Dio // Photo: Durazo Photography

Unexpected Bubbly: Your Cheat Sheet To Unique Sparkling Wines In The District

Nothing says “celebration” quite like opening a bottle of bubbles, and there’s no better time to celebrate than the holidays. It’s easy to default to champagne as the bubbly of choice, but with the variety of excellent sparkling wine made the world over now, it’s time to try something a little different. These destinations showcase some of the city’s best wine lists with an impressive breadth of wines across many regions, styles and price points. While they are great wine spots overall, we specifically asked about some out-of-the-box sparkling wines to enjoy this holiday season so read on for your local cheat sheet of unexpected bubbly.

City Bubbles at City Winery

City Winery Beverage Director Magdala Francillon recommends the City Bubbles this holiday season. The grapes are brought from the largest vineyard in the Penedès region of Spain: the home of cava. The City Bubbles cava is aged for 12 months and “has fine champagne-like bubbles with notes of zesty citrus and brioche.” Magdala recommends this for the holiday season because it is outstanding quality at a tremendous value ($11 by the glass, $55 by the bottle).

She suggests pairing this wine with Mediterranean-inspired dishes at the Ivy City restaurant. Her recommendations include Chef Brandon Ingenito’s mussels with garlic, shallots, pancetta, cream and grilled ciabatta or his smoked pork belly served with braised collards, spiced apples and honey mustard glaze.

1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com/washingtondc

Fable Farm Fluxion Ancestral & Old Westminster Pét-Nat at Dio Wine Bar

This H Street spot focuses on natural wines made from organic or biodynamically farmed grapes with no added yeast or other additives. Owner Stacey Khoury-Diaz has two recommendations: one local and the other domestic.

“Since we work with natural wines at Dio, some of my favorite bubbles are pét-nats (short for pétillant naturel),” she says. “The short story on this type of wine is that it’s all naturally occurring bubbles. In more technical language, that means primary fermentation starts and finishes in the bottle and the wine is often not disgorged, leaving the final product cloudy.”

When you are drinking a pét-nat, you are drinking something unpolished and unadorned – and that’s the beauty of it.

“We have many wines made in this style, but some of my favorites are the pét-nats from Old Westminster Winery in Maryland. They make these types of bubbles from grapes like syrah, muscat, pinot gris and more.”

And yes, you can try all of them at Dio. According to Khoury-Diaz, the flavor profiles have quite a range depending on the grape, but the muscat is floral, fresh and “absolutely chuggable.” Another bubbly recommendation is the Fable Farm Fluxion Ancestral from Vermont.

“It’s actually a cider made from wild foraged apples, but the producers consider themselves winemakers so we do, too. The Fluxion is bright, funky and earthy.”

Diaz says that both the Fable Farm and Old Westminster have cutting acidity, which pair well with fatty dishes: everything from fried foods to salty and savory charcuterie.

904 H St. NE, DC; www.diowinebar.com

Mousseux Bugey-Cerdon Rosé La Cueille at Plume

Inside the historic Jefferson Hotel downtown, Plume has a spectacular selection list with tons of wines emphasizing Spain, France, California and plenty of local Virginia favorites. Thomas Jefferson was truly a wine connoisseur, and the wine list at Plume pays homage to his passion. There are over 50 vintages available, a variety of half bottles and helpful suggestions of “hidden gems,” which highlight rare wines of quality and distinction. Plume Manager Sean Mulligan is a fan of pét-nat styles for the holidays.

“Pét-nat, or méthode ancestrale, is a method of sparkling wine production used all over the world and is quintessential for a holiday pour,” he says. “At Plume, we have the following listed on our dessert wine list by the glass for patrons to taste and enjoy: Patrick Bottex, Mousseux Bugey-Cerdon Rosé La Cueille.”

Mulligan’s pick goes for $12 a glass – a steal at this Michelin-starred restaurant.

1200 16th St. NW, DC; www.plumedc.com

Schloss Vaux Cuvée Vaux Brut at The Eastern

Midcentury-inspired The Eastern in Capitol Hill has a wine list of over 40 wines by the glass and bottle with a menu helpfully organized to find something new based on the style of wine you typically like. General manager Robert Morin recommends the Schloss Vaux Cuvée Vaux Brut if you like champagne, for $13 a glass and $48 a bottle.

“This sparkling white wine from Germany is just banging,” Morin says. “Made in the champagne style from pinot noir, pinot blanc and Riesling, there’s that German, cold-weather acidity that cuts through all of the heavy holiday meals but with a creamy finish from the bottle age and 24-month lees aging.”

360 7th St. SE, DC; www.easternwinebar.com

Sella & Mosca Brut at Maxwell Park

Shaw’s Maxwell Park has an extensive and serious wine program, with many selections that change monthly and over 500 selections by the bottle. For a current sparkler, sommelier Niki Lang recommends the 2018 Sella & Mosca Brut from the Sardinia region of Italy for $12 by the glass and $48 by the bottle. Made with the Torbato grape, which is exclusive to Sardinia, Sella & Mosca revived this once-rare white wine grape producing both still and sparkling wines.

“Facing near extinction, Sella & Mosca decided to cultivate Torbato,” Lang says. “Grown on the Northwest corner of Sardinia in Alghero, these limestone-rich soils add complex minerality and its proximity to the sea intensify this with sea spray and savory aromas. Sea spray, acacia and fresh honeysuckle bring you in, followed by brioche and almond. Finally, the fruit appears with fresh quince, green apple skin, star fruit and apricot. Next time you see this, drop the prosecco and proceed with no caution.”

1336 9th St. NW, DC; www.maxwellparkdc.com

Cuvée José at Jaleo

Is there anything José Andrés cannot do? The Cuvée José, created to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the chef’s Penn Quarter mainstay Jaleo, was a collaborative effort between ThinkFoodGroup Wine Director Andy Myers, Pepe Raventós of Raventós i Blanc, ThinkFoodGroup Sommelier Jordi Paronella and Andrés himself.

“The wine represents a traditional approach to Spanish winemaking with a clearly modern touch,” Myers says. “We have found the wine to brilliantly complement the cuisine at all of our ThinkFoodGroup concepts.”

The exclusive bubbly is made in the region of Conca del Riu Anoia in Spain and has a delicate, creamy and toasty character with notes of green apple. Find it at all local Jaleo locations as well as Zaytinya and China Chilcano, and be sure to ask about food pairings for these bubbles.

480 7th St. NW, DC; www.jaleo.com