It is pure urban legend that the 17th-century French monk Dom Pérignon "discovered" sparkling wine. All wine has always "sparkled" at some point, because carbon dioxide is a byproduct of the conversion of sweet grape juice into dry wine. Trapping and preserving these ephemeral bubbles, however, was a more complicated trick that couldn't be mastered until glass bottles could be made strong enough to withstand pressurized contents, a perk of the Industrial Revolution. However, it is true that Dom Pérignon helped refine the "recipe" used in the wines of his home region of Champagne, which was revolutionary because it combined green and purple grapes to make a white wine. He demonstrated that pressing the fruit immediately after harvest could extract crystal-clear juice, not just from the local pale-skinned chardonnay but also from dark-skinned pinot noir and its cousin pinot meunier, too. Nowadays, the Champagne region's three native grapes and its complex method of winemaking still make the world's finest sparkling wines, even when the grapes are grown elsewhere, as with this delightful beauty from coastal Oregon. Its blend of the three key grapes is aged long to deliver a wine that is bone-dry and whose tart, snappy apple flavors merge seamlessly with the heady yeasty scent of rising bread dough.
Argyle "Vintage Brut" sparkling wine, Willamette Valley, Ore. $18.99 (regularly $24.99; sale price through April 29). PLCB Item #6784