While many people squirrel away sparkling wines for special occasions, we tend to live by the mantra that anytime is a good time to celebrate with a bottle of bubbly. Thankfully, the rest of the world shares our enthusiasm around this time of the year. We've been hard at work popping bottle after bottle to discover downright delicious sparkling wines (for any budget!) to enjoy on New Year's Eve — or, of course, any time of the year. Click through to see them all — and share your sips with us. What'll you be drinking come Dec. 31?
Today's bottle comes from Northern California's Chandon Winery, a proud maker of an exceptional sparkling red ($30). This Pinot Noir and Zinfandel blend is currently exclusively available at the winery, making a visit to the gorgeous Yountville location all the more enticing, and here's why.
This peachy wine is floral on the nose with a slight whiff of ripe berries, like a flower-flavored Perrier sans the sugar. On the tongue, rose, jasmine, and vanilla followed; a mouth-puckering finish helped those dry flavors to linger on the tongue. We'd likely pair this wine with a dozen shucked oysters, dressed in freshly squeezed lemon, and light antipasti before dinner. No wonder this wine quickly disappeared among our tasters.
When one of country's top sommeliers invites you to a tasting of little-known Champagnes, how do you say no? That's the predicament I found myself in yesterday, when Eugenio Jardim, wine director of Jardinière, invited us to join a tasting with Champagne importer Esprit de Champagne. Thankfully, I had no reason not to accept.Photo: Susannah Chen
Although certain brands, like Moët & Chandon or Perrier-Jouët, are prevalent in America, there are thousands of wines from the region of Champagne that have never made their way stateside. Wine importer and Esprit de Champagne founder Neil Michael Dixon saw this gap and, in an effort to bring high-quality labels to the United States, spent years honing relationships with growers across the region. "It was quite a lot of hard work," Neil said of getting his foot in the (famously tight) Champagne door. There, most business is conducted locally, and many excellent producers don't even ship to other parts of the country, like the South of France.Photo: Anna Monette Roberts
One prime example of this is Eric Isselée, a domaine out of the village of Cramant that produces a style of Champagne that's starkly different from what's available on shelves now. The 2009 Cuvée des Grappes d'Or Blancs de Blancs ($35) is more creamy than crisp, thanks to a secondary process of malolactic fermentation. Rather than the yeast-tinged bouquet that so many classic French Champagnes offer, this bottle possesses a certain quality that can only be described as a deep earthiness, followed by a minerally, almost salty finish. Since it's currently sold only at a handful of retail stores and restaurants on the West Coast, this vintage Champagne is still relatively scarce. If you see a bottle of this, hop on it.
We're loving Australian wines lately, especially light, sweet whites, so it only makes sense that the Jacob's Creek Sparkling Moscato ($13) would be an instant Summer favorite. The delicate, light flavor reflects the nonvintage bubbly's relatively low alcohol content, but we think this is a good thing, especially for daytime picnics, boat rides, or trips to the beach.
While some sparkling enthusiasts might prefer something stronger with a fermented bite, those just looking to casually pop the cork on a checkered picnic blanket will appreciate the honeysuckle sweetness of this sparkling Moscato. Its zesty, lemon-lime flavors dance with a bubbly effervescence, making it a crisp adult version of Sprite. Smoked salmon, fresh burrata, and crusty baguettes are just a few things we would pair effortlessly with this sublime sparkling Australian wine.
The Jalisco Flower is a combination of ruby red grapefruit juice and sparkling wine — with a bit of tequila and St-Germain added in to throw your taste buds for a loop. Tart tequila pairs well with the sweet-sour grapefruit juice, while the elderflower liqueur adds complex floral notes and softens the spirit's aggressiveness.
For a delicious new fizzy beverage, read more.
In this YumSugarTV special, Jeff Porter, wine director of LA's Osteria Mozza, offers some of the best bubbly suggestions for any celebration. Keep watching to find out what affordable choices there are in the world of sparkling wines and his favorite picks for bubbly from Italy.
When you're celebrating the onset of 2012 tomorrow night, don't fall short on chilled bubbly. If you've got a warm bottle of Champagne and very little time to make it cold, we've got a fast solution for you.
Place your sparkler into an ice bucket or another tall plastic container. Add ice to the bottom and sprinkle the layer with a few tablespoons of salt. Continue to repeat layering ice and salt until the combination reaches the neck of your bottle; add cold water until it reaches ice level.
In a mere ten minutes, your bottle will be chilled. This method of chilling works much faster than simply sitting the bubbly in ice. Adding water increases the chilly surface area, and salt speeds the drop in water temperature (along with ice), making your sparkling wine frigid much faster. Have your own secret tip for chilling Champagne? If so, we'd love to hear about it!
Although I love the classic bellini, it's fun to jazz it up. One way I like to do that is with the addition of herbs. Muddle fresh aromatic herbs, like basil, cilantro, or thyme, with the pureed peaches. Add ice, shake, and strain the mixture into a Champagne flute. Top with bubbly and you've got a refreshing, earthy take on the bellini. Keep reading for the recipe.
This Italian bottling isn't nearly as sweet (nor has the same intensity) as its Yellow Tail counterpart. Rather, it greets you with a light perfume of honeyed stone fruits and lots of effervescence. The finish, which is more off-dry than an extra dry sparkling wine, but not quite as sweet as Moscato d'Asti, isn't overly saccharine.
Presto Moscato Dolce's perfect for sipping solo, although I can't wait to try this at an outdoor concert, accompanied by brie, bread, and Summer fruit. Given that it's available nationwide at Whole Foods for around $10, I'm sure I'll be giving it another whirl soon. What's your favorite picnic wine?