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A Round of Bubblies to Welcome the New Year

Lists of suggested Champagnes and sparkling wines, plus tips for matching bubbles with food

Laurie Woolever
Posted: December 24, 2009

There are only a handful of days left before we close out 2009, and indeed the first decade of the new millennium. If you’re like us, you’ll be waving goodbye with one hand while holding a glass of something bubbly in the other. To that end, we’ve put together a list of suggested Champagnes and sparkling wines to help you make the most of your New Year’s celebration.

According to Wine Spectator contributing editor Sam Gugino, another way to make the most of the festive occasion is to remember that Champagne and sparkling wine can be very good food wines, so don’t just save them for the midnight toast. Gugino cites the four attributes that make them good food wines:

• Sparkling wines have less alcohol than most still wines, [which] won't tire you or your palate as quickly.
• Sparkling wines typically have more acidity than still wines, which keeps the palate refreshed and ready for the next bite of food.
• The bubbles in sparkling wine also keep the palate refreshed.
• Sparkling wine is available in a wide range of styles, from light and delicate to rich and powerful, meaning that an equally wide range of foods can be paired with bubblies.

Gugino concludes, “Matching an entire meal with sparkling wines can be a lot of fun. Proceed as you would with still wines: Start with lighter wines, move to heavier stuff, then glide to a finish with something sweet.”

However you choose to ring in 2010, Wine Spectator wishes you a happy new year!

CHAMPAGNE

CHARLES HEIDSIECK Brut Champagne Réserve NV Score: 92 | $55
Compelling, from the first aromas of butter, vanilla, toast and coffee to the candied citrus and passion fruit jelly flavors. Harmonious and long, with a refined finish that echoes mineral. Drink now through 2012. 5,000 cases imported.—B.S.

PIPER-HEIDSIECK Brut Champagne NV Score: 91 | $45
A fresh, medium-bodied style, this shows finesse, with notes of apple, peach, ruby grapefruit, vanilla and toast. The refined texture and vibrant structure keep this focused and lingering, with fine length. Drink now through 2012. 50,000 cases imported.—B.S.

LOUIS ROEDERER Brut Champagne Premier NV Score: 91 | $43
Light and lively, featuring apple, toast, ginger and light vanilla flavors. Balanced and on the dry side, with a creamy texture and a lingering butter pastry aftertaste. Drink now through 2011. 42,000 cases imported.—B.S.

BEAUMONT DES CRAYÈRES Brut Champagne Grand Prestige NV Score: 90 | $38
Shows bread dough and toasted grain flavors that verge on malt, yet stay in the lighter register, with an accent of grapefruit. Creamy, nicely balanced and mouthwatering. Drink now. 10,000 cases made.—B.S.

DRAPPIER Brut Champagne Carte d'Or NV Score: 90 | $40
Light and airy in texture, this offers almond, cherry, yeast and citrus flavors matched to a firm structure. Balanced on the dry side, with a crisp finish. Drink now through 2011. 75,000 cases made.—B.S.

AYALA Brut Champagne Majeur NV Score: 89 | $40
On the dry side, with mineral-tinged grapefruit, apple and pastry notes. This isn't crisp, but a chalklike sensation on the finish keeps it firm and focused. Drink now. 41,665 cases made.—B.S.

GOSSET Brut Champagne Excellence NV Score: 89 | $45
Peach and berry flavors get support from a firm structure. A grapefruit accent adds interest and this stays crisp on the finish. Drink now through 2011. 38,000 cases made.—B.S.

SPARKLING WINE

DOMAINE CARNEROS Brut Carneros 2006 Score: 91 | $26
Festive and vibrant, but rich and complex, with bright aromas of fresh cherry and lemon that lead to luscious flavors of raspberry, yeasty pear and crisp mineral. Drink now. 33,000 cases made.—T.F.

ROEDERER ESTATE Brut Anderson Valley NV Score: 91 | $23
A rich version, loaded with spicy cinnamon notes. Bold apple aromas, with a whiff of yeast, lead to complex, layered pear, crème brûlée and baked apple flavors that linger. Drink now. 80,000 cases made.—T.F.

GLORIA FERRER Brut Sonoma County Sonoma NV Score: 90 | $20
Lively and fun to drink, with creamy Asian pear and citrus aromas that lead to crisp, easygoing apple, yeasty cinnamon and mineral flavors. Drink now through 2012. 103,000 cases made.—T.F.

