Best Bubbles for a Party
The holidays have arrived and if that means one thing, it’s that extra bubbles must be on hand. I’m a proponent of bubbles all day, every day, but for may, special occasions mark the opening of a bottle of sparkling wine. From Champagne to Prosecco and everything in between, here are my picks for the best bubbles for your next cocktail party.
Proper Champagne is the classic choice. It’s finesse, creaminess, brioche notes, and of course, fine effervesce means it never goes out of style. It’s made from three different grapes—Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier—which can be a blend of the trio or made from a single variety. A Blanc de Blancs, made from 100 percent Chardonnay, is often the most impressive. The drawback to Champagne, though, is that it’s also the most expensive option. Bottles of non-vintage Champagne, meaning the wine is a blend of multiple different harvests, range from $40 to $80 on average, and vintage champagne, especially from renowned years, typically cost at least $100. More often, it’s a few hundred you’ll shell out. Still, options exist. Many wine shops are likely to give you a case discount, especially on non-vintage bottlings from popular houses like Moet et Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, and Taittinger, while magnums are often deals for pouring for large groups. Though they are double the volume, they are not necessarily double the price.
I sincerely believe that Cremant is a sleeper hit among sparkling wines. Cremant, which you may not have heard of, is a sparkling wine from France made in exactly the same style as Champagne, often from neighboring areas and of the same three grapes. It is essentially the same beverage, but because it’s not made in Champagne, it cannot be called Champagne. That also means it’s about half the price, with fantastic bottles, like Lucian Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace hovering around $18 a bottle, and one of my favorites, Domaine Andre & Mireille Tissot Cremant du Jura coming in at $25.
I probably don’t need to tell you that Prosecco is likely the least expensive option for serving bubbles. I’ll admit I love the impressiveness of the magnum of Mionetto Rose Prosecco (yes, that exists, and it’s about $20 for the mag!). But it’s also obvious to your guests you spent less when they see Prosecco on the label versus Champagne. If you think your guests won’t notice, go for it. Plenty of people don’t know how to differentiate it from actual Champagne. If you’re serving to a savvy crowd, however, look for higher end Prosecco bottlings, such as something from the Cartizze vineyard (a hilltop vineyard considered to be the grand cru of Prosecco), or those with lower residual sugar. One common complaint about Italian bubbles if that they often register as sweeter than other sparklers.
American Sparkling Wine
Another option for sparkling wine is to go the local route and serve bubbles made in the U.S. California has some fantastic options, especially from the Sonoma area, like J Vineyards, Schramsberg, and Roederer Estate, the latter of which is actually owned by the Champagne house Louis Roederer. Every state in the U.S. makes wine, so no matter where you are, I’ll bet there’s a local winery making some bubbles. Just be sure to taste before you buy—just because every state makes wine, doesn’t mean every winery is going to be top-notch.
If you have a nerdy wine group coming over, this could be a fun twist on traditional bubbles. A style that originally hails from France, Petillant is a quirky, slightly sparkling wine. The rustic style is based on an ancient way of making sparkling wine in which the grape juice is bottled before the primary fermentation. It results in an unfiltered, low-in-alcohol beverage that offers earthy flavors. If you’re curious to try, my go-to is Channing Daughters Bianco Petillant Naturel ($28).