Bubbles, but which ones?
Bubbles in the form of Champagne are part of New Year’s Eve.
Midnight fireworks are accompanied by popping corks and the new year is welcomed with more or less bubbly drinks. Few things signal celebration and anticipation as much as sparkling wine.
But what should you choose? Which of all the bubbly sparkling drinks is the best one to toast the new year with?
As always, it ultimately depends on your taste and preference. But clearly there are many alternatives to the French Queen and a glance at the line-up takes us across several continents.
In no particular order, let’s look at the different options.
A classic Champagne, from the Champagne region of France, is of course always right. If you want crisp and fresh, look for a Blanc de Blanc made only from Chardonnay. Chances are you’ll find fresh notes of citrus fruits such as lemon, grapefruit and lime. Or if you want something a little more full-bodied, go for a classic that also has Pinot Menuier and Pinot Noir in the blend.
But let’s think outside the box, even outside the country, and look south to Italy.
And don’t just think Prosecco, which is definitely a good alternative with its fresh, light taste with notes of both green apples and lime. Here we also find, in my opinion, an extremely affordable alternative to the classic champagne. Made according to the traditional method, with the classic Champagne grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Menuier, Pinot Noir, but in one of the regions also with the addition of Pinot Blanc, which gives extra dimension and body. We are talking about the two options Trento DOC and Francicorta. Why not toast the new year with some Italian flair?
If we look even further south, we end up in Spain and uncork a bottle of Cava. The grapes are completely different although the production method is the same, i.e. traditional with second fermentation in the bottle. But instead of the previous grapes we find the tongue twisting Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo. Three grapes that give the Spanish Cava a fuller and often rounder taste than the previous wines.
But we switch continents and move to South Africa. There we find Cap Classique, which, as the name implies, is a sparkling wine made according to the traditional method. The grapes are local, but are predominantly the traditional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. (Yep, we are back to the classic “Champagne grapes”) However, here we will feel the influence of the weather and the soil. Because even though it is the same grapes, the same method, the South African wines in my opinion tend to be fuller, rounder and deeper in flavor than their French siblings. This is even more evident when we reach for a bottle of Australian bubbly. A country that can be full of surprises.
This is also the case when I cross the Atlantic and land in North America. Many people think of California when it comes to this continent and wine. But I want to make a case for its northern neighbor, Canada. A country that offers more than just hockey and maple syrup. From the Niagara region, I have tasted some really mind-blowing sparkling wines made from 100% Riesling. A grape that can sometimes be fresh bordering on acidic. But in its Canadian version presents a spectrum of soft fresh notes of fruit, flowers and herbs.
So when shopping for your New Year’s bubbles, dare to think outside the box. Try something new.
And if you’re not sure which one to choose, go for both!
Sommelier & Dozent