Pop! Go The Bubbles: What To Pour For Your Most Sparkly Occasions

Whether it’s New Years Eve, Valentine’s Day, Easter brunch – or any festive holiday – sparkling wines are a wonderful way to celebrate. In fact, a good bubbly can turn even a regular ol’ Wednesday night into a special occasion.

So go on, indulge a little! This list features fizzies from $15 and up, so no matter what your budget, you’re sure to find something to sip.

La Marca Prosecco

La Marca Prosecco: ($15) Prosecco is to Italy as Crémant is to France. Except not exactly. But kinda. Sound confusing? I’ll make it easy: Just pick up a bottle of these bubbles – soft mousse, a little sweeter than traditional Champagne, with flavors of apple and honeysuckle and maybe the slightest bit of brioche. In fact, pick up two bottles, especially if you’re lucky enough to find this stuff for $11 or $12 (which you can, and I have). The pretty blue label makes it perfect for bridal and baby showers. The price makes it perfect for all of those little life celebrations, like birthdays, anniversaries, Saturday night… (100% Glera)

 

 

Von Buhl Riesling Sekt Brut

Von Buhl Riesling Sekt Brut: ($22) In case it isn’t immediately obvious, this sparkler hails from Germany. Wait, what? Yep. Deutschland is actually known for more than beer and clunky, communist architecture; in fact, there was a time when the country rivaled France as producers of the world’s most wonderful wein. If that comes as a shock, you might be equally surprised to learn that its most famous grape – Riesling – is responsible for far more than syrupy sweet Blue Nun. There are Riesling wines across the entire spectrum of sweetness levels. The one I reference here is actually bone-dry, with lots of bright, mouth-watering acidity. Although this is a vintage bubbly, it’s standard to find lots of stony minerality in the Rieslings from this region, as well as varying levels of apricot and citrus and right-out-of-the-oven baked bread. In general, this sparkler presents as light, lively and should be pretty much guaranteed to start conversations with less wine-savvy neophytes and to win major points with your more geeky companions. (100% Riesling)

 

J Brut Rose, Russian River Valley

NV J Brut Rosé, Russian River Valley: ($28) This soft pink bubbly out of Sonoma starts with an essence of strawberry seed and fizzes over the tongue with candied strawberry fruit, a bit of mineral and some citrus. The mousse is firm and frothy, there’s a peppy acidity, and the whole thing ends in a slow finish that almost seems too elegant for something so fun. (56% Pinot Noir, 44% Chardonnay)

 

 

 

 

 

Lanson Brut Black Label

Lanson Black Label Brut NV: ($30) My first experience with Lanson was at a super swanky wine tasting, where they were pouring over twenty Grand Marques Champagnes (that’s French for really fancy sparkling wine). I’d sipped Krug and Cristal, Pommery, Perrier-Jouet, Piper Heidsieck and Pol Roger, but I have a very clear memory of stopping dead in my tracks when I tasted the Lanson. The house style at Lanson Pere et Fils is tight, and I don’t mean that in the same way the kids today do. Unlike most bubblies, Lanson does not put their wines through malolactic fermentation, which means, simply, they’re very high in acid. These are great Champagnes to cellar, but the fresh green apple and citrus is so vibrant and refreshing, the bubbles so festive, the yeasty finish so long, that – provided you enjoy the style – there’s plenty of reason to just pop and pour. (35% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier)

 

Champagne Thienot Brut

NV Champagne Thienot Brut:($40) From a very old wine-producing region comes a very new Champagne house – Champagne Thienot. Yet despite being the new kid on the block at just 25 years young, their non-vintage blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier gives many of the competing, established sparklers a run for the money, especially in terms of QPR. Creamy and elegant with consistent, a delicate bead, this has flavors of peach and apple and a touch of toast. While the finish doesn’t go on forever, at that price, what you sacrifice in terms of length, you make up for in ability to actually afford a bottle (or two) in the first place (quite rare for quality Champagne). Group Thienot also owns the Grand Marques Champagne houses Laurent-Perrier (another personal favorite) and Canard-Duchêne.

