As New Year's Eve approaches, we are all perplexed as to which bubbly to celebrate with.
And with that, let's begin with a quick 'bubbly' lesson. Bubbly or Sparkling wine is technically any wine with bubbles in it, while Champagne (notice the capital C) ONLY refers to sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France.
Enough with the tangent, back to the problem at hand...picking one of these sparklers for the big day next week. The first question I ever ask anyone who is looking for wine in my store is, 'how much do you want to spend?' Some people are thrown off by the question, but it is a perfect jumping off point for selecting any wine. If you don't set a spending limit per bottle you could wander around the store and hem and haw all day. With that said, I've compiled a list of sparkling wines that can fit any budget and still impress your host.
Prosecco is a native grape in the Veneto region of Italy used to make their sparkling wine. I like to call Prosecco the recession Champagne. Best bang for your buck by far. It delivers complexity and can be produced dry, off-dry, or sweet just like Champagne.
Bortolotti Prosecco Valdobbiadene Brut($19): Although I consider this their best, dryest prosecco, you can't go wrong with any selection from Bortolotti.
Soligo Prosecco ($14): Great surprise, nice dry prosecco paired with the sweetness of crisp pears, sure to be a crowd pleaser!
Cava is the Spanish version of sparkling, made throughout the country but mainly Penedes region (just south of Barcelona). Cava is produced in the traditional manner with second fermentation in the bottle and can include any one of the following grape varietals: macabeo, parellada, xarel-lo, chardonnay, pinot noir, or subirat.
Marques de Gelida Brut ($17): This blend of macabeo and parellada is surprisingly crisp and clean.
I use the term sparkling to include any wine that is made in the Champagne style, but is not made in Champagne, France. For example, producers in South Africa, the United States, Austrailia, and even France (outside of Champagne) have been making wonderful sparkling wines for years. These wines are usually a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, but can also include other grapes as they are not regulated. They range from brut (dry) to demi-sec (sweet).
Graham Beck Demi-Sec ($16): Graham Beck is a producer out of South Africa who produces a brut, rose brut, blanc de blanc (100% chardonnay), and demi-sec sparkling. His demi-sec sparkling is one of the best I've had. With a sweetness at the front of the wine, the progression surprises you with a strong, crisp, and dry finish.
And for those of you who want to stay traditional for the holidays, check some of these great, but small production champagnes out.
Ayala Brut ($70): This champagne is strong and dry, with reduced calories. A zero-dosage champagne (less sugar than the rest of them), this brut also delivers less calories giving it the 'diet champagne' nickname.
Egly-Ouriet Brut Grand Cru ($73): This 100% pinot noir champagne is a grower champagne, basically meaning that the producer owns the vineyard the grapes come from as well as the production house. Many large Champagne houses buy their grapes from a negociant and therefore lose a portion of control as to how the grapes are grown. Grower Champagnes have become a new phenomonen due to their excellent quality and relatively inexpensive price.