Curious on how to find a good bottle of bubbly for friends, family, neighbors for the holidays? Our Serious Foodie Gift Guide to Sparkling Wines is your primer to start shopping for the best bargains in bubbly. And check out our suggestions for sparkling wine cocktails below.
Real champagne is a rare delight, produced only in the Champagne region of France – limited supply and availability usually means high prices, and that’s mostly the case for good champagne. But champagne is universally hailed as the greatest sparkling wine in the world. There is a wide range of styles tastes, running from dry (brut) to mildly sweet (demi-sec) to very sweet (doux).
Forget the bargain champagnes – go to the other parts of the world for cheaper sparkles. But there are reasonably priced versions: look for Bollinger Special Cuvee ($45) and NV Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Réserve Particulière ($36). If you want to splurge, go for Salon Blanc de Blanc ($230 to $400, depending on the vintage), Louis Roderer Cristal (the hip-hop generation wine, but still excellent; $220 to $260, depending on vintage), and Moët & Chandon Dom Perignon ($160 to $250, depending on vintage). Liquor.com has a nice article on the bargain French champagnes, listing their top ten.
The United States has some very nice Champagne alternatives, with the state-side sparkling wines made primarily from the same grapes as in Champagne. These are typically much less expensive than the French versions, and can be equally as good. Though not the same as Champagne, many are good in their own right. High on our list are the sparkling wines from Domaine Carneros founded by the Taittinger family of Champagne. Try the Domaine Carneros Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs ($80 to $95, depending on vintage). The Laetitia sparkling wines ($25 to $35) can be purchased directly from their website. A stunning wine, but a bit hard to find, is the Sea Smoke Sea Spray – Total Wine has carried it in some regions.
Another fantastic product is from Schramsberg; they also have the delightful but less complex Schramsberg Brut Rosé ($25 to $45, depending on the store). You can find some bargains with the reasonably priced Gloria Ferrer Brut or Blanc du Blanc ($22 to $25) and Mumm Brut Cordon Rouge ($35) is pretty good, especially at less than $20.
Most folks have come across one form or another of the Italian sparkling wines. There are five major types of sparkling wines from Italy which include Prosecco, Lambrusco, Franciacorta, Asti Spumante, and all the rest. Get to know sparkling Italian wine – they have lots of character, and different versions can work with different people. Prosecco does taste slightly sweeter than traditional champagnes, but you can find inexpensive versions having complexity. Look for La Marca Extra Dry Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene NV ($12 to $15), Bellenda Brut ($20), and Collalto Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Extra Dry NV ($15).
Franciacorta is a higher end sparkling wine, made much like champagne, using Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay grapes. One of the best is Berlucchi Brut Franciacorta Casa delle Colonne ($70 to $85). Asti Spumante is the fully sparkling version of Moscato d’Asti, which is the lightly bubbly version. There are many great Moscato d’Asti in the US market. Moscato is a lovely, simple after-dinner drink option, working well with chocolate desserts. Another favorite dessert sparkling wine is Brachetto – it’s prominent raspberry notes also make it perfect with chocolate.
Sparkling Wines From the Rest of the World
There are a surprising number of quality sparkling wines from all over the world, including Spain, Portugal, Australia, and New Zealand. How about South Africa? Look for Weltevrede, an outstanding Blanc de Blanc for less than $30. How about the slightly exotic Portuguese sparkling white wine – Herdade do Esporão 2010 Sparkling White Wine Alentejo. Our favorite Cava is Raventós i Blanc 2009 de Nit. This is an upper tier wine – making it a bargain at less than $30. We were very impressed, and surprised with the sparkling wines from New Zealand because we were so surprised. Look for Lindauer Special Reserve Blanc de Blancs NV ($20), Quartz Reef NV Methode Traditionelle ($30), and Osawa Prestige Collection Méthode Traditionelle NV ($40).
Sparkling Wine Cocktails
A great gift idea is to provide all the ingredients to one or more of these cocktails. We came across an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal on December 13, 2014, with a list of very fun cocktail recipes. There were 12 recipes – our favorite was Sleepyhead:
- Combine ice with 1 1/2 ounces of Armagnac, 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice, 1/2 ounce ginger syrup, and 1/2 ounce simple syrup in a cocktail shaker
- Shake and strain into a flute, and top with sparkling wine.
The one cocktail everyone associates with Prosecco is the Bellini.
- Mix 2 ounces of peach puree and 1 ounce of peach liquor in a flute.
- Add 3 ounces of Prosecco.
There are many variations of the Bellini, using different fruits and fruit combinations. Take a look at the recipes done by Giada De Laurentiis on the FoodNetwork.com website (click HERE).
How about the refreshing Rouge 75 recipe found on Food and Wine:
- In a cocktail shaker, muddle 1 orange twist, 2 raspberries, and 1 ounce of simple syrup. Add ice and 1 1/2 ounces of gin; shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with the Champagne and garnish with the twist.
See the full list of champagne cocktails at the Food and Wine website (click HERE).