Sparkling Wine (Inexpensive) for the Holidays


The Holidays are the time for Champagne and sparkling wine. What better way to ring in the New Year! And what incredible choices you have. In France alone there is Champagne, of course, but also another 38 regions producing sparkling wines in the Loire, Burgundy, Alsace, and elsewhere. Italy makes Prosecco and Asti Spumante. Spain produces Cava. In the US, excellent sparkling wines are made in California, New Mexico, and Virginia. Canada even makes really exotic sparkling icewine. And we’ve tasted excellent sparklers from Australia, New Zealand, Greece, and South Africa.

So with all these options, how do you make a choice? Most people look at price and quality in choosing their sparking wine. We’ve selected what we think are sparklers of excellent value and then organized our recommendations by price level: Inexpensive [under $10], Moderately Priced [under $30], and Luxury Cuvées [above $30]. Within each of these price categories there are also stylistic differences that will further help you select the sparkler you want to purchase. Since most people like their sparkling wine quite dry, we’ve limited our recommendations to mostly very dry Bruts. Also, if your tastes run to rosé sparklers, we have recommendations for those, too.

To keep our recommendations and your reading of manageable size, we are doing a three part posting, organized by Inexpensive, Moderately Priced, and Luxury Cuvées of sparkling wines.

Inexpensive. There are lots of cheap sparkling wines out there but not many we can recommend. We suggest you stick to Spanish Cavas, Italian Prosecco and Asti, and American Sparklers. Many of these wines are non-vintage or produced in a way that minimizes year-to-year variations in quality. Most have a lovely mousse with good fruit flavors and are lively and crisp. Spanish Cava mostly comes from Catalonia and is made with Spanish varietals. Some widely distributed Cavas we recommend are Conde de Subirats NV Brut Cava ($13), U Mes u Fan Tres NV 1+1+3 ($16) and the Cristalino Brut Cava ($9). Italian Prosecco is made from the Prosecco grape grown just north of Venice. We recommend Bisol, Canella and Zardetto. Asti comes from the Piedmont, and we like those spritzy wines made by Cinzano Moscato d’Asti. Finally, if you wish to buy American, we would especially recommend the sparkling wines of Gruet, which come from, of all places, New Mexico! Look for the Gruet Demi-Sec ($14) if you prefer an off-dry wine.

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