The celebratory sound of a popping cork signals many happy occasions: weddings; World Series victories; and the launching of ocean liners. But it’s hard to argue that most sparkling wine corks take to the air in December and the wee hours of January.
Just because it’s what lots of people do as the Fraser Firs and Scotch Pines wilt into tinderbox mode, don’t sink (like some ocean liners) to sipping cheap supermarket or national chain bubbly this holiday. Those end-of-aisle merchandising gimmicks are nothing more than a plea to liquidate excessive inventory – usually of sticky, cloying sparklers that deserve to be topped with store-brand ice cream.
Of course, that doesn’t mean to go down the hip-hop, self-important-entertainer route, and purchase vintage Champagne, either. Let Jay-Z and James Bond drink their Armand de Brignac or La Grande Année, and chase the ladies or enemy spies while publicly lugging their luxury buzzes.
No, there are delicious, Old World bubbly options that don’t require the salary of British Intelligence, or the contrived intellect of wine snobs to toast the sparkling season.
“There are great sparklers out there that are not [outrageously] priced, and are good for enjoyment on their own, or with food,” says Chicago-based Master Sommelier Fernando Beteta.
Below are a few choices that are representative of economical effervescence. They’ll bring equally warm smiles while exiting the retail store, or warbling (slurring) Auld Lang Syne as the clock strikes midnight:
Château Moncontour Sparkling Vouvray 2006: From the Loire, and made with the Chenin Blanc, which might take a little sheen off the fact that it’s listed with a vintage. Nonsense! A fantastic bubbly that’s vigorous, fruity and with a bit of ginger on the finish – it has great body throughout. Enjoy with hors d’oeuvres or bestow upon gracious guests… who will be happy to receive and not re-gift this value-priced delight. $13 (until December 24).
Nino Franco Prosecco ‘Rustico’ NV: Italian Prosecco often has to swim against two currents: one, from its ridiculously sweet countrymen, Asti; and the prevailing opinion that only Champagne will do. What a shame, because this Prosecco is not only terrific at its price point, but is a deliciously dry and crisp sparkler. It opens with a wonderful tropical fruit aroma, and features juicy, ripe pear on the palate. A foodie’s bubbly. $13.
German Gilabert ‘Brut Nature’ Cava Rosat NV: Some scoff at pink bubbly, but this one’s deep rosé color is beautiful and festive. Made from 100% Garnacha, it’s a fresh, crisp Spaniard. Although very dry, with hints of cherry and cranberry, the ‘Brut Nature’ is versatile enough to have with food, or reserve for a colorful New Year’s toast. $14.