There’s something particularly exciting about opening a bottle of sparkling wine.
When you break it down step-by-step, it is quite ceremonial: removing the foil, carefully untwisting the cage (six times counterclockwise, each and every time!), and holding the cork while twisting the bottle until you hear the pop!, then the satisfying whisper of a hiss.
Pouring it into a vessel — stemmed glass, coffee mug, even a red Solo cup — the sight of the dancing bubbles can lift any mood.
One need not have won a championship game or closed a major business deal to celebrate with a glass or two of bubbly. You can raise a glass simply for making it through another day.
Everyone knows Champagne. Or they think they know it: a classic blend of three celebrated grape varieties — chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier; its exclusive location; maybe even its unique terroir of iconic limestone soils and chalk. But there are plenty of sparkling wine styles that are equally celebratory, like Cava from Penedes, Spain; crémant from the rest of France; prosecco from Veneto, Italy; and Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Each of these alternatives to Champagne’s mighty houses is affordable and accessible — any day of the week.
Whether you are throwing a Friendsgiving extravaganza or sitting at home curled up on the couch binging a cheesy Netflix holiday movie, these easy-going sparkling wines are wonderful selections that help make this dark time of year a bit brighter.
(Selections vary by retailer and availability.)
Gruet Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Non-Vintage
What if Champagne came to the U.S.? In 1984, the Gruet family — who had an established Champagne house in France — planted experimental chardonnay and pinot noir vines in New Mexico. In the 30-plus years since, Gruet has become a sommelier favorite for specializing in méthode champenoise wines, the traditional winemaking style in which a sparkling wine undergoes a secondary fermentation within the bottle, yielding finely structured bubbles and flavors. Using chardonnay grapes, this particular wine is lively, bright, and zesty — the perfect addition to any Thanksgiving spread.
Fine Wine and Good Spirits, various locations, $18.99
Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad
Affordable Spanish Cava can be comparable to Champagne, in that it also must undergo méthode champenoise to be classified as Cava. Blended with 75% macabeo and 25% chardonnay and aged for over two years, this wine features round, full flavors of biscuit, bread, honey, dried fruit, and white flower petals. Impress your in-laws with this strikingly beautiful bottle, or drink at Friendsgiving, but this wine pairs perfectly with some crispy fried chicken or french fries.
Fine Wine and Good Spirits, various locations, $29.99
Maloof L’eau Epicee Sparkling Wine
Made from organically grown grapes from a nearly forgotten vineyard, the experimental wine is made up of 65% riesling and 35% gewürztraminer, produced in two ways. While most of the gewürztraminer was fermented in stainless steel tanks, some was made skin-contact, meant to pick up additional flavor and color from the skins. The individual dry wines were then blended together with riesling must, which introduced another fermentation, and, voilà, bubbles were born. Not quite traditional, not quite old-school, it’s an American wine that eschews labels for ingenuity, with flavors of honeysuckle, citrus, and green apple. Go ahead, kick off your festivities with something special.
Graham Beck Brut Methode Cap Classique
Made from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes grown and harvested in South Africa, Graham Beck’s brut offering is traditionally made, featuring a balanced profile of lively acidity and approachable fruit flavors. It will go well with creamy baked mac and cheese or that shrimp cocktail on the appetizer table.
Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace Reserve Brut
Want Champagne quality without the budget? Crémant is the name for sparkling wine made throughout France’s wine-growing regions, except Champagne. The rules for making it are slightly less strict than in Champagne, though some things, like manual harvesting of grapes and minimal aging requirements, are still in play. Just like its illustrious sibling, crémant-style wines undergo a secondary fermentation in-bottle to achieve equally stunning fizziness but are made with grapes as varied as riesling, auxerrois, pinot gris, and chenin blanc. Many are priced around $20 to $30.
Gran Moraine Brut Rosé
From Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this blend of 57% chardonnay and 43% pinot noir follows the Champagne blueprint. Expect a lot more freshness on the nose and palate, with a dynamic minerality but also a creamy texture and acidity. Try it with duck with a balsamic reduction, or a pureed squash soup.
Pederzana Gibe Lambrusco
Red wines can make wonderful bubbly, too, as in this fizzy red Lambrusco from northern Italy that certainly will be a crowd favorite at any function. It’s festive with notes of overripe cherry and jammy plum in the finish. It is the perfect accompaniment to all holiday treats or bitter side dishes, like roasted Brussels sprouts.
Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut
Hailing from Italy’s Lombardi region, Franciacorta is prosecco’s sophisticated cousin. While the latter is made in the Charmat method (that is, in tanks), the former employs the traditional method to achieve creamy, smooth bubbles. This sparkling wine is a blend of 80% chardonnay, 10% pinot nero, and 10% pinot bianco, with creamy textures playing alongside notes of floral, lemon peel, white peach, and almond. Drink as an apéritif while finishing up cooking those last few sides or with a few slices of leftover Christmas ham.