This year it’s all about toasting the start of what will be a wonderful new year, it simply has to be. And, in my book, nothing is better to toast a celebration than sparkling wine. This morning at 11am I will join KXAS-TV/NBC in Dallas to share some of my favorite bubbles in every price range. A link to the segment is here.
Sparkling wine doesn’t have to be expensive. But, it does need to be well-made with quality fruit, and dedicated care. More on the wines I’ll share, as well as a few additional, below. Cheers to a safe, happy, and healthy new year!
The French know how to do sparkling wine right, especially in Champagne. The combination of soil type, climate, grape varieties, and history create ideal circumstances to craft traditional method, Methode Champaniose, sparkling wine, especially the Brut, very dry style. The yeasty, brioche notes of aging the wine in the bottle on the yeasts, often for many years, gives a richness, texture, and depth to classic Champagne, melding with layers of orchard and citrus fruit, with vibrancy, elegance, and class.
Honoring the history and heritage of the winery, a beloved favorite of Napoleon, Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne ($44) is crisp and refreshing, with stone and orchard fruit melding with honey, fresh cream, and toasted spice. Constantly bringing innovation and new ideas to the forefront, Moet & Chandon showcases their Brut Imperial ($44) and Brut Rose Imperial ($60) this year with a decorative tin “sleeve” that holds their beautiful bottles of bubbly at a constant cool temperature for up to two hours. Bonus, it is also a lovely gift box if bringing to a holiday gathering or gifting for the new year.
The Philipponnat family began growing grapes in Champagne in 1522 with the House founded in 1910 by Pierre Philipponnant. Employing natural, hand to vine farming techniques since the beginning, including the use of horses to plow their fields and sheep to mow them, tradition is key to maintaining the quality and style they have become known for. With incredible richness and complexity, Philipponnat Royal Reserve Brut ($57) is fleshy and lush, with a textured palate and delicate mousse, revealing layers of golden peach, creamy marzipan, honeysuckle, and candied ginger.
Palmer & Co. Champagne shows energy and freshness, revealing balanced harmony in the glass. Champagne Palmer & Co. Blanc de Blancs Brut ($90) melds crisp minerality with lemon blossom, blanched almond, honeysuckle, and wisteria, finishing with a touch of crushed stone and brioche that lingers lovingly on the palate.
When sparkling wine is made in France, but not in Champagne, it is called Cremant and every pocket of France produces delicious versions, from Burgundy to Alsace, to the Loire Valley, to Bordeaux, and Limoux.
Not far from Champagne, Herni Champliau Cremant de Borgogne Brut Authentique ($28) shows the earthy character of Burgundy in a Pinot Noir dominant blend, delivering strength, concentration, and complexity. With a well-rounded profile, the sparkler layers toasted hazelnut with creme brulee, red apple, and honeycomb.
A pioneer in the production of Crémant d’Alsace, Lucien Albrecht started in 1971, and thanks to its perseverance and successful trials and tests, it is one of three Alsatian firms to have launched the Crémant d’Alsace, becoming an official AOC in 1976. The Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’ Alsace Brut ($20) blends hand-harvested Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay creating a zesty, traditional method produced sparkler, aged at least 12 months on the yeasts, revealing apricot, ripe apple, and fresh cream.
The central Loire Valley specializes in still white wines produced from Chenin Blanc, and though not as traditionally, the former also shines as the base for both sweet dessert wines, and very dry, fresh, and wonderfully floral sparkling wines. J. de Villebois Crémant de Loire Brut NV ($18) showcases this with a Chenin Blanc-based sparkler, along with a touch of Chardonnay and a bit of Cabernet Franc giving depth to the white flower and stone fruit filled sparkler.
