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Celebrate July 4 with Local Bubblies

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Making sparkling wine by hand is a slow and tedious process, but thankfully, a handful of PA Wine Land producers are doing a great job of it.  And their wines are great bubblies with which to celebrate Independence Day.

To simplify a bit, making a sparkling starts with fermenting a base wine, then adding, either in a tank or in individual bottles, added yeast to start a second fermentation which produces the bubblies.  Finally, if the process is being done the traditional method in a bottle, the sediment has to be removed and any sugar added, even for the standard dry brut.  All in all, a lot of individual and exacting steps.

But it can be worth it.

In 2001, the J. Maki winery of Elverson won a gold medal for its sparkling wine at the highly respected Vinalies Internationales Awards in Paris, beating out Champagnes as well as other bubblies from around the world.  “While it was a surprise,” says owner Janet Maki, “we knew from the comments we had been getting from visitors to our winery that we has something special.  The sun, the moon and the stars were with us.”

There are several reasons why sparkling wine production is a natural for some areas of Pennsylvania.  Two of the historic grapes of real Champagne grow well here – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Additionally, hot days and cool nights make the fruit fresh and give it higher acidity, both key to sparkling wines.  For that reason, many of the Pennsylvania wineries that make a bubbly have vineyards located on the southeastern slopes of the state’s mountains and foothills.

“Another thing is that limestone on our and other sites makes the soils similar to those in Champagne in France,” Maki explains.  Although there have been a few local wineries that have gained great experience in making sparkling wines, there are surprisingly few in total, there has been no recent rush of new wineries to add them to their portfolios.

Other long-time producers from the mountainous central part of the state include Pinnacle Ridge Winery in Kutztown, which makes five different sparklers from both vinifera and hybrid grapes, and Manatawny Creek Winery at Douglassville, which has a sparkling wine made of raspberry.

Check the wineries in your region to see who is making sparkling wine.

To find out more about individual wineries and the 12 wine trails located throughout Pennsylvania, log onto www.PAWineLand.com.  The site also has maps and contact information for the more than 150 wineries spread across the state as well as wine tips and wine information.  And if you’re on the road, find nearby wineries by using the mobile responsive website at m.pennsylvaniawine.com.