Here’s one New Year’s resolution that will be easy to keep: Resolve to pop the corks of more sparkling wine next year. These festive pours add panache to any meal and will turn weeknights into occasions. If bubblies from Champagne are out of your price range, but your heart is fixed on France, we recommend two sparklers from Alsace, in the country’s easternmost region, and a pair from the cool slopes of the Pyrenees in the French South.
The denizens of Limoux, a town and wine appellation in the Languedoc region in the South of France, claim to have been making sparkling wines long before it was practiced in Champagne. Benedictine monks at the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire are credited with being the first to produce bubbly quaffs in 1531. Cork trees, grown just to the south of Limoux in Spain’s Cataluna region, produced stoppers that made it possible to seal the sturdy bottles in which the bubble-generating second fermentation took place. Today, these wines are still made in the traditional method, in the manner of Champagne.
Proudly continuing an effervescent tradition is Domaine J. Laurens, revived by entrepreneur Jacques Calvel, a Limoux native, who returned from Switzerland in 2002 to restructure the domaine with the help of two sparkling wine experts. Today, J. Laurens makes a fine example of the regional sparkler Blanquette de Limoux, made primarily of mauzac grapes with chardonnay and chenin blanc added. (“Blanquette,” meaning “white,” refers to the fine white coating that appears on grape leaves.) This producer also makes a stellar Cremant de Limoux, with a greater proportion of chardonnay and chenin blanc, and splashes of mauzac and pinot noir in the blend. (The term “cremant,” which shows up in appellation names throughout France, describes a sparkling wine made in the traditional method outside of the Champagne region.)
Nearly 500 miles due north and east is Alsace, nestled on the eastern slopes of the Vosges mountains with a view to Germany over the Rhine River. The region has been long celebrated for its dry white wines, but enthusiasts also love its sparkling wines, which comprise roughly 20 percent of all Alsatian wines. Maison Pierre Sparr, established in the 17th century, produces a Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé from pinot noir. This blushing pink sparkler is a crowd-pleaser. Another distinguished producer, Domaine Lucien Albrecht, which traces its roots to the 1400s, crafts an elegant bubbly made from mostly pinot auxerrois, with pinot blanc and chardonnay. Lucien Albrecht, the father of the current proprietor and winemaker, Jean Albrecht, helped found the appellation Cremant d’ Alsace.
They are all full of fine-beading bubbles, with moderate alcohol (around 12 percent), and dry, lively palates. Begin your resolution on New Year’s Eve.
Maison Pierre Sparr Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé A cheery pink sparkler offering finely textured bubbles and confectionary strawberry and raspberry aromas. A dry, red berry palate laced with delicate citrusy notes. Around $20. At Atlas Liquors, Quincy, 617-472-1573; Martignetti Liquors, Brighton, 617-782-3700.
Domaine Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Fine beads of bubbles with a crisp and clean profile. Green apple, Bosc pear, and citrus spritz, all supported by fresh minerality. Around $21. At The Wine Press, Brookline, 617-277-7020; Rapid Liquors, Stoneham, 781-438-0595.
Domaine J. Laurens “Les Graimenous” Cremant de Limoux 2010 Delicate apple cider-like aromas combine with honey, toast, and white floral scents. Undergirded by stony minerality, fine mousse fills the mouth, conveying apple skin, pear, and a spritz of sweet citrus. Around $20. At The Spirited Gourmet, Belmont, 617-489-9463; Winestone, Chestnut Hill, 617-264-0393.
Domaine J. Laurens “Le Moulin” Blanquette de Limoux Fresh and well-crafted, bubbles race to the surface before settling. Green apple aromas combine with scents of biscuit and dairy cream. An appetizing edge of saline plus citrus-skin bitterness whets the appetite. Around $16. At Berman’s Wine and Spirits, Lexington, 781-862-0515; Henry’s Wine Cellar, North Beverly, 978-524-0300.