Best Bubbly for the Holidays

Life December 2010 The sound of popping corks is music to the bubbly wine lover. It’s the cue to celebrate, especially during the holidays. The sublime flavors of true champagne might be your first choice. But the sparkling wine made exclusively in France’s Champagne region carries a high price tag—at least $30 for non-vintage releases. Here are some reasonably priced selections from other regions.

California’s cool micro-climates are well-suited for bubbly wines. Producers blend the same grape varieties, making their sparkling wine in the same fashion-—by méthode champenoise, where the fermentation that causes the bubbles takes place inside each bottle. There are good values ($20 a bottle or even less) among non-vintage releases from wineries owned by venerable Champagne houses. One is the Brut Classic from Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley (about $15). The winery was founded by Moët Chandon. Domaine Mumm in Napa, started by Champagne Mums, puts out a creamy style sparkler under their Brut Prestige label ($20). The owners of the Freixenet label founded the Sonoma winery Gloria Ferrer; their brut has a crisp, zesty style, and their blanc de noir (mostly pinot noir) is fruitier and lush with a slight rosé hue (Between $18 and $20).
There are other quality domestic sparkling wines made the same way as French champagne. The sparklers from Argyle in Oregon’s Willamette Valley are superb. Some selections are slightly more than $20, but well worth it. Good values come from Gruet Winery, based in a less known wine region: New Mexico. The winery is run by a family who own the French champagne house, Gruet et Fils. They make a variety of non-vintage selections by méthode champenoise. A toasty brut, a rich blanc de noir, and a demi-sec all sell for about $15 to $18 a bottle.

From Spain comes Cava, where the best are produced in the Penedès region. The sparklers are effervescent and toasty, labeled brut or brut nature. There are also many tasty rosés, like vintage dated Cavas ($13 to $20.) Freixenet, Cordoníu and Segura Viudas are the most known, but there are many interesting Cavas that are worth seeking out, like Juvé y Camps ($15) and Roger Goulart ($19).

Light, fresh, and trendy, Prosecco, produced in Italy’s Veneto region, is the perfect bubbly. Some of the best are from the Conegliano-Valdobbiaden area. Their quality has improved over the years. Excellent bottles can be found for $12 to $18. Look for producers Zardetto ($14) and Rustico Nino Franco ($18).

So raise a glass to bubbly wines that have good value and can still get a party started!

Gift suggestions to wow your favorite oenophile

  • The Wine List, Hyannis: Que Syrah Shiraz Gift Basket: Five-pack sampling of four red wines and one sparkling wine made from the grape with two names. A bottle each of a Washington State Syrah, Australian Shiraz, Australian Sparkling Shiraz, French Syrah and South African Shiraz. $7
  • East Harwich Liquors, Harwich: Three bottles for a dessert wine aficionado: 2009 Elio Perrone ‘Bigaro’, non-vintage Still River Winery ‘apfeleis,’ non-vintage Vinedo de Los Vientos ‘Alcyone.’ $85
  • Jim’s Package Store & Island Market, Martha’s Vineyard: For a California chardonnay lover: A bowed basket with bottles of 2007 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay and 2008 La Crema Chardonnay, two Riedel O Stemless wine glasses, wedges of Vermont brie and Grafton cheddar, and a box of sesame crackers. $110.


Ann Trieger is a freelance writer living in the Boston area.

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