and has a vibrant acidity and excellent structure.
I say this regularly: South Africa might just be the most overlooked wine region in the world. And wrongly. This means the flavors of the Cape and centuries of craft are yours for a sliver of something of equal quality that happens to be French. Take Graham Beck’s Brut yummybomb for example. An almost 50-50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this wine is complex, vibrant and fresh, with a brioche note leading on the nose and an array of tropical fruit notes including mango and layers of citrus peel. A hint of apricot, too. There is a pleasant creaminess and a short, but pleasing, finish. Graham Beck wines are rock-solid and environmentally conscious as a lovely bonus.
Kramer has a number of wonderful sparkling wines that share a general “low body fat” vibe-they’re just … light and toned like your annoying friend who still fits into her high school jeans. Their Zero Dosage is a bony-bone-dry blend of Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot meunier, ethereal and somehow wafting. Bakery notes open, accented by Meyer lemon and the ghost of something rich and sweet. This segues into lots of tart green apple, assorted citrus notes, and something green-but-not-vegetal that I cannot quite pin down-maybe starfruit. It has a clean, brushed-steel quality and an intense clarity. It’s a really interesting wine with a ton of poise.
One of my favorite sparkling wines in the world, and generally available for less than $20. Bright, soft coral tone, echoed in bright, tart red fruit notes (rhubarb, sour cherry, redcurrant, strawberry) with some pastry notes to give it gravity. Exuberant mousse, very pleasant texture. This wine is a great friend for salmon, but as with most great bubblies you have a ton of options. Elegant, approachable and completely delicious. Lucien Albrecht is a producer to know if you like value for money but also if you like giving a gift that establishes you as savvy and stylish. This is a wine geek’s wine that is also a drag-and-drop crowd pleaser.
If the Mom in your life appreciates things that are soft, consider this delightful British bubbly. If it were a character in Little Women it would be Beth, but without the tragic scarlet fever thing-it’s gentle and almost meek where many wines in this category are drama queens. This does not mean it lacks substance or style, however; it has loads of both. A pensive complexity plays out in this bottle-spicy and honeyed, delicate and limber, with a bready nose and tart apple and plum notes. It has an elusive quality that is prompting me to say it’s “misty.” I’m not sure if that makes sense, but it’s the word that keeps coming up. Nyetimber will never be the loudest wine on the shelf, and that’s a fine thing. It has quiet depth and remarkable freshness.