The Best Sparkling Wines for the Holidays
We live in the golden age of wine. There is more great wine — and wine from a greater range of regions — available to us than ever before.
Because of the many advancements in winemaking technology that have emerged over the last 20-30 years, there really is no “bad” wine out there anymore. These days, a winemaker would have to try extremely hard to make a faulty wine.
And that’s great news for wine lovers across the board. It’s also great news for sparkling wine lovers — especially when it comes to the holiday season when we all reach for bubbles to enhance our celebrations and festive meals.
But great sparkling wines don’t stop at Champagne (although we do love to reach for it during a holiday meal). Discover how sparkling wines are made, the best regions for sparkling wine, and our favorite sparkling wine selections for the holidays.
How is Sparkling Wine Made?
All wine is made to sparkle by fermenting it twice. And during the second fermentation, the process is carried out in a pressurized environment — a bottle or a tank.
In the case of Champagne and “classic method” sparkling wines, that means the winemaker first makes a still (non-sparkling) wine and then referments it in a bottle.
Classic method wines, also known as traditional method wines, are made using the same process as Champagne, even though they cannot be called Champagne. The grapes used to produce them aren’t grown in the French region of Champagne, and they’re not vinified in the region of Champagne.
In the case of wines like Prosecco and Lambrusco from Italy, the second fermentation is carried out in a stainless-steel vat. The winemaker makes a still wine and then transfers it to a pressurized, temperature-controlled vat where they “provoke” a second fermentation (as they say in wine-speak).
The process is a lot less time-consuming than the traditional method, and its costs are much lower than the traditional method (where all the wine needs to be aged in individual bottles). As a result, you can get a lot of bang for your buck with these wines.
While Italy led the way in turning the world on to tank-method wines with Prosecco, today excellent tank-method wines are made all over the world. Look out for great values from places like Germany (where it is called “Sekt”) and even places like California and South Africa. These wines should cost around $20-25 or less on the wine shop shelf, and they’re fantastic for entertaining.
Which Regions Make the Best Sparkling Wines?
Today, more and more wine regions are producing great classic method sparkling wines.
Think of Franciacorta and Trento in Italy. Think of the great crémant wines that are coming from places like Burgundy and the Loire Valley in France — crémant, meaning “creamy,” is a designation for French classic method wines produced outside of Champagne.
Spain has always had its excellent Cava, one of the sparkling wine world’s most value-driven sparkling wines. Even places not traditionally known for sparkling wine production are now making excellent classic method wines — like California and South Africa.
What are the Best Sparkling Wines for Large Holiday Parties?
Both Prosecco and Lambrusco are perfect for large parties where cost is a factor — and where you’ll probably have a wider range of wine lovers, from neophytes to connoisseurs. But for the latter, we still love a great bottle of Champagne during the holidays.
Prosecco from the Veneto region of Italy (where Venice is the capital) is the world’s most widely consumed tank-method wines. It should always be fresh and bright in the glass — the hallmark of great Prosecco.
Its low alcohol and refreshing character make it an ideal wine to pair with food. In Venice, they serve it throughout the meal — a go-to wine for nearly any kind of seafood.
Lambrusco, made in the Italian region of Emilia, the same place where Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano are made, is one of the world’s rare red sparkling wines.
Although it can also be made as a rosé or even a white wine (in the case of the latter, the winemaker separates the skins from the juice at pressing, just as they do for Pinot Noir grapes in Champagne, where the red Pinot Noir is the main grape variety used).
In Emilia, Lambrusco is the only wine the locals drink, and they serve it throughout the meal.
Even though the world of sparkling wine has expanded greatly over the last 20 years or so — and more and more places outside of France are making high-quality world-class sparkling wines — Champagne remains supreme in terms of what we reach for on the holidays.
That’s partly because of Champagne’s place in the world of wine as the ultimate status symbol. From the royal family of the British kingdom to the Czars of Russia, from the unforgettable wine-hued scenes in James Bond to the many famous musicians and actors who love to guzzle the stuff, Champagne is the ultimate trophy wine.
But it’s also because they make some incredibly good wines in Champagne, France, a wine region where elegance is matched my nuance, and where power and rich flavor in the wines is balanced by finesse.
Because of the high costs of producing Champagne, these wines are generally more expensive than sparkling wines from other regions. That’s in part owed to the fact that every bottle of wine undergoes its second fermentation and aging in its own bottle. It’s also because those bottles need to be regularly turned during the aging process to help them mature.
Today, the turning of the bottles — the remuage or riddling, as it’s known — is done by machines. There are still some Champagne houses that do this by hand — another extremely cost-heavy process.
Choosing the Best Champagne for the Holidays
When it comes to finding the right Champagne for your holiday celebration or meal, Boulder Wine Merchant can help you make the right choice depending on your budget, menu, and your guests.
While some of our Champagne is available via the website, there are many others currently at the shop. Shop all Champagnes available online here >
Please call or visit the shop for more options at any price point!
The Best Dessert Wines for the Holidays
When the holiday feast is finished and the pies are being passed around, it’s time to switch to a glass of dessert wine to finish off the meal. After all, there’s no better way to end the year than on a sweet note!