Choosing the Right Sparkling Wine for the Holidays – Barron’s

Choosing the Right Sparkling Wine for the Holidays – Barron’s

The holiday season is the perfect time for festive bubbles in the glass. But with all the options out there, which sparklers are the best to choose? 

For premier wine, the answer is Champagne. Yet, wine drinkers can find excellent bubbles made throughout the world, and Champagne itself yields a range of producers and styles. 

a master of wine and “chief wine officer” at retailer Wine Access in Napa, Calif., advises thinking first about when and where you will be enjoying a sparkling wine, and what style of bubbles are desired. 

The “when” question is important because the very best Champagnes are produced in specific vintage years and are meant to be tucked in a cellar to mature and develop layers of flavor. 

“If someone is going to open it tonight, or at a holiday party in two weeks, you don’t have to buy a vintage Champagne—those are intended to be able to age, mature, and get better and more complex over time,” Conlin says. Non-vintage Champagnes, however, are created from blending juice from grapes picked across several vintage years with the goal of creating a consistent, reliable drink. 

“A vintage Champagne can be delicious, but also in their youth, they may not be as enjoyable as a multi-vintage, because they aren’t meant to show everything right away,” Conlin says. 

To Drink or Not to Drink

The “where” question gets to whether the bottle will be opened at a cocktail party, where glasses of sparkling wine are passed around along with hors d’oeuvres, or at a celebratory meal, where a wine can be savored and enjoyed with food. 

For a cocktail party, the best bottles are approachable, ready-to-drink, and not incredibly costly. 

Options could include wines that are made in the same way as Champagne, but are produced in other regions of France or in other countries.

Champagne is made by the so-called “traditional method,” which means it is fermented twice—first in a stainless steel tank or sometimes in an oak barrel, and secondly, in the bottle. During bottle fermentation, the wine ferments on the lees, or dead yeast cells, which gives it a toasty, biscuity flavor, and a silky touch. 

Crémant de Loire and Crémant de Bourgogne—sparklers made in the Loire Valley and in Burgundy, respectively—are also produced in the traditional method, but typically can be found at far less expensive price levels.

An example is Langlois-Chateau
de Loire
Brut, which sells for about US$20-US$25 a bottle and is owned by Champagne Bollinger, a top-notch house.

“It’s such a great value,” Conlin says. “It’s not from the region Champagne, so you are not paying for the branding of that region, but it has the investment and quality of this very prestige Champagne house behind it.” And for a party, she notes, hosts can “pop it by the case and it’s still pretty affordable.” 

Other regions making traditional-method sparklers that are worth exploring include Australia’s Tasmania state, and even areas in the U.K., she says, pointing out sparklers from Bride Valley Vineyard in Dorset, …….