Written by Elizabeth Smith, CS
ICC Wine Program Coordinator
There’s no better way to kick off the festive season with popping corks and a splash (or two) of bubbly. But what to drink? Here’s my quick-and-dirty guide to what to buy.
Champagne lovers say there’s simply no substitute for real Champagne, and of course, there’s nothing like it to ring in the new year. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “it is so choice – if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.” If you like a rich and toasty style, go for Herbert Beaufort or Vilmart – smaller producers that make full, silky champagnes. If you’re looking for something lean and racy as an apéritif, I’d recommend grower-producer Pierre Gimonnet – his Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs is redolent of lime blossom with a firm mineral spine.
Other Traditional Method Sparklers
Made in the traditional method of Champagne, Cava delivers those toasty, yeasty notes and fuller body at a fraction of the price. For excellent value, try Juvé y Camps or Mas la Mola L’Atzar – the latter ages 22 months in the bottle, longer than many Champagnes. But my favorite Spanish sparkler of all time is Raventós i Blanc Rosé de Nit – a robust and flavorful rosé from Mourvedre that goes with everything.
You can also drink the big Champagne producers at a more civilized cost if you head to California – Taittinger, Roederer, and Moët all have sisters stateside. I was recently impressed with Taittinger’s Domaine Carneros – a nose of pear compote on brioche, with a cleansing acidity and tight bubbles on the palate.
A lighter, more fruit-forward wine than those made in the traditional method, Prosecco is about fresh fruit flavors and sometimes a little kiss of sugar. Perfect for apéritifs, digestifs, toasts, and gatherings at any hour, Malibràn Gorio Extra Dry Prosecco is delicately sweet, with gentle fruity and floral notes.
Off the Beaten Path
German producer 50◦N makes original and truly delicious sekt (sparkling) wines, fruity and drinkable and guaranteed to please a crowd. But my personal favorite obscure sparkler is the underrated French appellation Crémant de Limoux – the first sparkling wines in the world (pre-dating Champagne). Try producer Saint-Hilaire – Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Mauzac grapes deliver distinctive wines at incredible value.
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