Sommelier Roundtable: Which Bubbly for a New Year's Party?

From grower Champagne to next-level Prosecco, 9 wine pros recommend pours to ring in 2020. Bonus points for big bottles

Sommelier Roundtable: Which Bubbly for a New Year's Party?
It doesn't have to be Champagne … but no one would complain. (iStockPhoto)
Dec 26, 2019

This New Year's Eve, when the clock strikes 12, we'll be leaving behind the 2010s and uncorking a new decade. That calls for celebration, which in turn calls for bubbly. New Year's is a special occasion, but if you're hosting a crowd, you'll want quality for value in your glass. So we asked nine sommeliers from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners which Champagnes, crémants, Cavas and more they'd recommend to make the big night sparkle.

Want more suggestions for holiday pairings, including tips for turkey, ham and roast beef feasts? Pick up a copy of our Nov. 30 issue and check out "Sommeliers Pair the Holidays."

Wine Spectator: What bubbly should I stock up on for my New Year's party?

Marcello Fiorentino, co-owner and wine director at Grand Award winner Marcello's La Sirena in West Palm Beach, Fla.

One of our favorites is the Contratto Extra Brut Millesimato. I like it because it's not extremely Champagne-priced and it's not Prosecco. It's something that I think is as good as Champagne, from Italy. It's a great value, great producer; they've been around for [more than] 100 years. I think they've had the same guy riddling the bottles since he was 15, and he's, like, 60.

Amy Mundwiler, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Maple & Ash in Chicago

If I'm headed to a party with a lot of people I don't know, I'm bringing magnums of a non-Champagne crowd-pleaser. If I can find a 3-liter, that's even better. Nothing says a party like a 3-liter of bubbles. If I know the people at the party, it's Champagne. I love the wines from Pierre Paillard. Razor-sharp, with a lot of thoughtfulness in each bottle.

Elizabeth Kelso, beverage director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Craft Los Angeles

I feel like holiday parties should be fun and casual, as opposed to stuffy opportunities to show off. For that reason, I always keep it reasonable in terms of price point and ability to explain the wine to non–wine savvy guests and family members. I usually go with Crémant d’Alsace or a fun pétillant naturel.

Virginia Philip, wine director at Grand Award winner HMF at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla.

It depends on the budget, but for Champagne: Gosset Brut or Voirin-Jumel Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru NV. Less expensive options might be Bisol Prosecco or Crémant d'Alsace from Pierre Sparr, or Gramona Cava.

Rebecca Kirhoffer, co-owner and wine director of Award of Excellence winner Rebeccas, in Greenwich, Conn.

When drinking Champagne and choosing Champagne to purchase, I always say, “Buy a big bottle.” The wine is aged in the bottle, and the bigger bottles taste better by a lot. And who ever didn't finish a great bottle of Champagne? I love pink Champagne and always return to Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, as it is so, so delicious, elegant and pretty. I also love vintage Dom Pérignon Brut Rosé. It is a bigger, blusher wine, and I could drink it all day and night long, never getting tired.

Rafael Sanchez, beverage director at Grand Award winner Addison in San Diego

I really like the Paul Bara Brut as an all-purpose Champagne. It is downright delicious, a beautiful concentration of red fruits in the midpalate, with a bright, zesty finish. It is definitely a crowd-pleaser. [Alternatively], sparkling Vouvray or Lambrusco. I recommend Domaine Huet Vouvray Pétillant or Champalou Vouvray Brut, and Caprari Lambrusco or Medici Ermete Lambrusco.

Wendy Heilmann, wine director at Pebble Beach Resorts and its four Restaurant Award winners, in Pebble Beach, Calif.

If I'm going to a party with a diverse crowd, I tend to bring value-oriented sparkling. Pere Mata Cupada Brut Rosé Nature Cava is a crowd-pleasing bottle of bubbly. If price were no object, I'd rotate through Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs and Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé with breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Ryan Bailey, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner NoMad Los Angeles

Lancelot-Royer Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2009. So there is grower Champagne, and then there is this wine! It might not have a flashy label or a cult following, but this wine over-delivers on so many levels. A truly hand-crafted wine that has perfect balance from a warmer/powerful vintage.

Wine Spectator: … and what Champagne should I pair with a holiday feast?

Joo Lee, wine director at Grand Award winner Saison in San Francisco

Champagne with a meal is a totally different story for me. I do prefer richer, more vinous styles of Champagne with food so the wine doesn’t get overpowered by heavier holiday flavors. The classics have been around for good reason, and it’s because they taste great and deliver consistent styles. Champagnes like Dom Pérignon and Krug never disappoint, but I do prefer grower-producer styles. Although most growers are known for drier styles, there are certainly some growers that produce more vinous styles of Champagne that can last throughout a meal.

Cédric Bouchard is one of my favorite growers that offers body and depth in his wines while maintaining a sense of place in the bottle. His wines can be a bit shy in their youth, but with some bottle age, they really begin to speak for themselves.

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