Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
Though there are plenty of drinks that have had New Year’s connotations over the years—mead, beer, mulled wine, you name it—the bubbly stuff, i.e. Champagne or sparkling wine, is really the spot-on gift if you happen to be headed out to a party or three.
The thing is, wine with bubbles ranges wildly in price; a bottle of 1998 Krug Clos d’Ambonnay will set you back about $2,000, whereas a bottle of André Cold Duck (no vintage on that one, strangely enough) will damage your finances to the tune of $4.50 or so. So, to make life easier, especially in this last-minute-what-do-I-do moment, here are some suggestions.
How to buy Champagne (or its cheaper, just as cheery cousins)
You Have Heaps of Cash
There are innumerable possibilities out there, but in terms of quality for cash outlay, it’s hard to beat Krug. The price of the Clos d’Ambonnay mentioned above is absurd, but a bottle of Krug Grand Cuvee - a great Champagne - will set you back $140 or so, and impress the heck out of whoever it is you’re trying to impress.
You Have Some Money to Spend, But Aren’t Nuts
Real Champagne (that is, from the Champagne region in France) isn’t inexpensive - the most affordable will run you $30 or so. But quality is high across the region, plus there’s name recognition, always something to consider when bringing a gift. Of the many non-vintage brut (i.e. dry) bottlings out there, two good ones to seek out are the crisp, citrus-inflected Laurent-Perrier Brut LP and the somewhat richer and creamier Gosset Brut Excellence. Both can usually be found for under $35.
You Think $20 Is Just Fine, Thank You
Go for a top-quality Cava, Spain’s answer to Champagne. The very best (with a few strangely high-priced exceptions) can be found for under $20, like the aromatic, minerally Raventos I Blanc Brut Reserva, the apple-floral Avinyo Brut Reserva, and the layered 2008 Gramona Gran Cuvee.
Actually, Though, $12 Or So Would Be Better
At the $12 level, the best sparkling wine deal around is going to be Prosecco. Fruitier and a touch sweeter in most cases than Cavas or Champagnes, it’s easy to drink, fun, and a bargain (partly because it’s made in a more cost-effective manner, in which the second fermentation that causes the effervescence happens in large tanks, rather than in the bottle). Prosecco is hugely popular, so there are a lot in the market at the moment; some of the most reliable include the Mionetto Prosecco Brut, Bisol’s Jeio bottling, Collalbrigo’s Prosecco di Conegliano Brut, Tiamo (made from organic grapes), and Sciarpa.
You’d Really Rather Not Spend Anything
Simplicity itself! Find a bottle of seltzer water, pour out a few ounces, put some vodka and red food coloring in it, and seal it back up. Your friends will be amazed.
More from Food & Wine:
Best New Places to Drink Wine
Best Champagne Cocktails
Top 50 Cocktail Bars in America
Best Hotel Bars
2013 Cocktail Trends
5@5 – The razzle dazzle of Champagne
How to buy Champagne (or its cheaper, just as cheery cousins)
Bargain bubbly for the holidays
Five "Under The Radar" Sparkling Wines: Gary Vaynerchuk
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I keep Moet et Chandeau in a pretty cabinet...
If it isn't Boones Farm, it isn't good wine.
You win the internet....
I prefer Ripple
If you're on that tight a budget, the best way to go really is to "make your own." Go to your local Trader Joe's, grab a bottle of Two Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw) Chardonnay, and carbonate it using one of those home soda makers. I like the SodaStream line. If you don't live in an area served by TJ's, just use whatever cheap dry white wine you can find.
I love the Two Buck Chuck Shiraz.....that's all we ever buy, it's decent stuff!
don't use wine on a sodastream! those machines ONLY carbonate water. otherwise the wine will shoot up into the machine and you will have a huge mess to clean up
I haven't found any here in the USA yet but Cartizze Prosecco is amazing, if you can get your hands on some. I'd never heard of it until I was in Treviso a few years ago. Yum!
