With New Year’s Eve around the corner, ‘tis the season for champagne and sparkling wines. According to the Wine Institute, 40 percent of sparkling wine and champagne for the year is sold in the fourth quarter.
Although I am a year-round bubbly kind of gal, nothing embodies the holidays more than the festive pop of a cork and the annual sparkling wine tasting that I hold for my girls’ wine group. Because these wines go with just about any food — from pizza to popcorn to caviar — it’s a good way to get a party going.
A quick primer on champagnes vs. sparkling wines such as prosecco, cava and Franciacorta. Although some sparkling wines are made in the traditional Methode Champenoise, not all of them can be called champagne, a designation reserved for those made in the region of Champagne, France.
Champagne and sparkling wines can be very dry, dry (brut), slightly sweet (extra dry) or sweet (sec and demi-sec). You will also see them identified as “blanc de blancs” (Chardonnay grapes), “blanc de noirs” (wines from black grapes such as Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier) or rose sparkling wines.
Here’s my list of sparkling wine and champagne recommendations at all price ranges:
De Chanceny Cremant de Loire ($13)
This wine from the Loire Valley is complex with notes of apple, flowers, white stone fruit and lime. Tres bien and one of the best values out there.
Bocelli Prosecco NV, Italy ($17)
Yes, that prosecco. It is full of green apple, tropical fruits, pear and floral notes. The Bocelli family collaborates with Trevisiol, the first family of prosecco. Pardon the cliché, but this wine sings.
Fratelli Berlucchi Rose 2008 ($27)
Franciacorta comes from Lombardy in Northern Italy. The region is a powerhouse area for Italian sparkling wines using the traditional method of re-fermentation in the same bottle and the first to obtain Italy’s Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation.
I taste notes of strawberry, citrus, apple, grapefruit and raspberry. I’ve seen several of the Franciacorta wines at Spec’s and urge you to give them a try.
Pierre Peters Cuvée de Réserve Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($56)
This is one of my favorite grower’s champagnes, and if you talk to any sommelier out there, this one usually ends up on the favorite list, which is how I found it in the first place. It has notes of apple, apricot, floral, fresh bread, lemon zest and orange with a finish that lasts forever.
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose Champagne ($80)
It’s the crème de la crème, and it stands alone or is great with seafood. I taste citrus, pear, raspberry, flowers with some herbs and spice at the end. It’s elegant, it’s dry, it’s fruity and it’s fantastic.
In the words of the late Lily Bollinger, figurehead of the stalwart champagne house, who described her attitude toward drinking champagne:
I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.
Follow Bollinger’s lead and get your sparkle on this New Year’s Eve and beyond.