New York State of Fizz: The Sparkling Wines of NY

Grape reception for sparkling wines at Lieb Cellars

New York State finds its wines perfectly positioned to sparkle, hailing from a cooler climate than its perhaps better-known west coast counterparts. The rise in popularity of bubbles of all kinds, from poised traditional method expressions to the youthfully exuberant pétillant natureles, has New York winemakers excited to demonstrate their region’s ability to hit a sparkling sweet spot, even without the addition of dosage.

World-class bubbles

In the upstate Finger Lakes region, perhaps no name rings out like that of Dr. Konstantin Frank who, in the 1950s, championed vinifera grapes in an area then mostly planted to American natives and hybrids. His son, ‘Willie’ Frank, would champion the production of sparkling wines in the region using the same varieties also grown in Champagne, likening the climate of New York to that of northern France.

The Frank family is bullish on what traditional method sparkling wines mean for the future of their region and the state as a whole. ‘We believe that traditional method sparkling wine will be the next it category for the Finger Lakes,’ says Meaghan Frank, Vice President at Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery. ‘Riesling is an established category with international acclaim and the same attributes that make Riesling so exciting in our region – namely a true cool climate – hold the similar potential for our sparkling wines to be on the world stage.’

Generally speaking, the traditional method sparkling wines of the Finger Lakes have an undeniable freshness and vibrancy, even after many years of lees ageing. ‘The target market and audience are developing but I personally think that those that are already ‘believers’ in our Riesling will find a great deal of joy in our traditional method sparkling wines,’ Frank concludes. ‘Anyone who appreciates fresh, vibrant, acid-forward wines that pair with nearly any food will absolutely love our sparkling wines. They are truly hidden gems and the value for the price is off the charts!’

Remuage at Lieb Cellars

A naturally delicious future

‘This region has a long history of sparkling wine production,’ Dave Pittard at Buttonwood Grove Winery tells us. ‘We enjoy that our Pét-Nat program offers an opportunity to produce sparkling wines and get consumer feedback quickly. They’re often released only months after harvest, while traditional [method] sparkling can take years and require many more steps in the process, often making them much more expensive to produce.’

Buttonwood has chosen to use grapes not widely used in sparkling styles – Cabernet Franc, Riesling, and Melody, a hybrid. This, along with low alcohol (10/11%) and the inviting price point (often under £20) makes them approachable and inviting to a wider, younger audience eager to explore and try something new.

Sparkling wines are coming to the fore throughout the state, well beyond the Finger Lakes. Their typical early harvest pairs perfectly with the Empire State’s cold climate. New York’s sparkling wines solidify the state’s reputation for traditional vinifera wines and create a new audience for American native and hybrid grapes with the increasingly popular Pét-Nats.

Potential for diversity

Channing Daughters makes wines from all three of the Long Island AVAs (North Fork, The Hamptons and Long Island). They make an array of wines of all types but have developed a strong reputation for their pétillant naturel range, including those made from American or hybrid grape varieties. ‘The future of these méthode ancestrale wines is great’ says Channing Daughters winemaker James Christopher Tracy. ‘We believe greater awareness, appreciation and consumption is in the future for this delicious and celebratory style of wine. We love the potential of diversity within the style and our continued pursuit of exactitude within an inexact style of wine! The quality, reflection of place and pleasure the wines…

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New York State of Fizz: The Sparkling Wines of NY  
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