How about andre, the 3 buck "sparkling wine"? make mimosas, and you'll never know the difference. and if you're the type to go through it (or are having a large group of people out) it's better to go cheap.
What about grower champagnes? They are a great way to get 1er Cru value for a nice price. I like vairous of the Gimonnet (and Gimonnet et Fils) and A. Margaine bottlings.
Would have appreciated a few more selections in the lower price range. Don't like the sweeter options!
I'm far from an expert, but I've had some $400+ bottles and many in the $100 range and the best I've ever had was 1996 Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires. Can still be had for just under $200 when you can find it, but that's becoming increasingly difficult. For sparkling wine, love the 2006 Domaine Carneros Le Reve Blanc de Blancs.
Napa Mums Brut, how could it not even get a mention? Maybe I'm spoiled living in Napa, but this is the best bottle for around $20
Agreed! I live in the Bay Area and had Mum Napa at a New Years party a few years ago and fell in love with it! BTW...it's on sale at safeway right now for $12.99/bottle. Sweet! :)
Was the vodka and seltzer supposed to be a joke??
I"d hope so...
What a snobby article. The writer's blatant looking-down on those "lesser" than he makes him look like a jackass.
I mean, seriously. Seltzer and vodka?
Talk about no class whatsoever – and no taste.
Sounds like a recipe for barf.
"You’d Really Rather Not Spend Anything
Simplicity itself! Find a bottle of seltzer water, pour out a few ounces, put some vodka and red food coloring in it, and seal it back up. Your friends will be amazed."
Who writes this garbage? College kids?
Not worth the time to read.
Not worth your time to read... Yet you couldn't resist the urge to pontificate about it. ROTFLMFAO!!!
"Mensboy"... How pretentious. Are even old enough to consume alcohol?
Juame Serrra Cristalino Brut Cava – $6.99 at the wholesale club, and sometimes less with the dollar-off coupons on the neck.
I keep a case chilled at all times of the year. Sparkling wine can be enjoyed any time. It is not just for weddings, new years, and special occasions.
To the Frixnet lovers above, that is also a nice choice. But check out Juame Serra Cristalino sometime – it is drier and and a smoother taste to it.
A nice little Spanish Cava. We are going to Spain in the spring, where I understand you can get it for 2.5 Euros. I'll do my part to help the Spanish economy.
"Not to be confused with Louis Roerder's Critsal Pimp Juice" – it says so, right on the label!
Sounds good, Bob. Thanks for the recommendation. I love the Spanish Cavas!
THANK YOU SO MUCH! Just bought my first, but definitely not my last bottle of Jaume Serra Cristalino. What a wonderful wine. And only $7.67 a bottle.
Prosecco is also an excellent alternative.
This is a fluff piece like most of these Internet articles. What about California sparkling wines? Or don't they sell those at your East Coast supermarket?
No mention of Freixenet in the modestly priced Cava category? Unbelievable! Just because they over hype at the Holidays, doesn't mean that the product is not quite good.
I love Freixenet. We put several bottles on every table at our wedding and always drink it every New Year's. It's no Moet, but it's pretty darn good for the price.
Frixnet was my favorite inexpensive Cava, but it does have a bit of a metallic edge to it. And the price has been edging up as late.
I found Juame Serra Cristalino at the wholesale club. The trademark disclaimer on the label cracked me up (who would confuse a $6.99 bottle of Cava with a $699 bottle of overpriced Champagne) – so I had to buy it.
Every time I go back there, it is easy to find on their "wall of wine" – just look for the big hole in the sparkling section. I'm not the only one, apparently. Usually, I end up buying all they have.
They also make a Brut Rose, which is almost red in color. For some reason it never scans properly at checkout.
Good to see there are a few others who appreciate. Not grande, by any means. But especially at Holidays, when you have large gatherings and have family and friends like mine, where you *know* some of them are good to suck down at least a bottle a piece...
Freixenet is excellent quality and doesn't break the budget. And no one will be looking through the bin of empties in the garage to see if it was Cook's or André. LOL
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