Welcome to Ask a Somm, a column in which experts from across the country answer questions about wine.
Wine whiz Patrick Cappiello heads up two of New York's most esteemed and deepest wine lists at adjacent restaurants, Pearl & Ash (2,000 bottles) and the newer Rebelle (1,500 bottles). These establishments are where one will find the city's best sommeliers in their off time, imbibing a mix of classic and tiny, up-and-coming producers from France and the U.S. Both restaurants are a great source to discover excellent budget bottles, especially when it comes to bubbles. Below, Cappiello offers suggestions on holiday sparklers that won't break the bank.
Q: I can’t afford Champagne on New Years, but I want to drink bubbly. What else can I drink?
Cappiello: Just because Champagne doesn’t fit your budget doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to celebrate New Years with great sparkling wine. There are awesome wines outside of the Champagne region that are more price-friendly, like domestic bubbles from California and New Mexico, as well as selections from Spain and Italy.
I’ve even blind tasted people on this wine, and they pegged it as Champagne.
When it comes to purchasing budget-friendly bubbles from the U.S., there are two bottles I recommend. A go-to pick for me is the Ultramarine Rosé ($50) from Sonoma, California. The winemaker Michael Cruse is a young Californian who has lived there for most of his life. But he also studied in Champagne and brought back his knowledge to craft this sparkling wine. It’s a very special wine—very similar to what you’d find in Champagne. I’ve even blind tasted people on this wine, and they pegged it as Champagne.
Staying within the boundaries of California, I always recommend Blowout by Scholium Project ($25). This wine’s provenance is built on a cool story: Winemaker Abe Schoener’s first batch was made using his friend’s SodaStream. It was literally carbonated like a bottle of soda. Now Abe has upped his sparkling wine-making game and is using the charmat method, which is a technique that often produces wines like Prosecco. The finished product is very floral and tense, and it’s an eccentric blend of 80 percent Verdello and 20 percent Grüner Veltliner.
If you want a great domestic pick outside of California, the Gruet Blanc de Noirs ($12) from New Mexico is the ideal go-to bottle. This is a place that’s been making some of the best sparkling wines in the U.S. for a long time. It’s often overlooked and underappreciated, but these wines are becoming more serious.
Sparklers From Across The Pond
Just as consumers can find delectable sparkling wines in the U.S., they can also discover great European selections that aren’t from Champagne.
This wine’s provenance is built on a cool story: Winemaker Abe Schoener’s first batch was made using his friend’s SodaStream.
An excellent choice for a Champagne alternative on New Year’s Eve is Raventós i Blanc Cava ($12). Raventós was the first Cava produced. They made their inaugural Cava in 1872, and they have become the road map for Cava ever since. This producer is a bang for the buck, and I don’t think it gets much better at this price point.
One of my favorite traditions at a celebratory occasion, such as New Year’s Eve, is to saber a bottle of sparkling wine. To do it, I use a three-foot sword with a skull on the handle. One of my favorite bottles to saber is Tissot’s Rosé Crémant du Jura ($20) from Jura, France. We’ve sabered it a million times at Pearl & Ash. This wine has a clean and friendly approach, and it's not super oxidative like many Jura wines. Plus, for under $30, it’s an excellent example of what can be done outside of the Champagne region.
Staying within France, another bottle to consider is Tripoz Crémant de Bourgogne ($22). It’s shocking how good this wine is, and it’s usually around $20. It’s biodynamic, and it’s made using the méthod Champenois. This is a serious wine—and the friendly price tag makes it even more enjoyable.
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