Ringing in the New Year wouldn’t be complete without a kiss and a proper Champagne toast.
Nothing agonizes wine writers like New Year’s: It’s the one time of year most Americans are likely to try something bubbly, and it’s also the one time they’re likely to try something awful—and spend the whole of the next year believing that sparkling wine is terrible. Not so! There’s a reason why Champagne costs what it does; sparkling wine is the world’s most reliably excellent wine. That said, what if you want a guaranteed sure thing this New Year’s but don’t want to pay an arm and a leg? Here are my picks for good, affordable, widely distributed bubblies that will leave you excited about sparkling wine all through 2013.
Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava, around $7
Cava is the Spanish way of making sparkling wine, typically made from the Spanish varieties of macabeu, parellada and xarello. These grapes come together to make something dry, lemony tart and a little mushroomy—with the bonus of being dozens of times better than the cheapest bubblies made from the more usual French wine grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Jaume Serra Cristalino is widely available, very economical and appealingly crisp.
Tiamo Prosecco, around $20
The Italian sparkling wine Prosecco gets more popular in the United States every year, because it’s so tasty and refreshing. For a step up in quality, search out a smaller producer, like Tiamo, which has pretty notes of pear and lemon.
Mumm Cuvée Napa Brut Blanc de Noirs, around $19
The California outpost of the venerable French Champagne house makes some of the most delicious and affordable sparklers available in the U.S. The Blanc de Noirs is particularly appealing; made from mainly Pinot Noir grapes, it has a fleshier quality than other bubblies, and is a great pick for the red wine-loving budget-hunter.
Schramsberg Mirabelle, around $16
The affordable non-vintage offering of California’s most historic sparkling-wine house, Schramsberg Mirabelle, is just a delight. Crisp and apple-y, dry but balanced, it tends to retail for about $16 and will change your impression of affordable domestic sparkling wine forever.
Gosset “Brut Excellence” Champagne, around $35
You say you want to splurge? Well then how about some real-deal Champagne from a serious Champagne house operating since 1584? Splash out for the good stuff and you’ll be rewarded with the brilliantly crisp structure that real Champagne is famous for, as well as pear and pastry depths, and aromas of croissant and orange blossom.