Whether you want to toast the season or ring in the new year, at some point, you'll probably pop a cork in the next few days. I'm no expert but I do know what I like. And what I like lately is pink. When it comes to sparkling wines or beautiful Champagne, I have quite a passion for pink. Not all of my selections are Rose' but quite a few are. Don't let this scare you. These are as delicious as they are beautiful. I know just how intimidating buying anything bubbly can be. With that in mind, here are my top picks for champagne and sparkling wines.
Most are affordable, some are a little pricey.... let your budget and your menu be your guide. Cheers! Happy New Year!
A. Margaine NV Rose’ Brut Champagne: (Non-Vintage) One of my favorites, but perhaps not so easy to find since only 600 or so cases were produced. A very delicious and extremely high quality Rose’. About $49. If you cannot find this one, anything they produce will make you very happy.
Champagne Aubry Brut Premier Cru Jouy-Les-Reims: This is my go-to when I want something special. Perfect for a toast or aperitif. Hint of apple and cocoa. Was delicious with chocolate. Let it warm slightly, don’t serve it too chilled. About $39 and well worth it.
Bailly Lapierre Rose’ Brut Cremant de Bourgogne: Sparkling wines made in the Burgundy region most closely resemble Champagne but can be a much better value. This one is no exception. Made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, this fresh, light-bodied dry sparkling wine with a little hint of strawberry is festive and fun. About $17.
Scharffenberger Mendocino County Brut Made in the traditional Champagne method in California, this bubbly has a slight flavor of vanilla and perhaps a little taste of toast or baked bread and pairs perfectly with rich creamy cheese, and fresh fruits. Made of approximately two-thirds Chardonnay and one-third Pinot Noir. About $24.
Gruet Rose’ Brut: Very cherry or berry in flavor and in color. This rose’ sparkling wine is perfect for brunch or lunch, but it is also a nice opening act for a dinner party or celebration. Gruet is bottled in Albuquerque, New Mexico which is very surprising and so is this wine. Very delicious and affordable at about $16.
Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose’: Delicious with pizza, pasta, grilled salmon and BBQ chicken, this versatile blush pink sparkling wine is perfect for paring with food on a warm summer evening. Serve it well chilled. About $20.
Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs (any vintage is good. I’ve had the 2005 and 2007) This chardonnay based brut (dry) sparkling wine was famously used by President Nixon at the “Toast to Peace” in Beijing, China. Dry and crisp with the noticeable flavors of green apple, lemon, and pineapple. Perfect with shellfish- oysters in particular. Also good with Gouda or other hard cheese. About $36
Casteller Cava Brut: From the Iberia region of Spain, this Cava, or Spanish sparkling wine is fresh and crisp; it is best to drink it well chilled. You’ll taste a hint of strawberry so it is perfect to blend with juice for a Mimosa and wonderful with Manchego or other Spanish cheese. Very drinkable, very affordable. About $12.
Freixenet Brut de Noirs: This Cava is just perfect if you only want to serve one type of sparkling wine for a large party. It’s very affordable, completely drinkable, and has a beautiful salmon-pink color and subtle vanilla aroma. A great bargain at $10.
NV Mionetto “Luxury Collection” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore: Crisp apple notes and soft pear undertones make this Prosecco one you can serve with just about anything. Easy to find and very well priced at $19 per bottle. Food & Wine's Ray Isle had this one on his 2014 list of favorite sparkling wines so you can bank on it.
Pizzolato Fields Prosecco Brut: I love Prosecco and have rarely tried one I did not like. This one is from Whole Foods, so I know you can find it. It’s from the Veneto region of Italy from 100% certified organic grapes. You’ll taste some light, fruity flavors of peach, maybe lemon along with a little honey. This is nice for a late, lazy afternoon, as an aperitif, or with brunch mixed with any fruit juice. Refreshing, not overly sweet, and a bargain at $12.
Reginato CJR Celestina Rose of Malbec: I fell in love with Argentina many years ago but have never really cared much for the sparkling wines… until this one. Made in Mendoza, the wine making region of Argentina, this sparkling Malbec is almost cherry in color and taste. It’s dry but fresh and totally delicious. I found it at Central Market in Dallas but it may be difficult to find. Grab a case if you do. About $18.
The very best way to buy sparkling wine or Champagne is to try them at a tasting and make notes about what you liked so you can reference them later. I was lucky enough to attend a tasting with Ray Isle from Food & Wine magazine where we sampled about 20 different wines in an afternoon. Local wine stores, Whole Foods, culinary schools, and cooking events will often have tastings hosted by experts. Look for the events in the paper or search online. It's a fun time- a great way to spend the afternoon.
One of my favorite ways to serve bubbles is to set up a tasting table with an assortment of fruit, cheese, and crackers. Let guests graze and sample and ask them to write down their tasting notes on a card for each bottle sampled. After an hour or so, read the winemaker notes and compare to the guests' comments.