A Pro’s Guide to Better New Year’s Bubbles

From the best cheap cava to "life changing" grower champagne, Boston wine weigh in on their favorite bottles to ring in the New Year.

sparkling wine

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Popping a bottle of bubbles should never be routine. So why settle for the plonk with the prettiest label (guaranteed hangover) or that old reliable that feels safe (ahem, we’re looking at you, Veuve)?

Sparkling wine is synonymous with a celebration, so make it that way. Go out on a limb and toast with Piedmont’s finest or make it a real fête with they type of farmer fizz and vintage champagnes that have “life changing” tendencies.

To help us tread that veritable sea of bubbles, we’ve asked some of Boston’s most respected wine experts for recommendations in every price point. Here, in their own words, are the 12 bottles that’ll make you the hero of any New Year’s bash.

Money’s Tight ($10-$15)

Poema Cava NV
Origin: Penedes, Spain
Price: $12

Dan Lech, Ball Square Fine Wines: “This little sparkling jewel from northeastern Spain is a blend of the traditional cava grapes—Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. The second fermentation, which takes place in the bottle, creates fine, cleansing bubbles to awaken your taste buds. This fun, versatile bubbly displays subtle flavors of peach and pear with just a hint of toast. The orange rind nuance on the finish will have you returning for sip after sip.”


Dibon Cava Brut Reserve
Origin: Penedes, Spain
Price: $12

Liz Vilardi, Central Bottle Wine & Provisions: “These guys are doing the right thing with all natural yeasts and organic viticulture. It’s an inexpensive cava that actually has character. I frankly don’t know how it’s so cheap. I’ll chock it up to them owning the land and not having a mortgage. It’s so good, you don’t have to add orange juice to it. They leave it on the lees, so it has a ton of depth. In terms of value, the importer, Oz Wine Company, is giving the competition a run for their money. No one else is bringing in this level of quality at these kind of prices.”


German Gilabert Brut Nature Rosat
Origin: Penedes, Spain
Price: $15

Michael Dupuy, Streetcar Wine & Beer: “Gilabert cava is just a classic. It’s made with organic fruit and is bottled without any added sugar. There’s minimal winemaking, so it’s just crisp and clean. It’s all the the things we look for in a well-made sparkling wine. I like their regular brut a lot too, but I’m choosing the rosé which is composed of Trepat and a little bit of Garnacha, both dark-skinned grapes. It has this crimson color, and on the nose it’s just beaming with bright red fruits like raspberry and cherry.”


Stepping it Up ($15-$35)

Mucci Spumante Extra Dry NV
Origin: Abruzzo, Italy
Price: $27

Dan Lech, Ball Square Fine Wines: “Here is a unique sparkling wine with an unusual provenance. Grown in the hills of Abruzzo and utilizing local grapes Pecorino and Falanghina, this spumante has a charming fruit forward character. There are layers of citrus, stone fruits, and even tropical fruits that evolve on the palate with a creamy, integrated texture. It’s more flavorful than most prosecco and it has an attractive bottle, so it makes for a great gift.”


Jo Landron “Atmospheres”
Origin: Loire Valley, France
Price: $22

Liz Vilardi, Central Bottle Wine & Provisions: “I really like Jo Landron’s wines! He has a less expensive, non-domaine wine, called Atmospheres. It’s made with 80 percent Folle Blanche and 20 percent Pinot Noir, all biodynamically grown. It’s pretty lean because it hails from Muscadet, but it has a lot of richness from being aged on the lees for 18 months. It smells like ripe peaches and pears.”


G.D.Vajra VSQ Extra Brut Rosé “Nostra Signore”
Origin: Piedmont, Italy
Price: $35

Michael Dupuy, Streetcar Wine & Beer: “Vajra has become the store’s favorite producer of Barolo. They also do a Dolcetto, a Langhe rosso, and a Barbera, but the sparkling wine is completely new to us. I discovered it through Theresa Paopao at Ribelle, who had Tweeted that she put it on her list. I basically ordered it blind, both because I inherently trust Theresa’s palate, and also because I love Vajra’s wines. It’s a blend of Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir made in the champagne method.  I hate trying to describe Nebbiolo because there’s an indescribable nuance to it, but it’s instantly recognizable. There’s definitely a sense of the Nebbiolo fruit and the Pinot gives it more of a punchy, red fruit feel.”


