If you ask me, sparkling wine is meant to be enjoyed year-round and for occasions both special and mundane. But the holiday season is usually peak time for bubbly consumption.
Whether you’re toasting the new year or bringing a hostess gift to a party, chances are you’ll find yourself shopping for a bottle or two of something sparkling sooner or later.
And where to begin? These days, the choices seem to be bottom-shelf or wallet-busting, with very little guidance on what to buy in between.
No one wants to show up with the $6 bottle of Andre, and chances are you aren’t shopping for Dom Perignon either. How do you get that champagne taste on a Prosecco budget?
I was determined to find out just that, recently tasting through 15 different sparkling wines to help you find the best bang, or pop, for your buck. I tried wines from several different regions, of various methods of production, and made from all manner of grape varietals.
It’s a tough job, but someone had to do it.
I narrowed the selection down to four choices, all great-tasting sparkling wines that are fancy enough to be given as gifts and tasty enough to pour at a party. All are available locally in the Triangle. And, best of all, all are under $20.
Now, grab your champagne flutes and start popping bottles.
Nino Franco Rustico
This is a classic Prosecco that will never let you down. Dry, crisp, with hints of apple, this should be your go-to toasting wine or aperitif this holiday season. Greet your guests with a glass of this bubbly as they walk through your door, and you will cement your status as holiday hostess extraordinaire. They never have to know that it’s only $13.99 a bottle. (Found at Total Wine in Durham and Raleigh.)
Mas Codina Cava Brut
If something with a little more body is what you’re looking for, then grab a bottle of this 2015 Spanish sparkler. It pairs well with a variety of foods, especially holding up nicely to anything fried. Fried turkey legs and bubbly for Thanksgiving this year, perhaps? At $11.99 a bottle, this may be something you want to buy a case of, you know, just in case. (Found at Wine Authorities in Durham and Raleigh.)
Mumm Napa Brut Prestige
Let this California beauty be your go-to hostess gift this season. This wine, a mix of chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot gris and pinot meunier, has bright vibrant flavors of citrus, red apple and stone fruit with a great acidity and richness in the mouth. It’s been an industry favorite for years, bringing home plenty of awards. At $18.95 a bottle, it delivers on elegance without a Veuve Cliquot price tag. (Found at Triangle Wine Co. in Morrisville and Cary.)
Labrusca Lini 910 Lambrusco Rosato
Everyone has that slightly eccentric family member who always spices things up at the holiday party, right? Well this lambrusco is like that. Banish any notions of the sickeningly sweet lambrusco of yesteryear and pour yourself a glass of this delicious, rich, effervescent Italian wine.
This is big enough to hold up to roast turkey, pork and cured meats, beautiful in a glass to toast with on New Year’s Eve, and fun enough to brighten any party. Serve it slightly chilled in flutes or regular wine glasses and watch as your guests fall in love. It’s only $17.99 a bottle, so you’ll probably want to pick up a second just for you. (Found at Wine Authorities in Durham and Raleigh.)
Matt Lardie is a Durham-based freelance writer. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @matt_lardie.