Ringing in the New Year With Sparklers From Around the World

Courtesy Colm Britton
Courtesy Colm Britton

Nothing quite says "celebrate" like a glass of sparkling wine.  Since the first known sparkling wines some time in 15th century France until today, a glass of bubbly has been associated with life’s most memorable moments:  From the wedding toast to New Year’s Eve, bubbles say it with style. With such a wide variety of origins and varieties, from sweet to bone dry, there is a sparkler for everyone to enjoy and ring in 2014.

When meandering the Champagne aisle for your holiday table, be sure to check out some of the grower producers, which are burgeoning in popularity and offer amazing quality at every price point.  This 'Farmer Fizz' is deliciously diverse, and for those that like the bright, clean style of a 100% Chardonnay wine, the Diebolt-Vallois Brut Blanc de Blancs does not disappoint.  This rich and creamy style stems from malolactic fermentation of the Chardonnay, with that classic bright citrus flavor that makes it such a refreshing sipper.  Like picking a fresh Granny Smith apple and dousing it with lemon juice and a sprinkling of nutmeg.   $35

The 2002 Charles Ellner Prestige Brut (Champagne Winery of the year in the 2013 NY International Wine Competition) is primarily Chardonnay, and is a rich and concentrated Champagne with bright citrus and tangy marmalade flavors, as well as classic toasted brioche and popcorn flavors.  I love the clean, crisp minerality on the finish.  $55

Courtesy Bryan Rosengrant
Courtesy Bryan Rosengrant

One of my favorite styles of sparkling wine is the Brut Nature, which has no dosage (added sugar.) The result is a wine that is a bone dry, naturally higher in acid gem that really sings. The NV Georges Laval Champagne Brut Nature is an organically farmed blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay which shows caramel, vanilla, and bready notes covered in lemon zest, white nectarines and just a hint of spice box.  $85

If you’re splurging for the holidays, take aim at the 2004 Bollinger Grand Année Rosé.  This beautifully deep rosé is fuller bodied than most, and has ripe red berries, pipe smoke aromas, and earthy wood notes while keeping rich stone fruit and yeasty characters in a field of flowers.  $110

If you’re feeling very generous this holiday season and have a Grinch to banish, the 2005 Vilmart Coeur de Cuvée is a great pick.   Made from small lots of barrel fermented Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and farmed sustainably and organically, the Coeur de Cuvée (heart of the blend) is a pale straw color full of deep nutty and butter flavors that make you feel like you are in a bakery in Paris.  The flinty mineral notes are followed by a whiff of white pepper as well as candied pears, Meyer lemon, and dried apricots drenched in honey.  $130

While Champagne is the most recognizable bubbly, you can find excellent values further afield.  The Blason de Bourgogne Rosé is a great example of sparkling wine from Burgundy, from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay and Aligote grapes.  Bolder and richer than brut, bursting  with strawberries and vanilla cream, the stone fruit and floral aromas complement the small, tight bubbles beautifully.  For $10 this is something you don’t have to save for a special occasion!

Courtesy Mike Gifford
Courtesy Mike Gifford

For another noteworthy sparkling, non-Champagne wine from France, check out the Vouvray wines of the Touraine region in the Loire Valley.  Sparkling Chenin Blanc has a much different flavor than classic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay based sparkling wines, and this fun example is great for richer fish dishes and dessert.  The François Pinon Vouvray Brut has delicious nutty notes of marzipan, challah, and grilled pineapple with a hint of wildflower honey on top.  The rich flavor is a bold departure from the typical brut.  $22

In Spain, Cava is something of a national pastime. Using native varietals (Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel·lo) that give Cava it’s unique taste, these wines are a great alternative to celebrate with. The iconic Segura Viudas Heredad Reserva comes in an impressive bottle with a decorative metal base to impress your guests. Bright green apple and lemon notes finish with a dusting of white pepper.  $22

Franciacorta is a region in northern Italy, in the cuff of the boot’s Lombardy region.  Produced entirely of grapes grown within the region, Franciacorta sparkling wines differ from Prosecco in that they are made in the traditional method, as with Champagne.  TheAntica Fratta Brut non vintage traditional method bubbly from the Lombardy region of Italy is bright with citrus notes, and classic brioche toast flavors.  $25

If it’s sparkling red you’re in the mood for, head down under to Australia where they have been producing surprising and wonderful sparkling wines.  Most sparkling Shiraz is non vintage, blending in the best of each year to create the final wine.  Sparkling Shiraz is a great way to experience Shiraz with a twist, so if you’ve never been a fan of the still one, try one of these bubbles and see what you think.  The crowd pleasing Red Brute (yes, that is spelled correctly) by Bleasdale is full of sweet

Yes, it is!
Yes, it is!

red fruit and ripe berry flavors.  With meaty notes and oak on the finish, the strong tannins balance with the fruitier notes.   $20

In the US, we are lucky enough to have many fantastic options.  For something unique, try New Mexico’s Gruet Brut.  The flagship wine of this off the beaten path winery holds true to the owner’s French roots. The high elevation of the vineyards gives a crisp granny smith tone to the bubbles, with bright grapefruit and lemon complimenting the tiny bubbles.  $15

While the Dundee Hills area is best known for still Pinot Noir, Argyle delivers a wonderful range of sparkling wines including the Black Brut.  Made entirely of Pinot Noir fruit, the black brut is somewhere between a deep rose and a sparkling Pinot Noir, with rich cherry, cassis, and blackberry combined with the rich cola notes of a classic Pinot Noir.  $30

Cheers and Happy New Year!