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Bubbles have come a long way since 1940
Many can’t imagine ringing in the new year without Champagne, but with so much good sparkling wine produced, the French standard isn’t the only way to go. Indeed, you can’t go wrong on New Year’s Eve with any of these bubblies—produced in old and new worlds, for hipsters and old-schoolers, at prices for everyone who wants to indulge. Here are a few to pop while you watch the ball drop. Prices sourced from suppliers or winesearcher.com
All American All Stars
Domaine Carneros by Tattinger “Ultra Brut” 2014, Napa. Light on its feet, thanks to the high acidity and a chalky/mineral aspect. Apples and nut aromas along with some autolytic characters to remind you it’s made in the traditional method. The acidity is well integrated in this overall beautifully balanced, well-made wine that’s bright with pops of lemon and hints of almond. $45
Domaine Carneros “Le Rêve” Blanc de Blanc 2012, Napa. Offering a buttery biscuit nose and more obvious lemon, this wine (100% Chardonnay) is good with food or on its own. The acidity doesn’t pop as much, and it doesn’t as many moving parts as its Ultra Brut sister, but overall Le Rêve (“the dream”) is more substantial, creamier and calmer with more autolytic character and riper fruits: round, warm and filling. This wine is the refined adult to Ultra Brut, the cheeky teenager. $100-$109
Gloria Ferrer Extra Brut Reserve Cuvee 2014, Sonoma. Soft, persistent mousse, almond over the usual hazelnut flavor. Good acidity, round, lemon meringue-chiffon. Made in the traditional method, this fruit-forward wine delivers baked apples and Asian pear layered with honey vanilla and white flowers. Pretty and bright. Pinot Noir driven (67%). $50
Gloria Ferrer Anniversary Brut Cuvee 2010, Sonoma. My tasting friend liked that the bubbles weren’t too large, but were very soft and refined. Tart grapefruit character, clean finish with hints of almond. Easy and light. We had with tilapia with roasted shallots and tomatoes: It held up. $25
Domaine Ste. Michele Brut, Washington State. Fine mousse with soft bubbles. Made in the traditional method, this offers apple-y goodness, cooked lemon, and a good yeasty aspect. Has depth but not old school heaviness. $13 is an amazing bargain for this solid wine.
Your cure for the Brexit Blues: a trio of elegantly packaged sparklers
Gusbourne Rose 2015. This Pinot Noir-driven (60%) rose offers a soft, puffy mousse (we thought “cotton balls!”) Leaving it open for a bit revealed its citric character: tangerine, orange peel and pink grapefruit, with a tinge of blood orange. Very tart, super-high acid, exceeded expectation for a UK wine. Great price for an unknown wine on the American market. $50.
Gusbourne Blanc de Blanc 2014. Creamy yogurt aspect with a direct line of acid and mineral and bright lemon. The southern England region that produces sparkling wines shares the same chalk bed as Champagne, and in this wine you can taste the chalk of that soil. But, here’s it’s less round, with perhaps latitude playing a role in the sharper acidity. This has the upstart character of a grower Champagne with its rusticity and unevenness (a good thing). Edgy, saline, not finessed, needs food. Great with peppered goat cheese. Elevated by its acid, this is a wine that grows on you after the first jolt. $50
Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2015. Visually, the bubbles reminded Karen of a fish tank pump. Softer fizz than its siblings, lemony with tart acid, bright and balanced. Textural and round, with apple and pear. We had with meringues with blueberry, raspberry and cream, but a lemon ricotta cheesecake would have worked, too. Not to be too specific! Almost split evenly between Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with 7% Pinot Meunier. $44
Italian style: as diverse as it gets
Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta Brut. Austere, sharp citrus nose with layers of anise/fennel, savory notes. Simple, with some yeast. Shows a little more residual sugar but this is a dry wine. Weighty but not old school, 60% Chard, 30% Pinot Bianco, 10% Pinot Nero. $30
Majolini 1981 Blanc de Noir Franciacorta. Composed of 100% Pinot Noir, this offers persistent expressions of plum and apricot with hints of dried fruit, biscuit, fleur de sel, crushed almond flavors, hay and honey. 32 months on lees. $30
Nino Franco “Rustico” Valdobbiadene Superiore Prosecco DOCG. Spritely bubbles Bruce said were like “scrubbing bubbles.” Well defined, sharp and linear, “small but mighty.” So clean it feels like it’s missing something. A well made wine from one Prosecco’s best producers. $13
Villa Sandi “Il Fresco” DOC Prosecco, Treviso. A bit of a sleeper of a wine with its austere muted nose, but the palate comes alive with more evidence of residual sugar and a slightly bitter finish that gives it some edge.. This is a simple quaff with some Riesling-like character. $16
Freixenet Italian Rose Sparkling Wine. Light effervescent, this is neither a prosecco nor a traditional method wine. So, hmmm, a but of a mystery if want to geek out over it. But you shouldn’t. Drink this easy coral-pink wine as a greeter at the door. $13
Hip + happening [or just drink the pink stuff]
Bichi “Pet Mex” 2018, Tecate, Baja, Mexico.
Made in the ancestral method, this unfiltered slightly cloudy wine is peachy-pink in color. Off dry (sweet-ish), fizzy, guava and tropical fruits, gives this a tropical fruit punch character. Fresh, fun—perfect for the beach, or a tropical region if that’s where you’re celebrating. Hard to pair with food, so quaff this on its own. $27-$38
Weingut Markus Huber sparkling rose, Austria. Certified sustainable, pretty, light pink belies a deeper earthiness you don’t expect. A little bit of earthy pungency on the nose, but the palate is full of fresh, tart red fruits like mature strawberry, raspberry, cherry and pomegranate. Dry and clean—not cloying nor candied. $13
Kickin’ it old school
Seguras Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad Cava. Old school, big brand cava that has a lot of history and nostalgia (My tasting friend Gabriele from Venezuela said this was “dressed to impress”). Fruit forward, fast moussed, it’s big-party wine: drink without thinking but great to give as a gift because the bottle is retro fun. Very good commercial cava. Well made, technically correct: will please everyone. $17+/-
NV Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve. Disgorged in 2019 after laying in chalk cellars since 2016, this is made of 40% reserve wines with at least 10 years of age— a blend of more than 60 crus. Rich, a bit yeasty and nutty and savory—a good food wine. After opening, it becomes more textural and aromatic. Hints of honeycomb and tangerine. Long finish. Good with cheddar. More than serviceable. $69
Bollinger La Grand Année 2008. If you want to say buh-bye to this decade, do it with the 2008 La Grand Année, the signature house Champagne that is eagerly anticipated in the years “Bolly” releases it. This vintage is 71% Pinot Noir and 29% Chardonnay, made from 18 crus. Ginger spice, candied orange peel, anchored by a core of brioche. Creamy, rich mouthfeel. Fermented entirely in oak. This is one for the long table laden with foods of the season. [$170] If you want to kick it up a notch, the R.D. 2004 (“Recently Disgorged,” a Bollinger hallmark) combines the freshness of a newly disgorged wine with the sublime textures and flavors of a vintage wine. Not widely found in the U.S., but if you do, expect to pay up to $300.