Feeling Flush ($35-$60)

Gaston Chiquet Brut Tradition NV
Origin: Champagne, France
Price: $56

Dan Lech, Ball Square Fine Wines: “It’s said that the Chiquet brothers were the first in Champagne to keep the grapes harvested from their vineyards, vinify them into bubbly, and sell the resulting wine under their own label. Gaston Chiquet’s vineyard holdings have expanded considerably since they first started, but they still have the same hands-on approach to every aspect of production. The Brut is a blend of Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, all taken from Premier- and Grand Cru-rated vineyards. This full-bodied champagne has notes of yellow pears and red apple skin, as well as an intriguing flinty complexity. The lingering aftertaste has caramelized notes and lip-smacking acidity.”


Gatinois Brut NV
Origin: Champagne, France
Price: $52

Liz Vilardi, Central Bottle Wine & Provisions: “Gatinois is technically a grower champagne. I like it because it has a bit more texture and toastiness than something you’re likely to see in that price point. It’s handcrafted, so its flavor profile changes from vintage to vintage. It has a fullness and richness to it that people want from champagne, especially those used to house-style versions from Veuve Clicquot or Moet. Gatinois is made in the village of Äy, using a unique clone of pinot noir that’s grown there called petit pinot d’ay.”


Pierre Gimonnet Cuis Premier Cru Brut
Origin: Champagne, France
Price: $57

Michael Dupuy, Streetcar Wine & Beer: “In the grower champagne world, Gimonnet is starting to become a bigger name, which is an oxymoron of sorts. They have about 30 hectares under their control, which under grower champagne standards is a fairly significant estate. It’s Chardonnay-based, which is a Gimmonet trademark. We like like it here because it’s kind of got a classic feel. It’s very dry and linear with tons of minerality, and it has a bit more of a floral edge to it than other grower champagnes.”


Baller ($60 and Above)

Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Brut NV
Origin: Champagne, France
Price: $90

Dan Lech, Ball Square Fine Wines: “Here is a wine that expresses luxury through subtlety and elegance. It’s a true blanc de blancs in every way, with green apple and lime notes that gently sting the taste buds. There’s also hints of stone and freshly baked bread. Ruinart creates the strange effect of a wine that is barely there, but commands your complete attention. A truly lovely champagne and priced accordingly. It’s worth the splurge!”


Moncuit Grand Cru Brut Millisime 2004
Origin: Champagne, France
Price: $75

Liz Vilardi, Central Bottle Wine & Provisions: “We came across this amazing value and I don’t even know how it’s possible. Vintage champagne for $75? It’s like, shut the front door! I don’t want this to sound bad, but I think when people gush about how great champagne is, particularly people in our industry, we’re really talking about vintage champagne. It’s just a whole other level of complexity. Only 12 cases of this 2004 made it into the Northeast and we purchased two of them at Central Bottle.”


Georges Laval Champagne Brut Nature Cumières
Origin: Champagne, France
Price: $81

Michael Dupuy, Streetcar Wine & Beer: “George Laval established organic viticulture in the ‘70s, and even today it’s still unusual to have certified organic vineyards in Champagne. I’m sad to say, it’s largely an industrial, conventionally run growing region, more so than most regions in France. So, it’s really nice to see a handful of producers like Laval. That’s not the only reason why we like this wine, though. I tend not to use hyperbole when describing wine because, in general, I’m not a hype-builder. But it’s one of the best champagnes I’ve tasted in the last several years. It’s just beautiful, and for someone who’s really into wine, life changing. If I’m going to spend $80 on a bottle of wine, I’m hoping it comes close to changing my life. We hope it does that for some people.”

Streetcar Wine & Beer, 488 Centre St., Jamaica Plain; 617-522-6416 or streetcarwines.com.
Central Bottle & Provisions, 196 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 617-225-0040 or centralbottle.com.
Ball Square Fine Wines, 716 Broadway, Somerville; 617-623-9500 or ballsquarefinewines.com.