Not much beats Champagne on New Year’s Eve, but if you’re looking for some out-of-the-box (and easier-on-the wallet) alternatives for the big night, you’re in luck! Champagne doesn’t have a lock on quality sparkling wine anymore. All six of these bottles should delight your palate, satisfy your enological curiosity, and enhance your celebratory mood as you welcome 2017. And only one of them is even from France!
- NV Champalou Vouvray Brut ($28)
Chenin blanc is one of my favorite grapes. It can take so many forms – from off-dry, to bone dry and funky, to sparkling and playful. The sparkling examples are enjoyable, value-oriented Champagne alternatives. Champalou is one of my favorite producers from France’s Vouvray region in the Loire Valley. Their still chenin is a summer standard for me. The sparkling is lovely too – dry, with a nose of baby powder and white flowers and a palate of even more flowers and apples. All those notes are very typical of the grape – no mistaking it for anything besides chenin – but the effervescence adds a celebratory note.
- NV. Dr. Deinhard Riesling Extra Brut ($34)
Yep, you read that right – a sparkling riesling – and it’s a lot of fun!
German sparkling wine is called sekt. This one is from the Pfalz region, and it’s made by Von Winning, which produces some truly world-class still rieslings. Like the Champalou Vouvray, this sparkler is incredibly typical of its grape, with petrol, lanolin, and lemon on the nose, and a very lemony palate with nice minerality. As I wrote in my tasting notes, “totally dry, totally riesling.”
- 2013 Raventos i Blanc “L’hereu” ($22)
I don’t usually like Cava, Spain’s answer to sparkling wine. The fact that I do like this Spanish sparkler doesn’t mean I’ve had a change of heart (or palate). In 2012, Raventos i Blanc was frustrated that Cava had become, in the words of the producer’s website, “a volume-oriented DO lacking geographical distinction in terms of climate and terroir” and suffering from “low viticultural standards.” So, Raventos left the Cava group and created its own DO – Conca del Riu Anoia.
The 2013 “L’hereu” is made with 40% Macabeo, 40% Xarel-lo, and 20% Parellada grapes. The nose is not intense, but it has subtle notes of lemon and slate. The palate has intense minerality, but still manages to be lovely and soft – a bit like Champagne but less yeasty and bready. This wine is indeed way out of the average Cava’s league.
- 2015 Krone Brut Rosé ($23)
I haven’t run across many South African sparkling wines until recently, but I’ve liked the ones I’ve tried. Sparkling houses there use a winemaking method called “cap classique,” their version of the well-known methode champenoise. The 2015 Krone Brut Rosé is almost 3/4 pinot noir and the rest chardonnay.
It has a tantalizing nose of dried strawberries and tart cranberries and a very unusual but lovely palate, with the tart red fruits showing through nicely.
- 2010 Contratto Extra Brut Millesimato ($35)
It’s unusual to find an Italian sparkling wine that’s not Prosecco, but this one is made from Champagne grapes, in the Champagne style.
Contratto winery, located in the northwest Italian province of Asti, is Italy’s first sparkling house (fun fact – in 2011, it was acquired by Giorgio Rivetti of La Spinetta wines). The Millesimato is made from 80% pinot noir and 20% chardonnay, and it is quite reminiscent of its French role model. It has a creamy nose of lemon, minerality, and yeast. On the palate, it’s medium bodied with a nice balance between yeast and fruit. This wine might be a great choice if your friends are split between lovers of big yeasty Champagnes and those who prefer a cleaner style of sparkling wines.
- Nyetimber Classic Cuvee
English sparkling wine might be one of the wine world’s Next Big Things, or so I keep hearing. Producers from Blighty have been racking up awards and even beating out Champagnes in a few competitions. This recent post from the Wine Wankers has some great info on the category. These wines aren’t easy to find in the U.S., so my British husband and I were thrilled when Orlando wine collector and fellow wine blogger Keith Edwards brought this bottle from leading producer Nyetimber, of Sussex, to our holiday party this year.
I’m afraid my party-hosting duties kept me from making detailed tasting notes, but I can tell you that I liked it and that it was a hit with our guests. If memory serves, it was very soft and light but not lacking in complexity. It was a perfect wine to open the evening. Importers, please start bringing more English sparkling wines to the Colonies! It’s better than tea, and we promise not to throw it into the harbor.
So, there you have it: six non-Champagnes sure to make your New Year’s Eve sparkle. Whether you celebrate with a big night on the town or curled up at home, I wish you a wonderful celebration and a New Year that’s full of love, happiness, and of course, many new wine adventures! Cheers!