 

NV Pierre Peters, Champagne Cuveé de Réserve Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs

NV Pierre Peters, Cuveé de Réserve Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Cru: ($50) Mineral and grapefruit and apples and yeasty biscuits and a million tiny bubbles that go on forever. Pierre Peters is a “grower Champagne” estate, which means they grow and make their own juice, unlike many of the region’s bigger houses, which sometimes source fruit from all over the area. They’re a family-run production from the early 1900s, and as far as I can tell, there hasn’t been a bad bottle since they started. OK, that’s probably an exaggeration, but these Champagnes – made with Grand Cru grapes – are light and crisp, focused and bursting with bright acidity. Every wine geek I know is mad for them. $50 is an indulgence, but these chalky, light-golden sparklers, with slight hints of mushroom and a dry, elegant finish, are just the thing when you’re looking to take it to the next level. (100% Chardonnay)

 

NV Camille Savès Champagne Brut Grand Cru Rosé

NV Camille Savès Champagne Brut Grand Cru Rosé: ($60) I recently read a review that said this Camille Savès is the perfect thing to pour for non-Champagne drinkers, because it’s such a universal crowd pleaser. That’s probably true, but this robust, red-fruit-and-sour-cherry delight, with soft bead and hints of mineral and zesty acid, is so fruity and so fun to drink, it almost seems like a shame to share it with anyone but your closest, most Champagne-loving friends. (60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir)

 

 

 

 

Bollinger Brut Rose

NV Bollinger Brut Rosé: ($90) At a recent tasting, I sniffed this and immediately thought of French toast with strawberry jam. The brioche and berry carry across the palate, with the addition of cherry and raspberry and a hint of nuttiness on the back end. This is a full, round rosé, with good acidity, soft mousse and a wonderfully long, dry finish. It’s unbelievably precise for a non-vintage Champagne. The Bolli Rosé is a treat, and goes down almost too easily – a $90 decadence, gone in an instant. But carpe diem, as they say…

 

 

 

Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Rosé

Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Rosé: ($100) One of the magical properties of wine is that it can transform itself to fit the environment in which it’s being enjoyed. For example, if you ask Miles about the ~ $3000 1961 Château Cheval Blanc he gulped (along with his pride), out of a paper cup at a burger joint, the swigging, sullen Sideways character probably wouldn’t give it a very high score. But I have personal memories of sitting on a dorm room floor, drinking the finest bottle of $5 plonk in my price range, basking in the love of good friends and laughing ’til dawn. I challenge any bottle on earth to taste as good. My first experience with Egly-Ouriet happened under similar cicumstances: It was my birthday, and my best friend and I had finished an incredible dinner at one of Chicago’s top restaurants. We were ending the evening at a Champagne bar, and as a fire popped and hissed in the fireplace behind us, we gossiped and giggled our way through an entire bottle of this. Is this sparkler, with flavors of rose and red fruit and bits of spice and mineral, really that good – or was it the experience that was so delicious? Treat yourself to this distinctive grower Champagne, and see for yourself… (60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and Ambonnay Rouge)

 

Ruinart Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blanc

Dom Ruinart Blanc De Blanc: ($150+) Ruinart is the “first established Champagne house.” And although no one was intentionally producing sparkling wines way back in 1729, rumor has it that this is where the cork started to pop, so to speak. These vintage Champagnes, produced with 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay grapes, are delicious young, but have the potential to get even better with age. Typically, these wines show amazing depth, with unfolding flavors of honey and orchard fruit, cashew nuts and brioche (although each vintage shows its own colors). The mousse is typically soft and creamy, with firm acid and the kind of finish that leaves you smiling for days.

No matter what you pour to celebrate your sweetest occasions, here’s a toast to many, many more…

Cheers!

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes

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