How to Pick Out the Best Bubbly

Do you really need top shelf bubbles when the clock hits midnight? Read on to find out.

clinking-champagne-glasses
Photo by Viktoria Rodriguez/EyeEm/Getty Images

This article originally appeared on SouthernLiving.com.

We sat down with New Orleans, Louisiana-based champagne expert, Amy C. Collins to get all in the information you need about buying the best champagne for New Years and making the best champagne cocktails. Although, you may need to rethink if you actually need champagne for New Years because that’s a common catch all term for several sparkling wines. See what Collins, the writer behind the wine blog Pig & Vine, recommends to keep you buzzing through the ball drop and into 2017.

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Is expensive champagne really the best?

Champagne, like any commodity, is often priced at what the market will pay. Prestige cuvées, like Moët & Chandon’s ‘Dom Perignon’ and Roeder’s ‘Cristal’ are excellent wines, but also symbols of luxury and financial prosperity. The price reflects it. If living large is your thing, you’ll be drinking well and showing the world, like wearing a designer’s label on the front of your shirt. But there are a number of quality wines that cost less and are just as good.

Many people assume that every sparkling wine is a champagne. What are some other varieties of sparkling wine for people to purchase?

Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) and Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) can be great values, typically far cheaper than champagne, but a sparkling wine from Champagne (the specific region in France that grows champagne grapes) can not be rivaled. It’s like comparing a generic sweet onion to a Vidalia. The latter will always be a tad more special and delicious because it comes from a very specific and special place. If your budget is really tight, look for small family-run estates that make Prosecco and Cava. They might cost a little more than the standard grocery store purchase, but are far less than a top shelf Champagne and have a better story and better connection to the place from which it came. ***Lookout for Cinzia Sommariva, Bisson Glera Prosecco, and Avinyó Cava.

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Is an older vintage necessarily a better sparkling wine?

This is a tricky question! Sparkling wines tend to be non-vintage, which means they blend reserve wine from previous years to produce a consistent “house” style. In Champagne, where grape growing is particularly difficult, vintage Champagnes are made only three or four times in a decade when the weather cooperates. That alone makes them a bit extra special. Those wines are generally held for a few years before release to the market, giving them time to develop more complexity, which makes them more interesting. Better is a matter of opinion here. There are very few vintage Proseccos and Cavas.

Can you recommend two versatile, well-priced sparkling wines to purchase?

In addition to the three mentioned above I’d look to the J. Lassalle Tradition NV ‘Brut’ and the Lanson Black Label Tradition NV. Both are around than same price as Veuve, but much more interesting and enjoyable to drink.

How many glasses do you get per bottle of sparkling wine and how many glasses (on average) should you estimate per guest?

About five glasses per 750ml (the standard) bottle. If you’re just having a toast, 1 glass each is the norm. If you’re serving it at dinner, assume 2 glasses per guest. See how to set up a serve yourself champagne bar.

Any other “super-duh’s” you’d like for the world at large to know about sparkling wines? Or anything great happening in the world of sparkling wine right now? A great new varietal?

When you open a bottle of sparkling wine, hold the cork and gently twist the bottle. When it feels like the cork is almost free, pull it slightly to one side so you get a soft hiss when opening. We are beginning to see and will continue to see more grower Champagnes and vineyard specific Champagnes and sparkling wines. These are better values and more interesting experiences than the old guard.

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Do you have any quick ideas to spruce up a glass of bubbly to make it a great cocktail?

I’m a fan of the standard mimosa with a splash of OJ, but here are some other great New Year’s Eve champagne cocktail ideas.