Savvy hosts know that bubbly works magic on a crowd. We can’t think of a more celebratory sound than the pop of a cork. Flutes of sparkling wine make guests feel instantly welcome, encouraging even the shy ones to mix and mingle.
If you’re looking for a sparkler to toast the new year, you can find one from Spain (cava), France (Champagne from the region where it was invented, or cremant, from outside of Champagne), or Italy (prosecco from the Veneto or lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna). These are just a few.
The production of most quality sparkling wines involves two fermentations. The first fermentation produces a nonbubbly base wine. The addition of yeast and sugar to the base wine prompts a second fermentation. As the yeast consumes sugar, bubbles (carbon dioxide) are produced and captured in the finished product. Pressure created by CO2 in a bottle of Champagne is roughly three times the pressure in a car’s tire. Now you can tell your guests why the pop is so dramatic.
When the second fermentation occurs in the bottle in which the wine will be sold, it is called the traditional method. Authentic Champagne is made in this traditional method and goes through a lengthy process, called methode Champenoise, before corking. While we enjoy Champagne for its biscuity aromas and fine mousse, French cremant and Spanish cava are also made by the traditional method and you can count on their affordability. You’re not paying for the prestige of the Champagne name.
Prosecco’s effervescence is created by means of the charmat method. The second fermentation takes place in a sealed tank. The largest producers use a tank big enough to produce 100,000 bottles. Fermentation, filtration of yeast, and corking all take place under pressure, thereby retaining fresh, fruity flavors. Prosecco is meant to be sipped young, so drink it soon after purchase.
To toast the new year, we recommend these five effervescent beauties, all under $25, two made in the traditional method, the others charmat.
In 2013, let’s resolve to keep a sparkler in the fridge all the time. You never know when you’ll have something to toast.
Mascaro Pure Cava Reserva Brut Nature This Spanish sparkler offers fast-moving bubbles that fizz audibly in your glass, letting out aromas of white flowers and pear. Green apple, wet stones, and a touch of bitter almond round out the palate. Around $16. At Winestone, Chestnut Hill, 617-264-0393; University Wine Shop, Cambridge, 617-547-4258.
Tissot “Indigene” Cremant du Jura Brut Biodynamic French winemaker Stephane Tissot uses indigenous yeasts from making his vin de paille (“straw wine,” made from grapes dried on straw mats) to create this sparkler from the Jura, near the Swiss border. An intriguing nose of yeast and stone fruit. The palate is bone-dry and soil-driven with tiny streaming bubbles, mouthwat-ering acidity, and a slight saline finish. Around $23. At Pemberton Farms, Cambridge, 617-491-2244; Wine Sense, Andover, 978-749-9464.
Adami “Bosco di Gica” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut A substantial pop of the cork and sprightly bubbles characterize this platinum-hued Italian sparkler. Scents of ripe pear and citrus spritz, with yellow apple and fresh lemon notes in the mouth. Around $18. At Winestone, 617-264-0393; Savour Wine and Cheese, Gloucester, 978-282-1455.
Michlits Meinklang “Prosa” Frizzante Pinot Noir Rose 2011 If spring can be captured in a bottle, this frizzante (softly sparkling) Austrian pink does it handily. Understated, slightly vegetal aromas of ripening fruit and violets greet the nose. Bing cherry and wet stone minerality fill the mouth. Around $20. At The Spirited Gourmet, Belmont, 617-489-9463; West Concord Liquors, Concord, 978-369-3872.
Cleto Chiarli Grasparossa di Castelvetro Lambrusco Amabile This semisweet frizzante sparkler from Modena, Italy, is a deep ruby hue, lush with boysenberries, garden soil aromas, and cinnamon-stick spice. Around $13. At Pemberton Farms, 617-491-2244; Blanchard’s Liquors, Allston, 617-782-5588.