I had the privilege of going to a Champagne tasting last week, along the traditional French pairing of Shake Shack burgers. What did I learn other than that the French know how to wine and dine? They know how to party, too. Apparently, the bubbles in sparkling wine (or even beer) can increase an individual's blood alcohol faster than the still version—some believe this is the result of faster absorption by the digestive system into the bloodstream. The controlled study was done a while ago, but this was news to me.
Not that we encourage your guests to go from 0 to 60 in a few glasses (officially), but if you want to get your holiday or New Year's party started bubbly style, we're here to help. These budget bottles are all less than $15 so you can stock up for the celebrations to come.
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: for good value in French sparkling wine, think outside Champagne. Willm Cremant d'Alsace Blanc de Noirs Brut AOC ($14) is made of 100% Pinot Noir and has a lovely orange scent that turns to candied orange over time. There's tinge of sweetness that is balanced out by minerality in the finish.
Moving onto Italy, we're happy sipping Caposaldo Prosecco Brut DOC ($13) at a party—it's a light and crisp option that's hard to complain about. This bottle offers up a little bit of everything—apple sweetness, lemony acidity, and a touch of bitterness on the finish. Try it with cheeseburgers, trust me.
For something that's easy to find and to drink, we often turn to Mionetto Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut ($12). It's dry and refreshing with nice orchard fruit flavors (think apple or pear) lifted by hints of lemon. You also don't have to get too complicated with the food—with a simple cheese plate or even on its own, these fine bubbles are sure to be delightful.
You definitely shouldn't forget Spain for your sparkling wine needs; we shared a few favorites here last year. But if you're adding fruit juice—try pear and nutmeg—to sparkling wine, you definitely can find decent options under $10. Freixenet Cordon Negro is widely available, with aromas that reminded us of saltine crackers. The bubbles expand in your mouth with each sip, leaving a crisp, lemony flavor.
To add a little color to the life of the party, we'd be happy to drink the Poema Cava Brut Rosado ($11). This sparkler smells like berries with a little bit of candied sweetness. The bubbles are oh-so-tiny and the wine itself is dry but fruity—plenty of raspberry flavors coming through. It isn't super complex, but this is something you could easily drink a lot of without noticing. And it's very versatile in terms of food—even if your definition of a party is some Chinese take-out and a movie.
The Lunetta Rosé ($11) from the Cavit Collection tastes lighter than the Poema Cava. When smelling this wine, the mind goes straight to strawberries in syrup. Light berry flavors and bright acidity end with a bit of chalkiness. Serve with cheese and crackers.
What are your go-to party wines? Any sparklers that strike your fancy?
About the author: Seema Gunda is an avid wine traveler, collector, and student with a background in chemistry and a day job in consulting.