7 sparkling wines for the holidays that are as good as champagne
If you’re bringing wine to a party this year, the obvious bet will be a bottle of champagne.
France’s most famous sparkling wine has steadily grown in popularity in the United States over the past decade, with Americans adopting a #champagneallday attitude rather than saving fine bubbles for special occasions. In 2021 alone, more than 34 million bottles of champagne were shipped to the United States – more than any country outside of France.
Champagne is so exclusive because it must be produced in France’s Champagne region, an hour and a half drive northeast of Paris. Champagne is almost always made from a combination of three grape varieties – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier – and it must be produced using the traditional method, with secondary fermentation (which gives the wine its bubbles) occurring in the bottle rather than in a large steel tank, like prosecco.
In recent years, more and more North American winemakers, particularly in California and Oregon, have been perfecting the art of making sparkling wines with the same process and the same grapes that they use in Champagne. These exquisite bubbles could be mistaken for champagne in a blind taste test and can often be found at better value. Here are seven to try this holiday season.
From the same French family behind famous champagne brands Louis Roederer and Cristal, this Mendocino winery has been producing America’s finest sparkling wine since the 1980s from 580 acres of estate-owned vineyards in the misty valley of Anderson. The multi-vintage brut is crisp and fresh, with oak-aged wines from the estate’s reserve cellars adding nutty complexity and depth. This one is a crowd pleaser that is also loved by connoisseurs. $28. at Binny’s, binnys.com; Sal’s world of drinks, salsbeverageworld.com; Hart Davis Hart Wine Co., hdhwine.com; by Mariano, marianos.com
Livermore Valley’s flagship winery, Wente Vineyards, is America’s oldest family-owned winery, and this Brut Special Edition is the only sparkling wine they’ve ever produced, using 100% Chardonnay from Wente vineyards. in Arroyo Seco, Monterey, where the family has been growing grapes since the 1960s. The long, cool growing season and deep gravelly soil ripen the Chardonnay to an exquisite natural balance of sugar and acidity – key to big bubbles. You will smell pear and dried apricot with hints of crème brûlée on the finish. $45. Wente vineyards, goevineyards.com
One of Oregon’s most iconic wineries, Argyle pioneered sparkling winemaking in the Willamette Valley beginning in 1987, putting Oregon on the map for elegant, long-lasting Champagne sparkling wine. . Unlike many wineries that blend wines from different years to create a cohesive house style, Argyle has vintages on all of its sparkling wines, meaning the grapes were harvested in the same year. The 2018 brut is exceptionally lively with aromas of stone fruits and a nice bright finish. $30. at Binny’s, binnys.com; whole foods, Wholefoodsmarket.com; Miska Liquors, facebook.com/MiskasMelrose; Dom’s kitchen and market; domschicago.com
Winemaker Jenny Wagner draws inspiration from her favorite champagnes such as Egly-Ouriet and Billecart-Salmon to craft her non-vintage sparkling wine with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir sourced from vineyards in Monterey, Sonoma and Santa Barbara. These cooler coastal regions have longer growing seasons, fully ripening the grapes while maintaining a crisp natural acidity that tastes like citrus zest and ocean breeze, with bubbles of sea foam. creamy. Wagner likes to pair his sparkling wine with sushi, truffled popcorn or a charcuterie board. $40. at Binny’s, binnys.com
Sojourn Cellars released their first brut sparkling wine this year, and it’s a stunner. This Sonoma County winery specializes in single-vineyard Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and the latest addition to its portfolio combines equal parts of both with a touch of Pinot Meunier to complement the tart apple flavors with hints of toasted brioche and a creamy lemon panna cotta. Only 1,200 cases were produced, so you’ll need to get this one straight from the source. $54. Living cellars, sojourncellars.com
If you prefer rosé champagnes, Gran Moraine rosé brut is a graceful balance of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier grapes from the Yamhill-Carlton estate vineyards in Oregon. Several vintages are blended for a house style that flirts with flavors of strawberry shortcake, juicy nectarine and watermelon rind. The dosage – a small amount of sugar plus wine added after the bottle has been disgorged – is very low, allowing the quality of the wine to shine. $55, Prestige Country Liqueurs, prestigeliquors.com
Amber Gibson is a freelance writer.