In the holiday season, it can be easy to get sick of the standard party bubbly, sparkling wine that's easy to drink but kind of predictable—a little fruit, a little yeast—fizz that's fine in a flute as you graze your way through the appetizer table.
But it's the perfect season to break out of that rut and explore some more unusual sparklers, especially if you want to bring a bottle to give your dinner party host. The wines I've chosen to highlight are particularly good dinner party companions, serious juice that will make food shine. Chill them before bringing them over, and don't relegate them to the pre-dinner cocktail hour just because they're bubbly!
Bubbles from a Beaujolais Star
I recently asked a wine shop clerk which Champagne he'd been enjoying lately, and he steered me away from Champagne to a wine from a top Beaujolais producer. Jean-Paul Brun's Crémant de Bourgogne Charme Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs smells amazing, all Jordan almonds and apricots, and delivers elegantly: these are lean, pure, mouthwatering bubbles, focused and bright, with an elegant, soft texture. This wine is perfect for a holiday toast, or for serving with a giant Dungeness crab. It's a little pricier than some Cremants at $23, but it's good enough to beat out bubbly that costs at least $15 more. It's the kind of stuff you could sneak into a blind tasting and trick those who're loyal to big-brand Champagne.
Importer: Louis Dressner Selections
Just a Little Jura
Les Chais du Vieux Bourg Delires des Lyres 2008 Cremant de Jura is made from 70% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir, and 20% Savagnin (which you also see in the famous oxidative vin jaunes of the region). The vines average 40 to 50 years old, and are grown on soils caked with fossilized oysters. The grapes, never treated with pesticides or fertilizer, are pressed in an wooden wine press and fermented in oak casks, then undergo the traditional method champenoise, producing fine, delicate bubbles.
The scent is delicious, like roasted apples, and each sip is a swirl of tart-apple acidity, enough to pucker your mouth after each swallow. If there were a step somewhere between Champagne and cider, this is it, and the wine feels alive, a little unusual, and enriched by 2 years in the bottle before disgorgement. It's totally dry, not rounded off by a sweet dosage, but ready to come to the table, perfect for a pork roast with chanterelle mushrooms, or a savory panade with swiss chard, mushrooms, and gruyere. Around $34.
Importer: Langdon Shiverick
Beyond the Name
It's hard not to giggle at a name like Goat Bubbles, but Flying Goat Cellars is making some serious sparkling from grapes in the Santa Maria Valley of California. Their 2010 Blanc de Blancs is toasty and elegant, full of bright yellow-apple fruit and brioche-like richness from time spent on the lees. It's perfect for roast pork or seared scallops.
Flying Goat also makes a full-bodied but refreshingly tart pinot blanc-based Goat Bubbles Crémant, which would be perfect to serve with goat cheese crostini (add a sprinkle of lemon or orange zest on top) or any seafood appetizers.
We just wish these wines was a little cheaper—they have a lot of delicious competition in the $34-$38 range‐but that's one of the challenges of super small-production wine, especially wines as labor-intensive as traditional-method sparkling.
$34 to $38, get more information here.
Rosé Sparkling from Oregon
We're always on the hunt for good domestic bubbly, and always wondered why Oregon's pinot noir country didn't produce more of it. But here's one to have on your radar: a nonvintage brut rosé from R. Stuart & Co, made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. The wine pours a peachy salmon color, and offers rich, slightly nutty aromas. The wine is fermented in 5-7 year old neutral French oak, and the fine, delicate carbonation is produced by traditional secondary fermentation in the bottle—richness is added by leaving the wine on tirage for about 3 years.
And it's rich, deep, slightly boozy-tasting stuff, balanced with bright acidity like buttery toasted bread smeared with a tart cranberry-lemon chutney. There's an orange-zesty quality that makes it ready to pair with food; try a crown roast of pork, a holiday turkey, or a selection of nutty aged cheeses.
Around $35, get more information here.
All wines except the J. P. Brun were provided as press samples for review consideration.
More Festive Wine Picks
Our favorite sparkling wines under $25 are all here. Looking for nonvintage Champagne recommendations? Start here. Wondering about the difference between Cava, Cremant, and Prosecco? Check out this guide.