MUMM NAPA Brut Rosé Napa Valley NV Score: 90 | $24
Sleek and lively, with rose petal and raspberry aromas and crisp, layered citrus, strawberry and vanilla spice flavors that are wrapped up with vibrant acidity. Drink now through 2012. 49,000 cases made.—T.F.

J Cuvée 20 Russian River Valley NV Score: 88 | $20
Sleek and fruit-forward, with appealing lemon-lime and anise aromas that lead to crisp yet creamy pear, green apple and spice flavors. Drink now. 22,800 cases made.—T.F.

SCHARFFENBERGER Brut Mendocino County NV Score: 88 | $19
Fresh and easygoing, with aromas of green apple and fennel and crisp, lively citrus, mineral and toasty vanilla flavors that finish on a creamy note. Drink now. 25,000 cases made.—T.F.

DOMAINE CHANDON Rosé California NV Score: 87 | $22
Bold and fruity, with raspberry and vanilla aromas and spicy cherry and toasty apple flavors. Drink now. 23,000 cases made.—T.F.

KORBEL Chardonnay California Champagne NV Score: 87 | $12
If you love big, toasty California Chardonnays, this is the bubbly for you. A lot of spicy tropical fruit and pear flavors are balanced with lively acidity. Drink now through 2012. 55,000 cases made.—T.F.

MUMM NAPA Brut Napa Valley Prestige NV Score: 87 | $20
Vibrant and crisp, with citrus and raspberry aromas and appealing apple, cinnamon and spice flavors. Drink now. 120,000 cases made.—T.F.

Jim Lee
Ridgeland, MS, USA —  December 25, 2009 8:57pm ET
Great, reasonably priced list. I suggest adding the Domaine Ste. Michelle sparkling wines to the list. The Blanc de Noir & Frizzante and special favs.
David Cable
Santa Barbara —  December 26, 2009 6:34pm ET
Other Champagnes to consider:
Champagne Henriot Blanc Souverain WS90. pur Chardonnay $46.99
Champagne Pommery Brut Rose WS90. $64.99
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Extrem' WS92. $48.99
1998 Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Blanc de Blancs. WS93. $48.99
Our best selling sparkling wine is:
Marquis de la Tour Brut. $9.99
Jeremy T Hall
Columbus, Ohio —  December 27, 2009 12:49pm ET
Let's see some grower-producer champagnes here. How about some Gaston Chiquet 2000 Brut. Yum! Or a little Delamotte 1999 blanc de blancs. And anything from Vilmart & Cie always hits the spot, as do the wonderful pinot-bold-deliscious blends of Egly-Ouriet.
ANDY WHITEMAN
Portgate, Devon, UK —  December 29, 2009 3:56am ET
I agree with Jeremy - for example we list Lancelot-Royer Cuvée de Chevaliers Grand Cru,NV Blanc de Blanc from Cramant - excellent small grower champagne - it would be great for WS to do a feature on these under-rated and often little known champagnes.
John Coco
Rochester, NY, USA —  December 29, 2009 7:26am ET
All very nice choices by Sam but he left out a whole category that should be close to his,I presume, Italian heritage. What about Prosecco? Light, fresh, without the yeasty character that turns many off to Champagne. In today's economy, also easier on the pocketbook. How about some Mionetto Prosecco Brut (about 14.00) or step up to the elegant Sergio Extra Dry or Rose at about 20.00.
Rick Havekost
Florence, SC, USA —  December 29, 2009 11:49am ET
I would love to add onto this Duval-Leroy "Paris" bottle. Simply delicious, intense Champagne for under $40? Can't go wrong!
James Betts
Nevada —  December 29, 2009 7:39pm ET
Gruet from New Mexico. Best domestic bubbles for the price. Under $20
David Cable
Santa Barbara —  December 29, 2009 9:45pm ET
The Mionetto Brut Prosecco ($12.99) is an excellent bubbly, but I don't consider it quite elegant enough for a holiday celebration. I think of it more for a warm Sunday afternoon sipper, where it is delicious! At only 11% alcohol, it is quite refreshing.
For my taste, this year, it has to be the two Henriot Souverains for holiday celebrations. We poured them for a tasting back in May and again in November, and both times customers were amazed at how elegant they were. These are Champagnes so finely constructed that you go beyond descriptors as yeasty, etc.
Champagne Henriot Sourverain ($44.99) Champagne Henriot Blanc Souverain ($46.99). You may turn your nose up at the Silver Fox, but Mr Henriot seems to be hitting his stride right now with Henriot Champagnes and Bouchard Pere & Fils Burgundies.

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