In the heat of a Florida summer the mind can play odd tricks. That must be the reason that our favorite quote from the economist John Maynard Keynes popped into our heads. He is said to have uttered on his deathbed: "My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne."
Thus were we admonished for not having tasted a sparkling wine lately, a terrible oversight, given that hot weather is the perfect time for this gift from a benevolent universe. One of our perennial favorites from California is Scharffenberger Brut Excellence, a nonvintage sparkler widely available for about $18.
Scharffenberger makes only sparkling wines and is very good at it. This toasty beauty is compounded of two parts chardonnay and one part pinot noir. It is a bottle fermented and aged two years on the yeast, yielding a creamy mouthfeel and a yeasty gust of freshly baked bread both on the nose and on the tongue, tempered in both cases by a light lemon kiss. Its bubbles are tiny and persistent. The finish is long, clean and lively.
First, a sparkling wine like this is the ideal aperitif, no matter what main course may follow, and is lovely all by itself on a Sunday afternoon. With what would we pair it? Absolutely anything, from white pizza to smoked salmon with lemon, capers and creme fraiche to a late-night snack of unadulterated Saint Agur blue cheese atop baguette rounds. Or cupcakes!
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel. For an index and archive of reviews, go to pictograph.com.