Some people plan for New Year’s Eve celebrations far in advance, buying and setting aside a treasured bottle of bubbly for the occasion. Others rush to the store at the last minute to find something suitable to drink. (They’ll all be at Costco this weekend.) This year, I find myself in the procrastinators’ camp, largely the result of December travel and a nasty bug that I picked up on that trip.
So if you still have some shopping to do, I have suggestions in several price ranges. Many of these should be relatively easy to find (though not necessarily in supermarkets). I didn’t conduct comprehensive tastings of sparkling wine this year, but these wines caught my attention during the past few months.
$20 or less
The NV Korbel Natural ($16) is a little more expensive and less ubiquitous than that brand’s brut or extra dry. But the wine, which is fresh and a little spicy, is a definite step up in quality and worth seeking out.
Spanish cava is a good bet in this price range. An example is the NV Vilarnau Brut Reserva Rosé ($16), which is quite fruity, with red berry notes.
There are also non-Champagne French wines in this category, like the wines of Limoux in Languedoc. A top-notch one is the Antech “Cuvée Eugénie” Cremant de Limoux ($14), which offers racy apple and citrus flavors and a hint of yeastiness.
The entry-level bottlings from widely distributed brands like Chandon, Mumm Napa and Gloria Ferrer technically are priced in the low $20s, but you can usually find them for less than $20, especially during the holidays.
In this price range, you can find some higher-end brands from California, like Schramsberg and Iron Horse. And there’s my house bubbly, the delicious NV Roederer Estate Brut ($24), which you should actually be able to find for less than $20. The brut rosé, for a few bucks more, is also excellent.
Another good California rosé is a higher-end bottling from Gloria Ferrer, the 2014 Brut Rosé ($50) from Carneros, with its delicate, creamy red fruit and toasty notes.
Also from Carneros, the 2013 Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut ($44) is creamy yet racy, with lively white fruit and a fine texture.
If you shop carefully, you can find Champagne for less than $50 – Costco, for example, has a number of them. Most Champagne is a blend of multiple vintages and reflects a house style. For more money, there are vintage Champagnes, rosés (both non-vintage and vintage) and the top, prestige bottlings (think Moet’s Dom Perignon or Louis Roederer’s Cristal).
Considering my affinity for Roederer Estate Brut from California, it’s not surprising that I also love its French big brother, NV Louis Roederer Brut Premier ($50), which is fresh, creamy and rich, with a touch of brioche and fine texture. (The 2009 Cristal is really beautiful and pure, if you have $200-plus to spend.)
The NV Henriot Brut Souverain ($50) is another relatively affordable choice. It’s creamy, round and a little yeasty, with white fruit and brioche notes.
The NV Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé ($53) is a good value in rosé Champagne. It displays delicate red fruit, some yeasty brioche aromas and flavors and fine texture.
Finally, an elegant vintage Champagne to try is the 2009 Taittinger Brut ($84), which shows a lot of minerality along with its white fruit and hint of toastiness.