20 Sparkling Wines to Light Up the Season

By Jeffrey M. Kralik, Ph.D.     www.thedrunkencyclist.com

As promised, I am back this month with my top sparkling wines to help you enjoy the holiday season.

The first step in choosing the right sparkling wine for an event is to assess what kind of party is it? Based on my experience, how much you spend on a wine is inversely proportionate to the amount of people that will likely attend the gathering. Can you tell I had a minor in math? In other words, increase your budget as the size of the event decreases.

A Big Bash (20+ people)

When you attend a bigger event, it is highly likely that once you hand over your bottle to the host, you won’t even see it again, let alone get a chance to taste it. In fact, it is just as likely that it will be used to make some sort of cocktail or some fool will try to saber it – and that fool is usually me – so there is little reason to sacrifice a paycheck in order to impress. There are plenty of really good sparkling wines to be had at $20 and under that will fit the bill.

There are a host of value sparklers from the U.S. that I particularly like, starting with one that comes from New Mexico. I know, not exactly the first area you think of when you hear “wine country.” But the folks at Gruet consistently produce some of the best sparkling wines that you can usually find for under $15. Like others on this list, Gruet was started by a house in Champagne, so they kind of know what they are doing.

My Top Wines Under $20

Gruet Winery Blanc de Noirs (Suggested retail $17, On the shelf ~$12)

Mumm Napa Brut ($25, $15)

Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé ($25, $18)

Domaine Chandon Brut ($25, $17)

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Rosé ($25, $18)

A Healthy Gathering (10-20 people)

Here, I would expand the budget a bit and aim for wines in the $20-$40 range, wines that offer a bit more complexity and interest. As you may have noticed, I did not mention Prosecco above, and that is for a very good reason: I think most Proseccos under twenty bucks are, well, not very good. For the most part, wines that make it to the U.S. from Italy’s most popular region for sparkling wine come from huge industrial producers, and while they are certainly not “bad,” I think much more interesting sparklers come from the smaller, hillier region in Prosecco: wines that carry the “DOCG” designation (without getting to much into it, “DOCG” guarantees a higher quality wine).

One of my absolute favorite Proseccos is Nino Franco’s Rustico, a delightful, slightly nutty wine that is available at most wine stores. It is a family-run business in the town of Valdobbiadene and consistently one of my top-rated wines from the region.

This price range also introduces wines from Champagne (technically, only wines from the region in Northern France can thusly be labelled), and while there are a host of wines available in the $30-$40 range, I would suggest you steer away from both Veuve Clicquot and Moët. Don’t get me wrong. I am not like many other snobby wine writers — I actually like both of them — but the chances are high that someone else will bring one or both, so this is the perfect opportunity to branch out.

My Top Wines $20-$40

Nino Franco Prosecco Superiore Rustico ($30, $21)

Domaine Carneros ($35, $25)

Ferrari Brut ($35, $25)

Roederer Estate Brut Rosé ($36, $25)

Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut ($45, $39)

A More Intimate Dinner Party (4-8 People)

As the crowd thins out, I tend to bring out the “big guns” so to speak, and here the budget is somewhere north of $40 a bottle, and for me, that means champagne. Sure, there are countless sparkling wines from around the world where you can plop down half a hundred or more, but many of those wines, unfortunately, are hard to find or only available at the winery. Not so with champagne.

Simply put, we drink a lot of champagne and to limit my top choices to a handful of names would be a bit silly, but I nonetheless try.

Some Top Sparklers Over $40

Mailly Grand Cru Brut Réserve ($50)

André Clouet Silver ($55)

Gosset Grand Réserve ($60)

Bollinger Special Cuvée ($60)

Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée ($65)

Just The Two Of You

Maybe you are like me, and you save the best for when you are alone with your special someone. I don’t have to go into too much detail here, do I? Again, there are a ton worthy of mention, but here are a few.

A f

ew break the bank wines:

Krug Grande Cuvée ($225)

Piper-Heidsieck Rare ($225)

Dom Pérignon ($175)

Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame ($175)

Domain Carneros Le Rêve ($125)

Cheers to the holidays!