Wine & Spirits: Try Red Bubbles for Valentine’s Day!

by WL Author

Now, I’m an equal-opportunity bubbly drinker. It doesn’t matter if the bottle hails from Champagne or California, or if it’s made with Pinot Noir or Prosecco. If it’s got fizz, I’ve got the flutes. But it’s certainly common around this time of year for wine writers to tout the merits of bubbly with some color. (Full disclosure: I wrote a piece recently listing the top ten reasons to think and drink pink this Valentine’s Day, and I’m definitely a fan of the stuff.) But if pink is still just too pale, consider opting for unabashedly sexy red bubbles instead.

Majella Sparkling Shiraz

Majella Sparkling Shiraz

Let’s say you’re planning an intimate dinner pour deux, and filet mignon is the main course. You may find yourself scratching your head about what to pour alongside. Blanc de Blancs just doesn’t seem potent enough. Cabernet Sauvignon? Not celebratory enough. But take a dry, bold, spicy red wine and add bubbles, and what do you have? Sparkling Shiraz. This fizzy wonder from Down Under has a striking, stunning ruby red color, and a totally unexpected flavor. Take a sip, and you’ll see that it tastes a lot like regular Shiraz…only effervescent. And what’s especially great about it is it can totally hold it’s own next to a nice piece of red meat. The Aussies are unapologetic about their love for this wine. We American have unfortunately been a bit slower to catch on.

At Tallula Restaurant in Arlington, wine director Juliana Santos sells the Majella Sparlking Shiraz from Australia’s Coonawarra region. It’s produced in the traditional method—just like Champagne—where the secondary fermentation (i.e. the step that produces the bubbles) happens in the bottle. After creating a still wine from the Shiraz, it’s aged for nine months in American oak to add complexity. And what’s really cool is that after that secondary fermentation, each bottle receives a small dosage of vintage Port—which adds body and umph (yes, that’s a technical term.) Definitely a serious wine. Awhile back I sipped a glass of Majella at Tallula with Chef Barry Koslow’s suckling pig porchetta served with braised green cabbage, guanciale and glazed turnips, in a sour cherry sauce. Delish.

You can find the Majella Sparkling Shiraz at area wine stores for around $22. And if you’re looking for more budget-friendly bottles, seek out producers like Omni and Paringa.

Cinzano Brachetto d'Acqui

Cinzano Brachetto d'Acqui

Red bubbles can actually take you all the way from dinner straight through to dessert. Like something with chocolate. Or strawberries. Or both. While a Brut or Extra Dry offering may end up tasting harsh and tart when sipped alongside dessert, Brachetto d’Acqui is oh so quaffable. This slightly sweet red sparkling wine from Italy’s Piedmont region is teeming with fresh strawberry and raspberry aromas and flavors—perfect to pair with that chocolate lava cake with fresh raspberries, chocolate fondue with strawberries, or even some blue cheese (I’m partial to the Fourme d’Ambert that you can get at BRABO’s Butcher Block in Alexandria.)

Andrea Capussoti, winemaker for Cinzano, which produces a Brachetto d’Acqui that retails for about $12, describes the wine as “a ruby red sparkling wine with delicate sweetness and vibrant berry flavors that balance the earthy richness of cocoa.” Capussoti recommends it with dark chocolate, fruit-based desserts and pastries. And its refreshingly low alcohol content (6.5%) makes it a light option for the end of a rich meal.

How you spend the rest of the evening, of course, is completely up to you.

Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her website,, or through

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