I have a good New Year’s resolution for of you wine loving people out there. Drink more bubbles in 2018. That’s it. Enjoy bubbles more often starting at midnight on NYE and carry it forward all through the year.
What I can tell you is that there are too many people out there drinking substandard or the WRONG bubbles for them and the result is simple…….they don’t have a great experience and in turn they think they don’t like sparkling wine. What I can assure you is all of us in the industry adore bubbles. Yes, please.
The good news is that if your price range is $12 to $120 there is a ton of great quality from around the world that will give that great experience and can ignite a passion for sparkling wine that can last a lifetime.
First and most importantly not all bubbles are even remotely the same. To get something you like you do need to know a bit about what you are looking for and it can be complicated. I’m going to help you with that here. The goal isn’t to make you an expert today. There are plenty of other resources for that. My goal is to get you a bottle in your hands that you will love on NYE and give you that BAM moment.
Let’s break this down as quickly and easily as possible. With bubbles there is very dry to very sweet. Decide your preference. If you want sweet then you might want to look for either sparkling Moscato or Asti Spumante at the value end, Brachetto d’Acqui in the middle or Demi-Sec in Champagne on the high end These will be wines with nice residual sugar. Some recommendations below.
Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato. This brand is easy to find and very affordable but really in the bang for your buck this one will please. $8
Martini & Rossi Asti. Again, readily available but highly credible. Made in Italy from Moscato. It is fruity with light flavors of peach and apricot. $13
Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui. A very under appreciated style but a gorgeous cranberry colored wine with aromas and flavors of raspberries and strawberries. Made from 100% Brachetto what I love about this wine is it has a decent amount of acidity to help balance the sweetness. Love it with chocolate. $19.
Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec. If you want to go all out or you need to impress (going to future in laws) for the festivities you might check out Champagne in a sweet style. At 32 to 50 grams of residual sugar per liter this will hit the spot. So the big difference is that these are made with the secondary fermentation in the bottle which means that it ends up sitting on the dead yeast for years developing complexity of vanilla and baked bread but also in a richer texture. Look for peach, baked pear aromas. $55
If you want dry or relatively dry then it is really much easier for you because the most common styles we see in the U.S. are Brut and Extra Dry. Let’s straighten one thing out really quick. Brut is drier than Extra Dry. I know…Extra Dry should mean like really dry but it just doesn’t. If you like dry then grab Brut, if you think you like dry but really kinda don’t like it too dry then Extra Dry might be your thing. The other major consideration here is do you like your bubbles with an undertone of bread, yeast, and maybe a little funk to it or do you prefer a clean, crisp style? The major consideration here is if the wine completes the secondary fermentation in the bottle or not. They are labeled as such as Methode Traditional or Methode Champenoise. Wines made this way, like true Champagne (you know made in that specific area in France), have a distinctive quality to them that gives them a bready, yeasty, funky flavor that can be very strong for some people. I personally think it is the thing many people don’t like about Champagne and are turned off by it. The other method of production completes the process in stainless steel tanks but like in the case of Prosecco it isn’t necessarily a short cut it is because the fruit itself is too delicate to make it through all that time resting on the lees (dead yeast) in the bottle. These wines are meant to be fruit forward. That doesn’t mean they can’t be dry. They are more delicate and you won’t get that lovely funky nose and creamy texture you get from bubbles that spend years aging on their lees.
So if you decided that dry to dry-ish that focuses on the fruit and not on nutty, bread/biscuit and yeast flavors then see the below recommendations:
LaMarca Prosecco: This is a staple recommendation always. They are the top of the food chain when it comes to quality Prosecco. Beautiful packaging in the Tiffany blue, readily available at every smart retailer, priced very fairly and ALSO just excellent quality. It was the first Prosecco to ever make the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list. Produced in Italy. Its flavors are fresh and clean of citrus, green apple and has a light, refreshing finish. Everywhere for $12. Also comes in cute 187 ml bottles.
If you decided that dry to dry-ish with added complexity and texture of nuts, bread, yeast is your thing then see the below recommendations:
J Winery NV Cuvee 20 Brut: Made in Sonoma but made in the traditional way this is a great choice from something domestic, very high quality but not hitting French prices. It is crisp and clean with toasted almonds and zesty lemon and pear. I love the acidity on this wine. About $29
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut or Rose NV: Both are delicious choices and the quality is really excellent. It feels like such a bargain for French. The industry insiders have come to just call it Nicky Foo because too many people butcher the pronunciation but if you must….Nicolas FOO Yacht. If you know my wife ask her about meeting Nick Foo sometime. Good Story. Anyway, both delicious at about $40
Veuve Cliquot NV Brut: You really can’t go wrong with Yellow label. It has been the standard from sometime for good reason. It is one of the more powerful styles because they use more Pinot Noir in their blend and less Chardonnay. If you need the sure thing, to impress, then this is a no brainer and will set you back about $55.
Taittinger La Francaise NV: I sold this one for years and have always loved it. This house is really the opposite in style to Veuve Cliquot. They brag a high percentage of Chardonnay from highly rated vineyards and the result is a lighter style with more green apple and toasted nuts. It is quite delicious. It is usually a few bucks less that Veuve but not less of a wine. Probably undervalued at $45. Every bottle you buy helps a buddy of mine, Keith Paden.
Louis Roederer NV Brut Premier: Vibrant, elegant, floral, apple, mineral, warm bread, toast. Still a family owned operation making brilliant wines. A little less likely to find it as the other above but if taking the road less traveled is your thing then walk on my friend….walk on. Definitely worth every penny at $50.
Lastly, a quick line or three on serving. First, serve it very cold. Chill it in the Fridge and then put the bottle in an ice bucket. Use a combination of ice and water to get and keep cold. Second, I’m big on just using a good quality white wine glass and foregoing the champagne flute. Last, open carefully. The general idea is to remove the foil but only loosen the cage. You don’t need to remove it. Put a cloth napkin or towel over the cork, mostly for grip. Hold the cork tightly with one hand and the bottle in the other. Turn the bottle, the cork and ease it out. The correct technique is ease it out and let the gas out slowly, like a sigh. Think up a beautiful, meaningful toast to offer your friends and family and look each person in the eye as you touch their glass to yours. Always a beautiful moment. Oh……it isn’t cool to toast and then NOT drink so take a sip before you put your glass down.
Have fun shopping and Happy New Year.