A toast to something different for New Year’s Eve

If you’re reading a wine blog, it’s probably a safe bet that you’ll be opening a bottle of something bubbly on New Year’s Eve. Maybe you’re opting for Champagne; maybe something less expensive, like California sparkling wine or prosecco.

There are a number of other delicious options that are less well-known. Many offer really good value, like the four recommendations that follow. These suggested bottles are made in the traditional style, like Champagne, in which the secondary fermentation that produces the bubbles happens in the bottle in which the wine is sold. (Most prosecco, on the other hand, is made in a pressurized tank.)

One of my favorite French alternatives to Champagne is crémant d’Alsace, from the eastern region of Alsace. Half a dozen grape varieties are permitted in crémant d’Alsace, ranging from chardonnay and pinot noir to pinot blanc and auxerrois. (Rosé versions are made from pinot noir.) The non-vintage Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace ($23) is a 50-50 blend of pinot blanc and auxerrois. It displays white fruit flavors accented by some toastiness and a fine texture. Nice richness for the price.

Vouvray is an appellation in France’s Loire Valley that’s probably better known for its still wines, even though slightly less than half the production is still. The wines are based almost exclusively on the chenin blanc grape. In cooler years, much of the production shifts toward drier wines and sparkling; warmer years are good for off-dry and sweet wines. A good sparkling version to try is the 2015 Sylvain Gaudron Vouvray Brut ($16), which offers racy white fruit and just a bare hint of sweetness. And it’s a tremendous bargain.

Italy produces a number of vini spumanti. There’s prosecco, of course, but there are also wines made in the traditional method, or metodo classic. One such wine is Trentodoc, from northern Italy. (Trentodoc is a trademark that combines Trento, the city, with DOC, denominazione di origine controllata, or controlled denomination of origin.) The permitted grape varieties are pinot noir, pinot meunier, chardonnay and pinot blanc.

The 2013 Altemasi Trentodoc Brut ($25), which is 100 percent chardonnay, is round and slightly toasty, with citrusy fruit and good length. Another Trentodoc producer to look for is Ferrari.

Everyone knows about sparkling wine from California; Oregon and Washington produce a fair amount of bubbly, too. You’ll also find small amounts of sparkling wine in other states that are mostly distributed locally or sold only at the winery. But there’s a very good, nationally distributed sparkling wine from, of all places, New Mexico. Gruet Winery was founded by a winemaking family from Champagne who planted chardonnay and pinot noir in southern New Mexico.

The non-vintage Gruet Brut ($18), the winery’s flagship bubbly, is made in the traditional method and is 75 percent chardonnay and 25 percent pinot noir. The wine is fresh and racy, with citrus and green apple. The fruit lends a perception of sweetness, though the wine is nearly bone dry. It’s exceedingly easy to drink.

Cheers!

 

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