Sparkling wine is inherently festive, but that doesn’t mean you have to stow away your precious bottles until 11:45 on New Year’s Eve. To the contrary, it means you’ve got the power to turn any moment into a celebration with the mere popping of a cork. Not sure what to serve? Here’s a selection of choice champagnes and other types of bubbly at varying prices that are far too good to save until the next boozy performance of “Auld Lang Syne.”
Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne 2002 ($140) is joyful and delicious, with a great bite on the tip of the tongue, notes of birch, and a perfect balance of tart and sweet. Having a glass waiting when you step out of the shower is (speaking from experience) the height of decadence. Dom Pérignon Vintage 2002 ($150) is the standard-bearer from the first name in champagne, and it’s a truly refined pour, with notes of apple, citrus, and honey, and Dom’s signature velvety mouthfeel. It’s the good life in a glass. Creeping even further upscale, the austere and refined Dom Pérignon OEnothèque 1996 ($350) has a rich aroma of coffee and caramel, and notes of vanilla on the tongue. Its price tag keeps it mainly in the hands of connoisseurs and collectors, but consider splurging, for it would be a sad world indeed if only hedge fund managers got to enjoy it. Dom Pérignon Rosé 2000 ($350) boasts a unique peach and copper color, a wall of intense dark fruit flavors at the front, and notes of orange peel and spice with the long finish.
From the house of Moët comes Moët & Chandon Impérial ($38), a flavorful, fruit-driven champagne made from pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier grapes. Moët’s tasty new Grand Vintage 2002 ($65), meanwhile, has hints of white peach, citrus, pear, and toasted almonds. And I’ve always enjoyed Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut ($43), a rich-tasting wine with tiny bubbles and notes of apples and pears. It might not be the most expensive of the bunch, but to me it’s the very definition of champagne.
Although most do, quality bubbly doesn’t have to come from France anymore. Italy’s new Ruffino Prosecco ($15) has notes of pear and citrus and tastes a lot more expensive than it is, making it the perfect cork to pop at a picnic or outdoor concert. From Spain comes a cava called Anna de Codorníu Brut Rosé ($15), a pinot noir-and-chardonnay blend that has a pleasing tartness and blueberry flavors. The supple Bagrationi 1882 Classic Sparkling Wine ($15) from the former Soviet republic of Georgia grabs you right at the start with a great bite and notes of tangerine. Finally, from beautiful northern California come a couple of bottles worthy of your living room table. The 2000 DVX by Mumm Napa Valley Sparkling Wine ($50) is delightfully tart and chewy, with aromas of fine wood and notes of nectarine. It’s festive without being fussy. Finally, Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Extra Dry California Sparkling Wine ($10) has sharp little bubbles, a citrus bite at the front, flavors of pineapple, and a long, pleasurable finish. It’s ideal for a fall evening in need of that extra little spark.