At this time of year, I get a lot of questions about bubbly for the holidays. People want to make sure their gatherings are festive, and rightly so.
If you haven't noticed lately, there's good sparkling wine made in all corners of the world now. Let me give you a few suggestions:
For traditional non-vintage Champagne (the real stuff from the Champagne region of France), I like Veuve Clicquot Brut. It's classy and well made, and something about that fashionable yellow label makes a party feel extra special. This wine has tight bubbles and lots of nuances from bright fruit to roasted nuts. Also at the $40 mark, Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut is a good choice. Both of these wines are widely distributed.
For something from California instead, I like Domaine Chandon Brut. This is also a non vintage wine that is fairly widely distributed. It runs about $17, which is fairly priced. As a bargain alternative, though, grab a bottle of Korbel Brut which is often priced around the $10 mark. It's one of the best sparkling wines from California in this price range.
If you'd prefer to go off the beaten path a bit, check out Gruet Brut from New Mexico. That's right- New Mexico. A beautiful non-vintage Brut that's well made year after year, this is my current favorite in the value category. I buy it for $11 on a regular basis.
A lot of people enjoy discovering Cava from Spain and Prosecco from Italy and can't wait to introduce their friends to these wines. Unfortunately, Prosecco is seldom very good but Cava is really on the rise. Ask your local wine merchant if they stock any, and I'm sure you'll get an enthusiastic introduction to several wines that won't break the bank. Expect to pay in the teens.
Regarding other lesser known bubbly, the sparking Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France can be excellent and priced around $20. The only problem is that it's harder to find. Australia also produces and exports some nice sparkling wine at value prices. In fact, Barefoot Bubbly Brut is a terrific value at only $8 or so.
Lastly, consider the sweeter sparkling wines made from Moscato and Brachetto in Italy. I always have these on hand because they're a lot of fun and much more versatile than people realize. They're not just for washing down chocolate torte. Moscato d'Asti runs between $10 and $20. My favorite is Nivole from Michele Chiarlo. Brachetto d'Aqui is a little less common, but you're sure to at least find Rosa Regale from Castello Banfi for $15 to $20.
Raise a glass of bubbly!