Any time is right for sparkling wine, but the holiday season presents a particularly great opportunity to explore different styles. Not only are there many reasons to toast, but also numerous retailers offer a larger sparkling wine selection and competitive pricing in December. Of course, the king of sparkling wine is Champagne, which comes from the French appellation of the same name and is made by a process known as the méthode Champenoise or méthode traditionnelle. This labor-intensive method requires the wine to go through a second fermentation in its own bottle rather than a tank.
Authentic Champagne has delicious toasty and yeasty characteristics that are unique to sparkling wines from that region. While some entry-level Champagnes can be found for about $20, the beginning price for many well-known Champagne labels is about $35 to $40 and heads upward to more than $100.
But if real Champagne is outside your budget, you can still find many affordable, high-quality sparklers priced under $15 that are made through the méthode Champenoise. In fact, if you want to stick to a French wine, look for those labeled Crémant. These wines, which are also made through the Champagne fermentation method, come from the following eight appellations: Alsace, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Die, Jura, Limoux, Loire and Savoie.
There are also many fine U.S. sparkling wines made through the Champagne process that can be found for $15 and below this time of year. In fact, some come from wineries owned or founded by famous French Champagne houses such as G.H. Mumm and Moët & Chandon.
Crémant de Bourgogne
Bought • Wine Merchant, 7817 Forsyth Boulevard in November for $14.99.
Description • This French sparkling wine is a great option if Champagne is too expensive. An absolutely delicious Crémant, it has that yeasty, toasty nose often associated with sparkling wines from Champagne. It comes from the family who owns Domaine des Granges, which is known for its Burgundian white wines. Made from chardonnay, this sparkler is fresh, crisp and complex with exuberant, pinpoint bubbles.
Mumm Napa Prestige Brut
Bought • World Market, 24 Brentwood Promenade Court, for $14.99 with free membership, promotional discounts
Description • This sparkling wine, which consistently wins high scores from critics, comes from Mumm Napa, which was established by Champagne house G.H. Mumm in 1986. A blend of 45 percent chardonnay, 45 percent pinot noir and 10 percent pinot gris and pinot meunier, this wine is soft and elegant. It combines citrus and stone fruit flavors with a touch of vanilla and toast.