Champagne Alternatives For the Holidays

There are 6 more days of merriment left in the season! Here are some alternative sparklers and crowd-sized magnum wines to keep the festivities going.

photo by Elements 5 Digital via Unsplash

photo by Elements 5 Digital via Unsplash

You may automatically equate the holiday season with Champagne, and those French bubbles are undeniably celebratory. But maybe this year you want to serve a sparkler from a different corner of the world. Heck, maybe you and your friends don’t even like fizz-filled flutes. Pop open something effervescent from Brazil, Italy, California or South Africa or a white or red in a supersized bottle and you are guaranteed to stay on guests’ nice lists.

2016 Cave Geisse Brut ($25)

Brazil has been called the next frontier in high-quality sparkling wine. France’s Champagne houses discovered its potential decades ago; when Moët & Chandon learned that the country’s terroir was well-suited to traditional method bubbly, they recruited Casa Silva winemaker Mario Geisse to take up the cause. Fast-forward forty years, and Cave Geisse is one of the top producers of ultra-quality bubbly in Brazil. What’s more, the company has adopted a Chilean technology dubbed Thermal Pest Control which negates the need for pesticides. Their Brut is made with 70% chardonnay and 30% pinot noir aged a minimum of 24 months. Persistent acidity is joined by notes of white fruits, apricots, apple and yeast, along with honey and candied fruit. Consider this Champagne’s sexy South American cousin.

2013 Rotari Brut Rosé ($19.99)

The high altitude Trentino region in northeastern Italy is becoming increasingly known for its sparkling wine made in the metodo classico, which touts long aging potential, freshness, elegance and persistence. (After all, the region has been making this style of wine for 150 years.) This wine is crafted with 75% pinot and 25% chardonnay selected and hand-harvested from the top vineyard sites. It’s aged on the lees for 24 months, during which it picks up flavors of wild strawberry, raspberry and cherry along with yeastiness and spice.

2014 Sonoma-Cutrer Grand Cuvée Méthode Traditionnelle ($39.99)

The esteemed Sonoma producer launched its first traditional sparkling wine in September. The limited edition cuvée is made with a blend of 60% chardonnay and 40% pinot noir sourced from two estate vineyards in the Russian River Valley (Vine Hill Ranch and Owsley Vineyard). Fine, delicate beads in the glass are followed by aromas of red apple and pear, while the palate shows hazelnut, brioche, and lemon with pronounced minerality.

NV Graham Beck Méthode Cap Classique Brut ($17)

“MCC,” as it’s called, is South Africa’s answer to Champagne, and this producer is the most famous and prolific. The grapes for their non-vintage Brut (53% chardonnay and 47% pinot noir) are harvested from a variety of vineyards in Robertson, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch in the country’s Western Cape region and vinified in the cellar in Robertson. Light, yeasty aromas give way to lime on the nose, rich creamy complexity on the palate and a fine mousse that leaves a feeling of freshness and finesse. Fun fact: this wine was served to toast both Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and Barack Obama’s presidential win, so it’s an auspicious choice for your holiday gatherings. 

photo by Amanda Schuster

photo by Amanda Schuster

2016 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon Graffiti Magnum ($110)

Big reds more your thing? This limited edition Napa cab is sold in a magnum (which many wine pros deem the best sized bottle from which to drink wine). Emblazoned on the label by legendary street artist Faust New York is a quote from German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Live dangerously and you live right”. The wine is a blend of 82% cabernet sauvignon with some merlot, cab franc and petit verdot from estate vineyards in Coombsville and Rutherford along with mountain sourcing in Atlas Peak, Mount Veeder and Howell Mountain, and is aged in 100% French oak (40% of that is new). Faust Wines general manager Jen Beloz describes it as having intense dark fruit balanced by soft and silky tannins and bright, fresh acidity that lifts it on the palate. It also shows hints of dark chocolate and dried herbs and a layered, lingering finish.

2016 Domaine Henry Pellé Les Blanchais Menetou-Salon Sauvignon Blanc Magnum ($75)

Sauvignon Blanc is always a crowd-pleasing white, and this one from the Loire Valley is fresh, vibrant, and pairs with anything set out on your holiday spread—as well as with friends and conversation. It’s made from grapes grown on vines that date back to 1996 planted on clay, limestone and flinty soil, all of which give it power and length on the nose and palate. Citrus, vegetal and herbaceousness tones mix with a subtle minerality, and aging on the lees adds body and mouth feel.

Need more inspiration for festive bottles for the holidays? Can’t go wrong with any of the winners of the 2018 NY International Wine Competition!