This New Year’s Eve will be different than our previous ones. It will be intimate and essentially about refuge and reflection as we spend it in solitude or safely celebrate with our own households. Bubbles — champagnes and sparkling beverages — are forever tied to celebrations, no matter the size of the gathering. Picking the right ones, however, can be dizzying, often turning into a label beauty pageant.
To better navigate the vast selection of wines that fall into the sparkling category, I turned to my friend Alex Neureuter, who has worked for wineries throughout Sonoma County’s Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys. She broke her recommendations into two categories — domestic sparkling beverages and French champagnes — as well as a three-tiered price range. Neuruetor shuns my description of her as an expert in bubbles and prefers the title of “expert bubbles drinker.” But I have shared many glasses of bubbles with her at celebrations large and small, and nary a bad sip was to be found in any of her selections. Enjoy!
Wishing one and all a happy and safe New Year.
—Jack Sonni, writer, musician and food lover, known as the “other guitar player” in Dire Straits
Budget but Tasty ($18 to $20)
Domestic: Korbel 2017 Vintage Natural from the Russian River Valley is a fruity and well-balanced California sparkler with a drier finish. It can be served with delicate white fish dishes or raw oysters.
French: Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé (non-vintage) has a beautiful brilliant pink hue with fine and light bubbles, a nose of predominantly red fruit aromas and a pleasant roundness on the palate. A perfect aperitif.
Mid-Price ($20 to $70)
Domestic: Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut 2016 has a flavor profile of rising dough, orange marmalade, baked apple, ripe red apple, mandarin orange and hazelnut. A perfect wine with smoked salmon and toast and hard cheeses. (I give this sparkling two glasses up!)
French: Champagne Deutz Brut Rosé (non-vintage) is a lovely old-world option with fine bubbles and aromas reminiscent of cherries, blackberries, pomegranates and red currants. Serve with oysters, shrimp and crab.
Top Shelf ($90 to $350)
Domestic: Schramsberg Schwarze Vineyard Blanc de Blanc 2015 is a Napa Valley sparkler with aromas of lemon curd, green apple and pear. The nose is complemented by notes of cinnamon, ginger and citrus zest. Pairs perfectly with seared salmon or grilled lamb chops.
French: Krug Brut 2006 is our priciest recommendation of all, but if you’re going to splurge, this champagne, with its hints of dried fruit, toasted almonds, hazelnut, maple syrup, meringue and mandarin liqueur, is the way to go. It has plenty of citrus with a beautiful finish of pink grapefruit. If you’re drinking this one, there are no rules: You may pair with whatever you darn well please!