Is there any moment more hopeful than that first pour of sparkling wine splashing into your glass? The swirl of tiny bubbles, doubling back in a creamy rush of foam, blooms to the surface beneath our noses as the wine world's most emphatic offering of something glittery and gorgeous to come.
It's no wonder so many corks will be popped this coming New Year's week. When the calendar year turns, one can only hope our daily lives embrace the optimism that shimmers in the glass. So there's no better time to consider your options to make that bubbly moment count. With a number of good bottles on sale in Pennsylvania until the end of the year, there's a wide range of prices, styles, provenences, from Washington State to Lombardy and Champagne.
Here are seven good bets:
Treveri Cellars Rosé Sec Columbia Valley, $17.99 (code 38581)
Most people think Columbia Valley for affordable Pacific Northwest sparkling wine. But Treveri Cellars in Washington's Yakima Valley is also producing some excellent values in domestic sparkling wine. The green appley Blanc de Blanc is a true bargain at $13.99 (code 46309). But for just a few dollars more, we loved the dry rosé, which had a deep red berry blush from a healthy dose of syrah that was the perfect match for meatier pre-meal nibbles like charcuterie and pâté.
Mumm Napa Blanc de Blanc, on sale or $18.99, down from $21.99 (code 8553)
Mumm is one of several Napa Valley sparkling wine producers with roots in an old house from the Champagne homeland, and it always produces solid examples of California fruit fermented in the classic méthode champenoise. Andrew Tyson, the wine specialist at the PLCB's 2040 Market St. store, considers the Blanc de Blanc "an easy go-to, as it is crisp but fruit-driven enough that it wouldn't necessarily need to have food with it." A perfect party-starter at a fair price, with mid-size bubbles and notes of vanilla and ginger.
Domaine De Saint Just Crémant De Loire NV, $21.99 (code 47092)
The Loire is one of my favorite sources for crémant (any French sparkler made outside Champagne) that has character and depth. This bottle, imported by Philadelphia's ViNo Bliss, blends chardonnay and the Loire's signature chenin blanc for an elegant, understated wine that features a fine-grained effervescence, a hint of quince ("on the sweeter side of brut," says Tyson) and the almondy linger of marzipan.
Shingleback Black Bubbles Sparkling Shiraz, $24.99 (code 27809)
Sparkling red wines like this Shingleback from Australia can play tricks on the eye. Fizzing in the glass with deep purple McLaren Vale shiraz fruit, it gives the impression of grape soda. One sip, though, and you'll see these black bubbles are bone dry and earthy with echoes of peat soil and black licorice - an edgy match for dark chocolate desserts, or savory dishes with dark fruit sauce (like our family favorite, cherry chicken). Not for everyone, especially if you anticipate a hint of off-dry sweetness.
Tendil & Lombardi, $29.99 (code 47070)
This is true Champagne made from chardonnay and pinot noir laced with a fine and tingly mousse, but still a value because its grapes come from the less-prestigious Southern region of Aube. Long a source of bulk grapes for the large houses, but recently coming into its own, Aube is just 30 miles from Chablis, and its limestone soils add a crisp minerality. A couple of years on lees adds yeastiness and persisting depth to this wine, with the lingering tartness of Meyer lemon. There's a local connection, too: owner Stéphane Lombardi is married to Blue Bell native Carol Madden, and proceeds from the sale of each bottle are donated to the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the ALS Association in memory of Carol's father, Jim Madden.
Ferghettina Franciacorta Brut DOCG NV, $33.99 (code 46711)
Franciacorta, which is made with the secondary in-bottle fermentation of the méthode champenoise, is a clear step up from the inexpensive proseccos that are Italy's party-friendly calling card. This Lombardy beauty made of 100 percent chardonnay by Ferghettina has a pretty and festive fizz and sits just a peck on the sweet side of "brut," with a nutty, toasty flavor, floral aromas, and a creaminess that would be perfect with buttery pastry for dessert.
Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, on sale for $42.99, down from $47.99 (Code 7342)
Sometimes, it just needs to be real Champagne. And Pennsylvania right now has an enticing discount on this Grand Brut from the 204-year-old house of Perrier-Jouët. Aside from having one of my favorite art nouveau labels, this bottle offers classic Champagne elegance wrapped in rising strings of tiny pearls that won't quit. A blend of pinot meunier, pinot poir, and chardonnay, its effervescence delivers both softness and a well-balanced complexity that reveals layers of baked apple, honey, ginger spice, creaminess, and quenching citrus to keep you sipping.
