The best to way to understand what kind of bubblehead you are is to drink some sparkling wine. Here’s a shortlist of local tank- and bottle-fermented Northern Michigan sparkling wines to get sippin’ on.
Fruit-driven, fresh and effervescent, Charmat Method bubblies are perfect for cocktails and priced for everyday swilling.
- bigLITTLE Tire Swing Brut NV $19
- Cheateau Chantal Celebrate! NV $15
- M.Lawrence Green NV $15
Individually fermented, Champagne Method sparkling wines have finer bubble texture, more weight and complex character that make them superb dinner wines.
- L. Mawby Cremant Classic Brut NV $27
- Aurora Cellars Blanc de Noirs Brut 2013 $32
Bowers Harbor Vineyards 2896 Brut Rose 2012 $32
Bros with Ann Arbor roots and respective backgrounds in education and engineering, Mike and Pete moved north in 2010 to learn the bubble biz under Larry Mawby—where they still work—and began making wines from their family’s small Leelanau Peninsula vineyard.
What’s it like running a winery as brothers?
Harvest time can be a little stressful, but generally it’s great working together. Our strengths and weaknesses play off each other, and while at first we were both doing everything, we’re drifting toward more role-based responsibilities. Pete trusts me with the winemaking, and I lean on him to handle logistics and operations.
Sparkling wines are the center of bigLITTLE and everything you do at Mawby. What makes them distinctive from other wines?
Well, the primary difference is that all our sparkling wines go through a second fermentation, which is what creates the effervescence. In the fall we’re pressing grapes and fermenting the juice into still wines. After we rack, clarify, blend and stabilize the wines, we start the process of tirage bottling, where a sugar and a live yeast culture is added to either a tank for Charmat Method or individual bottles for the Champagne Method.
Let’s stay on this idea of tanks and bottles. What should we expect from Charmat versus Champagne Method bubblies?
A lot depends on the base wines and the flavors that are there. Tank fermenting is faster and at a higher temperature, which tends to favor aromatic grapes like riesling or pinot gris. Because the wine has less contact with the yeast, you’ll get primarily fruit flavors out of these wines. Bottle-fermented bubblies, because they spend months and sometimes years in contact with the yeast solids, have more texture and complex, biscuity aromas and are typically more expensive on account of the extra time and labor needed to make them.
So how does our local fizz stack up on the world stage?
In Champagne [France], the soil dramatically impacts the flavor. California bubbly is heavier on the fruit because of a warmer climate. Here our play is to embrace the acidity that comes from our colder temps and shorter growing season and bring the wines in balance through dosage.
A lot of wine acolytes tout bubbly as the perfect food wine; why is that?
Bubbly is typically quite high in acid, so it’s very compatible with fatty foods and particularly good with the wide range of flavors you find on holiday spreads. The wine’s effervescence lifts flavors off the palate and allows you to taste more acutely and refreshes the palate between bites.
Ok, I’m on board. How should we drink bigLITTLE bubbles this winter?
We like to drink Tire Swing, our tank-fermented sparkler, with shellfish or rich soft cheeses like double cream brie. C-3 Pinot, our bottle-fermented bubbly, is great on the holiday dinner table as it has weight to match savory roasted meats and vegetables.