W hen you raise your glass to toast in the new year next week, the odds are strong that something sparkling will be in the glass.
People who don’t drink sparkling wine all year long will put some bubbly in their glasses on New Year’s Eve. It has become tradition to use sparkling wine when toasting a special occasion, and with good reason. Nothing feels more festive than drinking something with bubbles in it.
From the exciting “pop” sound when you pull out the cork, to the last tiny bubble tickling your nose, everything about sparkling wine screams party.
Nationally, about 40 percent of all sparkling wine is sold in October, November and December, with the bulk of that coming in the last month of the year. Whether it’s Prosecco, Cava, Sekt, Crement or Champagne, sparkling wine flies off the wine shop shelves during the last quarter of the year.
Back when we didn’t know any better most of us called all sparkling wine Champagne. Then eventually we learned that only the wine that comes from the Champagne region 90 miles from Paris can be called Champagne. Many Champagne houses are in Reims (pronounced Rahnse).
For decades if you wanted the best sparkling wine, you drank Champagne. There wasn’t even a close second. But now some of the best sparklers in the world come from California.
Santa knows how to brighten up the holiday.

As you get ready for the big holiday, I’ll give you some information about sparkling wines and why you should drink them. Then I’ll give you a list of my recommendations. You can always go to your favorite wine shop. They will help you select the style you like in your price range.
Whether your budget calls for a bottle of Cold Duck or you can splurge on Dom Perignon, you should be opening one of those bottles regularly, not just on New Year’s Eve. Sparkling wine makes every meal a festive occasion, and most dry sparkling wines can pair well with every meal, from spicy Latin or Asian to burgers to fancy French meals.
I know I am not alone in discovering the delights of sparkling wine because consumption has grown around the world by 40 percent in 10 years, faster than the growth of still wines. From 2005 to 2016, sales of sparkling wines nearly doubled, and sales of foreign sparkling wines nearly tripled.
There are seven ways to make sparkling wine, but only two primary ones: methode traditionnelle and Charmat. The methode traditionnelle includes 13 steps before the wine lands in your glass from picking the right vineyard site, to assembling the blend to riddling (rotating and tilting the bottles in slight increments) to cellar aging. It is an ancient, labor-intensive process, but the result is like nothing else you can drink.
Mumm Napa is one of the better California sparklers.

The bubbles of carbon dioxide are created in the bottle, after the wine has fermented and been blended. The second fermentation that creates the bubbles throws off sediment which has to be removed from the bottle by gradually tilting the bottle upside down, freezing the sediment and removing it. Then a “dosage” of wine and sugar is returned to fill up the bottle.
Great Champagnes spend another 2-3 years in the bottle developing complexity, creaminess and subtle dough flavors.
With the Charmat method the wine is placed in large pressurized stainless steel tanks with sugar and yeast. Fermentation creates alcohol and carbon dioxide, which the pressure keeps in the wine. The yeast is filtered out and the wine placed in bottles. Some tanks can produce 100,000 bottles at a time.
The Charmat method usually takes less time and is less expensive. That’s why mass produced wines such as Cold Duck use the Charmat method.
Speaking of Cold Duck, it was once one of the best selling wines in the world. You can still find it in your supermarket for about $7-10, but in the 1970s it was everywhere. The drink originated in Germany where it got its name.
In Bavaria wine drinkers often mixed cold sparkling Burgundy with previously opened Champagne. The German phrase for the process wss kalte ende (cold end), but it sounded like the words for cold duck (kalte ente). Over time, that’s what everyone called it.
It was introduced to the United States in Detroit in the late 1930s. The original recipe called for one part California red wine mixed with two parts New York sparkling wine. The exact recipe varies, but today one of the best known brands is Andre Cold Duck, from the E&J Gallo Winery.
Here is some terminology you might want to know.
French sparkling wines from regions outside Champagne are known as Cremant, as in Cremant d’Alsace. The Italians call their sparkling wine Prosecco, Germans say Sekt, and in Spain it’s Cava.
When buying sparkling wine you need to know which style you like. Dry sparkling wines have a zesty acidity that makes them particularly suited to food. They can be great with any course of the meal. Sweeter sparkling wines are better with dessert.
From driest to sweetest, sparkling wines will have these designations: brut nature, extra brut, brut, extra dry, dry, demi-sec, doux. Extra dry and dry are slightly sweet wines, so don’t be fooled by the words.
Sparkling wine can be made from any grape, but Champagne is a mix of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. A non-vintage Champagne could be a blend of 4-6 vintages and 20 or more lots of wine.
Many sparkling wines are also identified as “Blanc de Blancs” (wines made from Chardonnay grapes), “Blanc de Noirs” (wines produced from black grapes), or rosé or pink sparkling wine/champagnes. With a rosé the color often comes from brief skin contact from red grapes.
Prosecco is a good, low-cost alternative to Champagne.