French 75 (Makes 1 serving)
1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup (see NOTE)
4 or 5 ounces brut champagne
Twist of lemon peel, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice.
2. Add the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup.
3. Shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds, then strain into a champagne flute.
4. Top with the champagne as needed, and garnish with the twist of lemon peel.
NOTE: To make simple syrup, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a slow rolling boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof container and let cool to room temperature. Cover tightly and refrigerate until chilled through; store indefinitely.
Per serving: 199 calories, 0 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 20 g sugar
- Adapted from The Bubbly Bar, by Maria C. Hunt (Clarkson Potter, 2009).
Negroni Sbagliato (Makes 1 serving)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Campari
2 ounces prosecco
Thin whole slice of orange, for garnish
1. Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice.
2. Add the vermouth and Campari, then top with the prosecco; stir to combine.
3. Garnish with the slice of orange.
Per serving: 166 calories, 0 g protein, 18 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 18 g sugar
- From Jason Wilson, whose recipe first appeared in the fall 2007 issue of Imbibe magazine.
Champagne Cocktail (Makes 1 serving)
1 sugar cube
2 to 4 drops Angostura bitters
1/2 to 1 ounce cognac or other good-quality brandy (optional)
3 ounces chilled champagne (may substitute other brut-style sparkling white wine)
Twist of lemon peel, for garnish
1. Chill a champagne flute.
2. Place the sugar cube in a small cup; let the drops of Angostura bitters (to taste) fall on it, so the cube is soaked.
3. Add the cognac or brandy, if desired (to taste), and the bittered sugar cube to the flute, then top with the champagne.
4. Run the lemon peel (exterior) around the rim of the glass, then drop it into the drink.
Per serving: 90 calories, 0 g protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar
- Adapted from Cocktails: The Bartender's Bible, by Simon Difford (11th edition, Firefly Books, 2013).
Spiced Cranberries in Champagne (Makes 1 serving)
For the syrup:
1/4 cup unsweetened 100 percent cranberry juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole star anise
3 whole cloves
3 tablespoons fresh cranberries
For the drink:
1/2 ounce cognac
1/2 ounce dry curaçao
3 ounces chilled champagne (may substitute brut-style sparkling white wine)
For the syrup:
1. Cut strips of the orange zest (no pith) and place in a small saucepan, then cut the orange in half and squeeze its juice into the saucepan.
2. Add the cranberry juice, sugar, star anise, cloves and fresh cranberries. Cook over medium heat, stirring just until the sugar has dissolved. The cranberries should not pop.
3. Remove from the heat; discard the zest, and reserve a couple of the cranberries for garnish. The yield is a generous cup.
For the drink
1. Fill a mixing glass with ice.
2. Add 1/2 ounce of the cranberry syrup, the cognac, and curaçao; stir until chilled, then strain into a champagne flute.
3. Add 1 or 2 of the reserved cranberries, then top with the chilled champagne.
MAKE AHEAD: The cranberry syrup (with its cranberries) can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks in advance.
Per serving: 170 calories, 0 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 11 g sugar
- Adapted from Good Things to Drink With Mr. Lyan and Friends, by Ryan Chetiyawardana (Frances Lincoln Limited, 2015).
Black Velvet (Makes 1 serving)
3 to 4 ounces stout beer, preferably Guinness
3 to 4 ounces champagne
1. Fill a champagne flute halfway full with the stout so that it has a foamy head.
2. Gently add the champagne by pouring it over the back of a spoon and through the foam; this will create a visually pleasing effect as the champagne and beer mingle gradually in the flute.
Per serving: 87 calories, 0 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, None g sugar
- Adapted from Crosby Gaige's Cocktail Guide and Ladies' Companion (M. Barrows, 1941).
Kir Royale (Makes 1 serving)
1/2 ounce creme de cassis
4 to 5 ounces chilled champagne (may substitute a brut-style sparkling white wine)
1. Chill a champagne flute.
2. Pour in the crème de cassis, then fill the glass with champagne, as needed.
Per serving: 140 calories, 0 g protein, 9 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar
- Adapted from several traditional recipes.