Champagne is, of course, the traditional toast to the New Year. And, as most of us know, it is the sparkling beverage that comes from the French wine-growing region of Champagne, and has influenced all other sparkling wines made in the method of champagne or ‘methode Champenoise’.
Other bubbly drinks come in different variations, such as Cremant from France, Prosecco from Italy andCava from Spain. In my opinion, sparkling wine of any kind, with its bubbles of fun and promises of good things to come, is perfect for any day and pairs well with many soft cheeses as well as smoked fish and grilled seafood.
The drawback of sparkling wines is that they really are not good the second day. No matter how many people claim that putting a spoon in place of the cork preserves the bubbles, it just isn’t the same. I have no problem sharing a bottle over the course of an evening, but that’s not for everyone — especially those who want to get a couple days out of a decent bottle of wine. Although good sparkling wine or champagne can be expensive, there are many very solid California sparklers that are offshoots of their prestigious French champagne house cousins, such as Mumm Cuvee Napa and Domaine Chandon, but the truth is that true champagnes are an investment.
If you must go domestic, choose Roederer California Estate NV Brut at about $20. The NV stands fornon-vintage, which is common in champagnes and sparkling wines as they combine wines from several vintages to get the best blend. It’s a perfect bubbly for the price with balanced yeast and mineral undertones (sought out in good champagne )and carries the requisite bubbles to make it festive! Vintage champagne is notably much more expensive and really a splurge, so the Roederer with its notes of green apple and pear, is a creamy, delicious sparkler for a fair price.
A good selection with fair prices can also be found at such chains as Costco, Trader Joe’s, Bev Mo andTotal Wine. Costco offers its own champagne, under the Kirkland brand, for under $20. This is a steal for champagne and the Kirkland bubbly is without doubt made by a well-known champagne house because they because they just have that kind of buying power, however, the wine consultant (or “Wine Geek” as his name tag noted) could not tell me which one. Most likely that is because he didn’t know—and it is a well-kept secret. This champagne is made from Pinot Noir grapes, is pink in color for an ultra-feminine look. It’s a little bit more expensive but stands as my favorite bubbly for its aromas and fuller body. At Costco, the $25 Kirkland Brut Rose is positioned right next to the $36 Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rose and they are almost identical, however, the stigma of the big black Kirkland label is a drawback (a blaring “I am cheap!” although it is champagne), so unless you can somehow hide it in an ice bucket or keep it in the kitchen, go with the better label.
Another $19.99 French champagne, Charles de Marques NV Brut, can be found at Trader Joe’s . This one does not bear an ugly “I am cheap” warning. Most recently, Trader Joe’s also stocks sparklers like Prosecco and Cava for less than $10 a bottle. We all know TJ’s seeks out innovative food and drink products to bring to the American market at interesting prices. They do this exceedingly well in wine, allowing a wine buyer to branch out and try something different without regretting the investment.
Venturing a bit away from the San Fernando Valley will get you some incredible deals worth a splurge. At the Wine House on Cotner Avenue in West LA, the Bollinger Special Cuvee NV, apparently the champagne of choice for fictional James Bond, can be found at $39.99 instead of its original release price of $75. Check it out at for excellent tasting notes.
And, if the New Year’s Eve you have planned deserves a vintage champagne that you can also afford, the2003 Charles de Cazanove “Millesime” Brut Champagne is only $24.99 at K & L Wines in Hollywood (and you can order online). I tasted this at the final wine tasting before Campanile closed and found it to have a perfect minerality and a long finish making it an amazing bargain. Moreover, 91 points from Wine Spectator confirms the value.
To finish up this toast to the New Year, I will mention a sparkler from a boutique producer (whom I must confess is also a close friend of mine). Kathleen Inman of Inman Family Wines is a fanatical farmer and it shows in the Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay wines she makes from her grapes and those of neighboring vineyards. She practices sustainability and is endlessly on the pursuit to improve her products. In winemaking, this meant trying her hand at a sparkling rose and, to this end, Kathleen produced Inman Family 2009 Brut Rose “Endless Crush” Sparkling Wine.
Cheers! And here’s to a happy, healthy 2013!
Barbara Barrielle is a wine, food and travel lover since she was a small child trying to break out of the meat and potatoes cycle that was small town Ohio. Now, in the land of plenty she owns a home and vineyard in the wine country and works in LA doing PR for luxury brands and travel while acting and producing when she can (get hired!). Her daughter, Charlotte, 15, also an actor and frequent dining and travel companion, is in tenth grade at Campbell Hall where she also loves to write.