THERE is no doubt. Lechon, the king of roasted pig cookery, will be big in the Year of the Pig. From the oven-roasted suckling pig cochinillo, so tender it can be sliced with a plate or a platito, to the spit-roasted heavyweights, the lure of the lechon is more than skin-deep. What wine to drink with all that porky goodness? With the crisp skin, something that crackles and pops as well, like sparkling wine. The juicy, fat-speckled white meat on its own can go with a lightly oaked white. The leftovers that will star in lechon paksiw will go with a rosé or a light-to-medium red. But if I were to choose just one wine, bubbly is on top of my list.
While the style of sparkling wine seems more fixed than that of other wines, that doesn’t mean the category is lacking in variety. After all, bubblies can be white, pink or red (also the lucky colors in the Year of the Pig), and depending on where these are produced, the stylistic differences become evident. Sparkling wines produced in cool regions mirror the chilly conditions under which they are made, making these wines crisp and elegant, some with almost laser-sharp clarity. Those bubblies made in warmer climates are generally softer, showing subtle fruit notes.
Climatic conditions affect the cost, too. Because grapes take longer to ripen and are more difficult to grow in cool climates, sparkling wines from these areas are generally more expensive than those made in warmer regions. The way the bubbly is made also has cost implications. That is why Champagne—made with great difficulty because of the tedious second fermentation in the bottle and with slower ripening grapes—is easily the most expensive sparkler. That said, not all bubblies can be called “Champagne,” and not all bubblies (Champagne included) are created equal. Take those bubbles. The finer the bubbles, like in champagne, the finer the wine. There are semi-sparklers like the frizzante from Italy—wines like the softly fizzy Moscato d’Asti and Lambrusco. The sweetness levels of sparkling wines can vary too, from dry to sweet. Cava, Spain’s famous bubbly, has the same sweetness levels as those for champagne, from brut nature (the driest) to sweet, and is made in the same way as Champagne, where the second fermentation also takes place in each bottle. And while there is pink rosé Champagne and rosé cava, there is no rosé Prosecco.
Red sparklers—most just a tad sweet—are largely overlooked, but these make interesting lechon partners, as well. Australia makes a specialty of red sparkling shiraz, a bit odd at the first sip, but the wine’s juicy, vibrant, tart-sweet profile is a pleasant surprise. Italy’s Brachetto d’Acqui is a red sparkler too—frothy, strawberry-ish and sweet enough to go with light desserts.
The world of sparkling wines is largely unexplored and more so, their food pairing possibilities. Your next rendezvous with lechon or its variants would be a good a time as any to try that bottle of bubbly—white, red or pink.
Here’s to a bubbly Year of the Pig. Go xi fa cai!
VINOFILE: WHERE TO FIND BUBBLIES
- Happy Living Tasting Room—Warehouse 16A, La Fuerza Compound, Chino Roces Avenue, Makati: Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, Schramsberg J. Schram, Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut (Napa Valley, California); Valdivieso Brut (Curico, Chile)
- Monopole Wine Bar—Greenbelt Excelsior, 105 C. Palanca Street, Legaspi Village, Makati: has an excellent selection of Champagne, including grower Champagnes Egly-Ouriet and Vilmart et Cie
- iTrulli—Ground Floor, LRI Design Plaza, Nicanor Garcia Street, Makati: for Italian bubblies, including Franciacorta, Prosecco and Lambrusco
- Säntis Delicatessen—main store at WIC Building, 7431 Yakal Street, San Antonio Village Makati: Champagne Taittinger, Batasiolo Brachetto d’Acqui
- Terry’s Bistro and Gourmet Store—main store at the Ground Floor, BCS Prime Building, Chino Roces Avenue, Makati: Cava Masachs Blanc de Blancs Brut, Rosat Trepat Cava Torello, Champagne Mailly