12 Sparkling Wines to Fit Any Budget
‘Tis the season for holiday parties, and you can’t show up empty-handed. There’s just something about bubbly that makes the season bright. Instead of playing it safe—or worse, choosing what’s cheap—let some of Boston’s most enlightened wine minds help you find your way through the stars.
Fanny Katz, general manager of Central Bottle + Provisions; Lauren Friel of the Wine Bottega; Michael Dupuy, owner of Streetcar Wine & Beer; and Social Wines co-owner John Libonati and his knowledgable staff are here with ideas for selections under $20, $35, and $50.
Michael’s choice: 2014 Oyster River Winegrowers “Morphos”
$15 at Streetcar Wine & Beer
“Oyster River is a horse-powered farm and winery in Warren, Maine that has just started producing wine from their own French-American hybrid varieties. They also produce beautiful cider and a couple of wines from purchased grapes, including Morphos, which is made from cayuga and seyval blanc, grown near Seneca Lake in New York. Natural yeast-fermented and made without additives, Morphos is bottled toward the end of its fermentation, while there’s still enough yeast activity to produce a lively froth.”
Fanny’s choice: NV Patrice Colin “Perles Grises”
$17 at Central Bottle Wine + Provisions
“This perfect pét-nat boasts its racy Loire minerality. I love this wine for its typicity. It truly tastes like Pinot d’Aunis. The bubbles gives this crunchy and slightly vegetal red grape a red fruit lift. Next to its crunchiness, notes of young strawberry make this interesting wine approachable for all palates. Its value lies in how incredibly tasty it is—and the beautiful pale pink color doesn’t hurt either. You’d never guess it was only $17.”
Lauren’s choice: Caneva da Nani Prosecco “Col Fondo”
$18 at the Wine Bottega
“Normally, I wouldn’t touch Prosecco with a 10-foot pole; most of what we get in the U.S. market is little more than a fizzy chemical cocktail. This stuff, though, is the real deal. Bottled ‘col fondo,’ or on its lees, (aka, bottle-fermented), it’s a totally natural sparkler that’s perfectly fresh and clean with a nice soft bubble. Made by the fifth generation of a (charmingly) bumpkin family of farmers, it drinks like a wine crafted to quench the thirst of someone who’s been out working in the vineyard all day. This is the true country Prosecco—a throwback style, and the only thing I’m going to want to day drink on Christmas.”
Social Wines’ choice, via Justine Portman, sales: Il Farneto RIO Rocca “Spèrgle Frisant”
$18 at Social Wines
“Il Farneto is comprised of eight, bio-diverse hectares nestled in the hills of Emilia-Romagna. The wine itself has plenty of personality. Biodynamic, ‘natural,’ and unfiltered, this frizzante expression of Spergle, a once-nearly extinct indigenous varietal, is bright and tangy as grapefruit soda. Dry, with acidity and aromatics in perfect balance, this wine is an all-the-time, brunch must-have.”
Fanny’s choice: 2004 Chateau Tour Grise Saumur Brut
$24 at Central Bottle
“This vintage sparking wine, also from the Loire, is a show stopper, and a pretty fantastic party trick. It’s not often that we get to drink such unbelievably wallet-friendly, vintage sparkling wine that is also certified biodynamic. It’s like finding that perfect coffee table that you’ve been searching for in every antique shop you stop in. It’s unique in its universal appeal, despite being unlike anything you’ve tasted before. It’s slightly nutty and cidered, but doesn’t loose any chalky, limey minerality.”
Michael’s choice: 2014 Štoka Vitovska Peneče
$30 at Streetcar
“Kras [in Slovenia], or Carso in Italian, is the first controlled appellation that crosses the border between two countries. Primož Štoka bottled his first wine in 1989, just before Slovenia’s separation from Yugoslavia. Kras is a fascinating region geologically speaking, as its highly soluble bedrock has formed significant networks of largely unexplored caves. While the region itself is fairly large, the amount of land suitable for vine growing is small. This ancient method sparkler is made from Vitovska, a natural cross of Prosecco and Malvasia. If you enjoy fresh pineapple, you will love this wine.”
