Popping a cork on New Year’s Eve doesn’t have to pop the budget. Wines with bubbles range wildly in price: a bottle of 1998 Krug Clos d’Ambonnay will set you back about $2,000, while a bottle of André Cold Duck will damage your finances to the tune of $4.50 or so.
So, to make life easier, we asked some local wine educators to sniff out some budget-minded bubbles for the New Year festivities. And, of course, there must be a few nibbles to pair with the flutes of fizziness, so we got some ideas in that department too.
Krystal Alfonso is a level II sommelier — certified by The International Sommelier Guild and the International Wine and Spirits Guild — who conducts classes on wine and cheese pairings (visit iamthewineyogi.com for info on those). Here are some of her bargain-centric recommendations.
“My suggestions for great value bubbles are to look for Spanish cava, which is made exactly like French Champagne but often at a third of the price, if not more. It’s certainly as good if you like the biscuity, brioche taste of Champagne,” she said.
“If you want a French sparkling wine, there are cremants — what they call ‘bubbles’ outside of Champagne — from Alsace, Languedoc and the Loire areas that are pretty outstanding without being nearly as pricey,” she continued. “Finally, if you prefer a cleaner, strictly light and bubbly wine, Italian prosecco is fantastic and can be found at very reasonable prices.”
Bruts are very dry Champagnes or sparkling wines. If you see “extra brut” on the label, that just means it’s even drier. Alfonso has some thoughts on this too.
“Look for brut or extra brut if you like drier flavored wine. You will see demi sec or extra dry for sweeter wines. I know the extra dry is very confusing on sweet wines, but it has to do with the amount of sugar or lack thereof.”
For sweet bubbles, she suggested Moscato d’Asti.
“It’s a wonderful value as well,” she said.
Liz Goldsmith Blakeley and her husband, Alex, pursued their love of wine over their years of traveling as a military family. They studied and became certified level II sommeliers by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and in 2020 they opened Uva Wine Bar. They serve 40 wines by the glass and stock more than 150 types of bottled wines.
“We’ve been to vineyards in Germany, Spain, California, Croatia, France, New York, Italy, Greece and others,” Liz said.
At their north-end wine bar, they carry an array of sparkling wines.
“We have everything from domestic bubbles, to cavas and proseccos, and cremants from France,” Liz said. “We did a bubbles event and had the Gruet sparkling from New Mexico, which is wonderful and only $23, and a Paula Kornell Brut for $32.”
She also recommended: Sparkling Vouvray, $25; Bugey Cerdon, $31; Borguluce prosecco, $23; Valdo Brut rose, $25; and Mercat cava, $21.
Cheese is a natural partner for the bubblies, so Liz offered some tips on choosing these as well.
“You want to pair a bold cheese with a bold wine,” she said. “Sparkling wine is often high in acid and has the effervescence to stand up to most cheeses. The bubbles and acid cleanse your palate after each bite, so you are ready to take the next bite.”
• Brie is a traditional pairing with Champagne or cava.
• A strong blue cheese goes good with Lambrusco, which is sweet.
• Parmesan is great with aged cremant or cava.
• Lighter cheeses, like baby Swiss, go best with a sparkling wine that hasn’t been aged, like prosecco.
Her favorite foods to pair with sparkling wine, however, are not what you might think.
“The ultimate classic pairing with sparkling is fried foods.” Liz said. “Yep. Fried chicken. And potato chips. You don’t have to have fancy foods with bubbles. It’s the same concept — the bubbles and higher acidity cleanse your palate so it is ready to take the next bite. Our favorite pairing is popcorn and bubbles. Also, foods that have a higher fat content like a marbled steak or a creamy soup pair well.”
So, beat inflated wine and food costs. Raise a glass of cava to 2022 and pass some of that buttery popcorn.
Contact the writer: 636-0271.