Small, long-lasting bubbles are preferred. The wine should be served cold in tall, narrow, stemmed glasses called flutes, although some are now using white wine glasses. These concentrate the bubbles in the glass. Never use the shallow, saucer-shaped glass called a coupe. It should only be used to serve dessert.
Be careful when opening the bottle. The bubbles create a lot of force and can push the cork out at a high speed. Point the bottle neck away from your face and away from your guests. Remove the foil. Hold the cap down with your thumb and begin untwisting the wire, loosening the cage. Gently remove the wire and immediately replace your thumb on the exposed cork.
Now place the rest of your hand firmly around the rest of the cork and twist gently, while counter-twisting the bottle with your other hand. Allow the cork to free itself from the bottle with a quiet sigh or gentle pop, leaving the bubbles and wine inside the bottle.
Here are some of the favorite sparklers I’ve tasted recently, in no particular order. Most are widely available.
Frank Family Rouge ($55), a sparkling pinot noir with great color and robust flavors.
Frank Family Blanc de Blancs ($55), soft, creamy texture.
Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain ($44-46), rich, elegant style with complex flavors.
Ferrari Brut ($25), 100 percent chardonnay, pronounced finesse. Ferrari Trento was named winery of the year for 2019 by wine guide Gambero Rosso.
Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut ($50), a classic.
Moët Minis ($15.99), miniature 187ml bottles of Moët’s classic Imperial Brut, featured at the Golden Globe award show.
Champagne Taittinger Prestige Rose ($63), crisp red fruit tastes.
Charles Heidsieck Rose Reserve Champagne ($78-82).
Mumm Napa Brut Prestige ($23-25). Rich, lush.
Adami Garél Brut Prosecco Treviso, Italy ($14-16). Tart, dry.
Gruet Brut, New Mexicao ($15).
J Cuvee 20, California ($30).
Biltmore Estate Sparkling Blanc de Noir, North Carolina ($20), one of my long-time favorites.
Biltmore Pas de Deux Moscato ($20), a sweeter taste.
Several Proseccos from Bisol, including Crede Prosecco Superiore DOCG ($25), Bisol Cartizze Prosecco Superiore DOCG ($50) and Jeio ($15).
Mionetto also makes a range of nice Proseccos from the fun Il brand to $10-15 everyday sparklers to their Luxury Collection ($20).
Akakies Sparkling Rosé 2016, Greece ($22).
Santo Sparkling Brut, Greece ($22).
Valdivieso Brut Rosé, Chile, ($13).
Cleto Chiarli Premium Vecchia Modena Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC, Italy (SRP $15).
Saint-Hilaire, France ($16.99), the oldest sparkling wine in France, created by Benedictine monks more than 100 years before sparkling wine was made in Champagne.
If you like sweeter sparkling wine, two popular brands are Rosa Regale ($19.99) and Mamamango ($9.99).
If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at dennis@bottlereport.com

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