On New Year’s Eve we pause on the rim of the calendar, Janus-like, looking back and looking ahead. We contemplate past victories and sins, and we forecast prosperity and hope.
We mark this transition with a toast, opening what will become the old year’s last — and the new year’s first — sparkling wine. Let’s make it a good one.
There are lots of ways to add fizz to wine, and the results are always fun. But for auspicious moments like these I lean on méthode traditionnelle wines, which get their bubbles from a second fermentation in the bottle, and méthode ancestrale wines, (also called pétillant-naturel), which are bottled before the first fermentation exhales its last gas.
Such bottle conditioning builds in depth and savoriness from the lees contact, making these sparklers especially delicious for celebratory toasts. But the style feels right in another way, too, because although the wines are fully modern, they rely on methods that are old-fangled and ancestral, harkening a bygone time.
Auld Lang Syne, baby. And happy 2018.
A Celebration of Sparkling Wine
Below are thirteen bottle-conditioned sparkling wine options from recent tastings. Two are true champagnes I think are solid values. Eight are wines from elsewhere in France (which must be called called crémant), Spain (cava), Italy (metodo classico), and England (just plain sparkling). I’ve also included four American pét-nats because they are insanely delicious if marginally available; ask your favorite merchant for similar options. The wines are ordered by price from lowest to highest. Click the wine name to find my original review; you can also browse all recent sparkling wine reviews by visiting the Sparkling Wines category.
Lemony-crisp with a twist of citrus, this un-dosed cava has a creamy, toasty bass note. $20
One hundred percent Chardonnay from great Burgundian soil, this wine is rich with candied citrus peels, pastry, hazelnuts, and brioche. $21
Spirited and spring-like, with a sense of field strawberry and mint, this crémant is great for snacks and finger foods. $21
A genius sparkler based on Malvisia bianca, whose white-floral essence earns depth and savoriness from the bottle conditioning. $24
This pét-nat is based on the Brianna grape; it’s honeyed and grassy, like a wildflower meadow in late summer. $25
Frontenac Gris makes a brilliant light red rosé pét-nat that reads like a mélange of strawberries and rose petals. $25
This Alsatian crémant crackles with lime-y acidity and notes of white flowers, lemon peel, and salty minerals. $25
Made from biodynamically farmed Pinot Blanc, this crémant is foamy and snappy, with a suggestion of baked nut and pear. $25
A seriously delicious pét-nat of Pinot Noir with an essence of tangerine, fresh berries, peaches, and leesy savoriness. $30
This lavish champagne, made by a small house, really has everything going on: fruit, toast, nut, pastry. $37
Quietly sparkling, this champagne has a body opulent with amaretto, cherrystone, plum fruit, and roasted nut. $42
And earthy, savory sparkler from Sussex, England, offering stony aromatics that are lifted by peaches and citrus. $50
One hundred percent Pinot Nero from the Dolomites, this vintage wine is heady with roasted hazelnuts, pastry, and pink berries. Truly celebratory. $80
Most wines were samples for review. See details on individual review pages.