Southern France’s Languedoc region is home to what is thought to be the oldest sparkling wine region in the world, Limoux. Sparkling wine was first produced in Limoux by the Benedictine monks of Saint-Hilaire in 1531, (with locals telling the story that Dom Perignon tasted the sparkling wine here and took it back to Champagne.) From high elevations in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains, vineyards are kept cool, allowing grapes to capture freshness, the ideal ingredient for quality sparkling wine. Faire la Fete Cremant de Limoux Brut ($20) blends Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Pinot Noir creating luscious notes of lemongrass with golden and green apple and zesty citrus.
South Africa is another area that specializes in Chenin Blanc, producing aromatic still and sparkling wines from the variety. MAN Family Wines Sparkling Chenin Blanc Brut ($16) captures a tropical fruit salad in the glass. Easy, uncomplicated, and very refreshing with a low alcohol of about 12%, the sparkler has a thirst-quenching persistence, delivering a punchy palate, perfect for sipping on warm days on its own or enjoying with light appetizers.
I am a huge fan of the wines of Spain, especially their Cava. Produced in the traditional method, but with Spanish grapes, in the heart of Penedes region not far from Barcelona, Spain’s sparkling Cava wines are earthy and dry, with toasted nuttiness, racy acidity, and beautiful balance, pairing perfectly with everything from tapas to paella to seafood to roasted lamb or game.
Dedicated to maintaining hand-crafted, artisanal character, the expansive Vilarnau estate is farmed 100% organically, allowing the essence of their indigenous Spanish varieties to shine. Vilarnau Brut Cava ($18) leaps from the glass with white peaches and golden apples melding with a floral and herbaceous layer that I find so intriguing, and inviting, about Cava.
Crisp and refreshing, Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad is the pinnacle expression of refinement for the Spanish winery. Produced in the traditional method of Champagne, while remaining completely Spanish, the selection blends 67% Macabeo and 33% Parellada from nine different wines, each vinified in separate tanks, spending 30 months on the lees (yeasts). From estate vineyards in the Alt Penedès, the layered sparkler opens with brioche, Meyer lemon, sweet tarragon, and honeysuckle leading to fresh-baked biscuits and vanilla.
The US showcases traditional method sparkling wines as well as anyone in the world, which is why so many French producers have ventured to the states to craft American sparklers. From the heart of California’s Carneros region, Domaine Carneros from Champagne’s Tattinger family is one of the very best. Their “Le Reve” ($120) showcases French temperament, sustainable farming, and delicate, dedicated craftsmanship. 100% Chardonnay the wine layers honeysuckle, fresh biscuits, lychee fruit, and creamy honeycomb. The Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour Rose ($45) reveals strawberries and cream notes on the front palate, followed by baked apple, marzipan, and toasted baking spice.
Brand new from California’s Pine Ridge, sparkling Chenin-Blanc + Viognier ($18) The winery has been making the blend as an incredibly popular still wine for years, and with the urging of their loyal fans, they have now introduced a sparkling version. Floral and fruity, with white flowers, white peach, and apricot, the easy bubbly is perfect on its own, or a nice base to your favorite sparkling holiday cocktails.
Willamette Valley is known for its incredible still Pinot Noir wines, but, just as in Champagne, they flawlessly are crafting elevated sparklers from Pinot Noir fruit, like Willamette Valley Vineyards Methode Champanoise Brut ($55) from 100% sustainable estate-grown Pinot Noir. Incredibly complex, this is a sparkler to enjoy from the start of a meal to the end, especially with grilled seafood or shellfish, nutty, aged cheese, or creamy mushroom risotto.
Adelsheim Sparkling Brut Rose ($75) leads with a structured, intricate, complex palate, and I would expect nothing less from the well-established producer. Revealing the heart of Willamette Valley, where Pinot Noir rules, showing fresh roses, raspberry, wild strawberry, and freshly baked brioche.
Similarly, from Australia’s Tasmania, where the country’s cool, maritime climate creates the ideal growing conditions for racy, energetic sparkling wine, Jansz Premium Rose Brut ($30), blended from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, layers candied red fruits with fresh cream, violets, and wild roses, with thousands of tiny happy bubbles.