The holidays bring with them the gentle popping sound of bottles of bubbly being uncorked for toasting and celebrating. While a chilled flute of brut sipped during brunch on Christmas morning or a glass of rosé poured before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve is de rigeur, why should Champagne have all the fun? We’ve assembled an assortment of some other sparkling wines that equally deserve a spot in the ice bucket this season.
Barone Pizzini Animante Franciacorta Brut ($35)
That other Italian sparkling style is wildly popular, but perhaps it gets too much love. Franciacorta, made in the area of the same name in Italy’s Lombardy region, is a traditional method bubbly (as opposed to Prosecco’s tank method) that picks up wonderful freshness from the region’s climate, and intriguing flavors due to the soil in the various microclimates. “Franciacorta is Italy’s answer to Champagne,” declares Karen King, Winebow’s director of on premise development for Manhattan. This bottle is perfect with creamy risotto or pasta with cream sauce (the acidity will cut through the richness), as well as with oysters, caviar, salted nuts or popcorn.
Szigeti Grüner Veltliner Brut ($22)
Grüner Veltliner thrives in Austria, where it produces white wines with appealing white pepper notes; adding bubbles ups the spice factor, which is tamed here by fresh stone fruit flavors and a fine mousse. (This sparkler is also made using the traditional method.) “The Szigeti brothers have been making only sparkling wines for 23 years,” points out King. “Their commitment to excellence is evident in every bottle.” She suggests pairing it with bacon-wrapped dates; it also plays nicely with spiced crab cakes or a peppery arugula salad.
Juve y Camp Reserva de la Familia Brut ($16)
Made from Chardonnay as well as local grapes Xarel-lo and Parellada, Cava undergoes its secondary fermentation in the bottle—just like its pricier French cousin. While Cava is no stranger to store shelves, this bottle is one of the most highly regarded in Spain (not to mention the Cava of choice for the country’s Royal Family that’s served at official banquets). Its brut nature style translates to lots of tart citrus notes along with some delicate brioche flavors, and bracing acidity that makes it a match for foods like Marcona almonds, chorizo or jamon.
Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs ($24.99)
Sparkling wine from North Carolina? Yes, indeed. This bottle hails from the legendary Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, where winemaking dates back to the early 1900s; today the estate is the country’s most visited winery. This bottle is produced from 100% Chardonnay sourced from California’s Russian River Valley, and is refreshing, balanced and elegant. It touts notes of lemon, apricot, mint and herbs, making it a winner at holiday gatherings. Try it with soft cheeses like brie or camembert, or with seafood including crab, oysters and scallops.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website at www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram.