Beat the Heat

I'll let you all in on a little secret. When it gets this hot, and you want something cold, delicious, light, and refreshing (that isn't a glass of ice water and has alcohol in it), it's tough to beat a glass of Champagne. That being said, not everyone has the means (or the desire) to drop $35 on a bottle of bubbly; especially if they're going to be downing it quickly on the patio with friends. But let's be honest: there's not a plethora of inexpensive sparkling wine out there that inspires the palate. Spanish Cava can sometimes do the trick, and there's a variety of good French Cremant out there, but you're still going to drop $20-$25 for something like that (and once you're there, you might as well just pay the extra $10 and get the real deal).

Prosecco wouldn't be in my personal top five sparkling wine choices, unless you're talking simple bang for your buck. It's often slightly sweet or rather metallic in flavor, unless you spring for something nicer (but again you're talking $25). Prosecco shouldn't be expensive, though. It should be simple, to the point, and affordable. We needed a sub-$15 option at K&L, and our Italian buyer Greg St. Clair found the answer in 2011 when he worked out a deal with Valdobbiadene producer San Venanzio. We began importing the wines directly (shaving a healthy 40% off the bottle price) and were able to sell their basic Prosecco for $14.99—a smoking hot deal at the time.

Here's where it gets better: in 2014 they had terrible weather in the Valdobbiadene. Wind, hail, and massive storms obliterated a number of vines and made growing conditions pretty poor for the vintage. Some producers just flat out gave up and wrote the harvest off. San Venanzio had nothing to lose at this point, so they just let the grapes hang on the vine for as long as possible. They ended up harvesting what was left in late October—a solid two months later than usual. And guess what? The fruit was spectacular. But poor reviews of the vintage and the struggling Euro (with a strong dollar) weren't going to justify a high price point, so—despite the quality of the harvest—the price of the wines would have to come down.

And now we have the 2014 vintage of San Venanzio for $12.99 a bottle, despite the fact that it's the best incarnation of the wine we've ever carried. It's light, zippy, dry, but with a rounder palate of fruit and ripeness that balances out the acidity. I've personally drunk about seven bottles already this week. I'll probably drink a few more tonight. For the price, you can afford to get crazy. Drink it straight, make some sparkling wine cocktails, add a dash of Aperol, or use it in place of Champagne for a French 75 with gin and lemon juice. It's not often we have something this high quality for less than the standard retail. The fact that we're importing it directly makes all the difference. Another K&L wine secret for you spirits drinkers.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll