It’s time to celebrate the new year – perhaps it’s ring in the new year and chase out the old one.
Bubbles, of course, is the traditional beverage of choice for most revelers. Having now worked in retail wine sales, I’ve developed more of a love for sparkling wines. There really is something for everyone and at all price points.
As opposed to recommending specific bottles, perhaps dropping a few names, let’s cover the choices that will work for you and what you might expect to pay.
Bubbles start with champagne. The area of Champagne in France isn’t particularly large but nearly 360 Champagne houses produce more than 300 million bottles annually. True champagne is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier. A blanc de blanc is 100% Chardonnay while a Blanc de Noir is Pinot Noir.
True champagne starts around $30-$50 a bottle. The U.S. is the second largest importer of French Champagne, Britain takes the top spot. The best-selling champagnes in the world are widely available in the US. If you want to go where the crowd goes look for Moet-Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Nicolas Feuillatte, Laurent-Perrier, Taittinger, Pommery. And Piper-Heidsieck – and of course, Dom Perignon.
Ask your wine shop clerk to make recommendations from small houses and you might just find better wines. One specific: Nomine Renard for around $40. Or try US made Schramsberg producers of Blanc and Noir at $30-$40.
There are also regional standout producers like Mawby from Northern Michigan.
A lesser known option is grower champagnes. If you like the farm-to-fork concept in restaurants, a grower champagne is for you. Many of the big houses buy their grapes from growers – nothing wrong with that. The grower champagnes are grown and produced by a single producer. These champagnes sell generally from $70 to $125. This is my best bet for outstanding quality and drinkability over the big houses.
If you want something more affordable look for an Italian Prosecco, Spanish Cava, US champagnes and French Cremant. The Cremants are a particularly good value made like champagne. Great Cremant is produced in Burgundy, Alsace, Loire Valley and Southern France. Average cost for great Cremant bubbles runs around $20. They are also a bit more drinkable if you’re not used to true champagne.
Another entry to not overlook is Italy, yes the land of tannic dark red wines and pasta. La Spinetta and Ferrari are a couple of names to look for.
Bubbles should be enjoyed year round. It’s not just for New Year’s. Try bubbles with a salad of mild flavored food. Drink bubbles on the porch or patio on a hot summer day.
Grab a bottle of sparkle, and let’s toast 2021 – and kick 2020 to the back of our collective memory.
Happy New Year!