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Amid The Sparkling Wine Boom, Red Sparklers Start To Gain Consumer Traction

January 24, 2014

Thanks to new initiatives by wine sellers and an increasingly adventurous U.S. consumer base, bubbly reds—from Italy, Australia and the United States—are growing in prominence and popularity.

“There’s been an expanding interest in sparkling wines in general, so I see sparkling reds trending upward in the near future,” says Mark Lyle, group marketing and communications director for Banfi Vintners, which imports three Italian sparkling reds to the U.S. market, ranging from the light and berry-forward Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui and Riunite Lambrusco to the bone-dry Albinea Canali Ottocentonero Lambrusco.

Enore Ceola, managing director at Mionetto USA, which produces Mionetto ‘IL’ Lambrusco, sees wine consumers today as being more experimental and open-minded. “People understand sparkling wine more and how to pair it with food, so I think that’s why sparkling reds are gaining sales,” he explains. “The category is still small and we have a long way to go, but when people taste the wine, they love it.”

Exposure and education have proved key to getting U.S. wine drinkers interested in fizzy red wine. “Sparkling red is limited by consumers’ exposure to it,” explains Tom Tiburzi, winemaker at Napa Valley’s Domaine Chandon, which offers the Chandon Classic Sparkling Red ($30 a 750-ml. bottle) as a winery exclusive. “The more people taste it, the more it sells.”

First released in 2002, Chandon Sparkling Red, Tiburzi explains, “was inspired by the sparkling reds that are popular in Australia. We use Pinot Noir and Zinfandel in the blend for an American twist, as opposed to the Shiraz they use down under.” Tiburzi adds that promoting the wine through tastings at the winery is helping to educate consumers about it. “Those who like it often leave the winery with many bottles,” he says.

While on-premise sales are growing steadily, most sparkling red wine sales are in the off-premise. Astor Wine & Spirits in New York City carries 15 different sparkling red wines, ranging from the Cantina di Sorbara Lambrusco Amabile ($8.96) to the 2011 Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui ($19.99). Astor’s sparkling reds are mostly Italian Lambruscos, but it also carries Australian labels Bleasdale The Red Brute Sparkling Shiraz ($18.99) and The Chook Sparkling Shiraz ($18.99), as well as the Aliança Metodo Classico Reserva Tinto Bruto ($11.99) from Portugal. Total Wine & More, with 100 outlets across 15 states, currently stocks 10 sparkling red wines from both Italy and Australia, ranging from Sei Amici Lambrusco Rosso ($6.99) to Rinaldi Brachetto d’Acqui ($24.99).

While Italy and Australia remain the most notable sparkling red wine producers, U.S. wineries are catching on to the trend. Just as Chandon was influenced by the Australian tradition when creating its Sparkling Red, Sonoma County vineyards Wattle Creek and Geyser Peak each produce a Sparkling Shiraz ($35 for Wattle Creek and $34 for Geyser Peak), bringing together the bold spice of Shiraz with the brightness of light fizz.

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