Another difficult year is almost behind us, and it’s nearly time to welcome 2023. And that, of course, calls for bottles of bubbly.
Chez moi, we don’t wait for a holiday or other celebration to drink sparkling wine. Bubbles make any night (or day) a little more special, so why not indulge on a Wednesday night? But if you’re not the type who keeps sparkling wine on hand at all times, and you’re looking for a few holiday recommendations, I can offer some.
California makes a lot of very good sparkling wine, and some of it is extremely well priced for the quality. Producers like Gloria Ferrer, Roederer Estate and Chandon are always reliable, and you can often find their wines at a discount at this time of year. One moderately priced bottle that I really enjoy is the non-vintage Paula Kornell Brut ($22), which is fresh and crisp, with lemony fruit and a little toastiness. Paula knows her fizz – her father, Hans Kornell, was among the first winemakers in California to make sparkling wine by the traditional method, a la Champagne.
Scharffenberger makes some excellent bubbly in Mendocino County. One example, for rosé lovers, is the non-vintage Scharffenberger Brut Rosé Excellence ($29), which displays pretty strawberry and lemon with some creaminess. On the pricier side, there’s the 2019 Sonoma-Cutrer Grand Brut Rosé ($55) from Russian River Valley, which is fresh and racy, with lemon, hints of strawberry and wet stone, and a toasty note.
Prosecco is the go-to sparkling wine for a lot of people, especially if they’re on a budget. I find a lot of prosecco to be pretty ho-hum, but a notable exception is the non-vintage Valdo “Marca Oro” Brut ($15), which is fresh and citrusy up front, with a stony note in the middle and a persistent finish.
Most proseccos, like the Marca Oro, are made via the charmat method, where the bubbles are created during a secondary fermentation in a pressurized tank. But there are some proseccos made with the traditional method (metodo classico in Italian), with the secondary fermentation in the bottle. Valdo makes one of those, too: the 2019 Numero 10 Prosecco Superiore ($29). Same grape (glera) as other proseccos, but a completely different flavor profile. The wine is rich, creamy and delicious, with crisp white fruit.
Bargain hunters might want to opt for cava, the traditional-method sparkling wine from Spain, primarily Catalonia. I like the non-vintage Poema Pura Brut ($15), made from organically grown grapes. It’s surprisingly complex for a wine at this price, with racy citrus, green apple, a hint of almond paste and a touch of salinity.
Champagne, of course, is more of a splurge, but New Year’s Eve comes around only once a year. And many Champagnes have the weight and richness to accompany your meal. Just remember to save a glass for midnight.
There are plenty of Champagnes suitable for the occasion, ranging from smaller-production grower Champagnes to cuvées produced by the big, well-known houses. One good choice is the non-vintage Ayala Brut Majeur ($50), which is creamy and rich, with flavors of golden Delicious apple, brioche and some toastiness.
Rosé Champagne makes for a fine celebration, if you’re willing to spend a little (sometimes a lot) more. For example, there’s the non-vintage Champagne Henriot Rosé ($80), with its pretty, pale salmon color and its racy yet delicate berry flavors, a touch of brioche and a mineral note.
Wishing you a safe and happy 2023!