Social Wines’ choice, via John Libonati, co-owner: Cantina Della Volta Lambrusco Rosé di Modena Brut
$32 at Social Wines
“I love toasting with rosé bubbles because you can toast to a ‘rosy new year.’ And you can have a group toast serving Cantina Della Volta without breaking the bank. I think it’s crazy to spend a lot of money on champagne just for a toast, because you’re probably drinking well before midnight and by the time you get to that amazing expensive bottle your palate is probably shot. With this gorgeous rosé you could drink it all night at $32, it’s so elegant and beautiful. I call it Jennifer Aniston in a bottle. With a tiny persistent bubble and a soft floral aroma that leads to pomegranate and dried raspberries on the palate. Cheers to you and a rosy New Year!
Lauren’s choice: Hofgut Falkenstein ‘Niedermenniger Sonnenberg’ Sekt Brut
$35 at Wine Bottega
“When in doubt, this is the bottle I turn to. Made from old vine Riesling by an old-school producer in Germany’s Saar region, its provenance and bone-dry expression has the geek quotient on lock, but it’s approachable and purely pleasurable at the same time. Pretty, delicate orchard fruits and flowers, white spice and crisp bubbles make it the ultimate Ace up my sleeve when the menu is unknown. Finally, the label’s pretty. This matters in December more than ever.”
Fanny’s choice: 2014 Gamine Grenache Rose Petillant
$33 at Central Bottle
“Kate Norris of Division Wine Company in downtown Portland, Ore. makes wines that look as good as they taste. Considering how good the wine does taste, this is pretty remarkable. Her pétillant grenache rosé is all about charm. It’s so charming, in fact, that its name means just that: ‘gamine (noun): a characteristic of or relating to a girl with mischievous or boyish charm.’ It’s the kind of wine that can start a good conversation at your work’s holiday party, or your family’s holiday meal. Invitingly bright and fresh cherry, some moments of tropical fruit, with an underlying mischievous pepperiness make me want another sip, and another, and another.”
Social Wines’ choice, via Eileen Elliott, wine director: NV Strohmeier ‘”Schilcher” Frizzante
$43 at Social Wines
“I love when wine drinks like food! Franz Strohmeier works naturally in Styria, the ‘green heart’ of Austria. Made from 100 percent Blauer Wildbacher, the native grape in the region known for making this fizzy Schilcher style of wine. It is unfiltered, with primary fermentation in stainless steel and second in the bottle. This reminds me of the lickable wallpaper in Willy Wonka. So pop this farmer fizz and tell your friends it smells like a snozzberry; you’ll live happily ever after.”
Michael’s choice: NV Demière-Ansiot Champagne Blanc de Blancs
$48 normally at Streetcar, 10 percent off all Champagnes through December
“Nicolas Demière farms eight-and-a-half hectares of grand cru vineyards in Oger, all planted with chardonnay. Less than half of his fruit goes into the two bottlings produced at the winery. This is the non-vintage version, [mostly] 2009, with some reserve wine from 2006 and 2008. We haven’t found any Champagne under $50 that rivals this one in its classic, pure elegance and impeccable balance.”
Lauren’s Choice: Bérèche ‘Brut Réserve,’ Montagne de Reims, Champagne
$50 at the Wine Bottega
“It’s no secret that Champagne’s famed chalky soils are more or less toxic after years of relying on chemicals to coax consistency out of some of the trickiest growing conditions in the world. I’m not giving up, though, and Bérèche gives me hope. The family has been producing traditional wines on the storied hill of Montagne de Reims since the mid-19th century, and the current generation is helping lead the charge in proving gorgeous bubbles can be made without the help of all that other stuff. This is a classic blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, and it’s just an awesome value—incredible depth, complexity and nuance with delicate fruit and a tight mineral snap. It hits every point on your palate just so, and I think it’s a good argument for Champagne being alive and well.”
Central Bottle Wine + Provisions, 196 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-225-0040 or centralbottle.com.
Social Wines, 52 W. Broadway, Boston, 617-268-2974 or socialwinesbos.com.
Streetcar Wine & Beer, 488 Centre St., Jamaica Plain; 617-522-6416 or streetcarwines.com.
The Wine Bottega, 341 Hanover St., Boston; 617-227-6607 or thewinebottega.com.