1:07 pm
Mon December 31, 2012

New Bubbly for a New Year: 8 Affordable Alternatives to Champagne

New Year's Eve is a complicated holiday, says Boston Wine School's Jonathan Alsop. People who normally never drink, do. And sometimes the people who drink, stop. It's a lunar holiday that can fall on any night of the week- like this year's Monday night misfit. 

Jonathan Alsop, of the Boston Wine School, talks with Boston Public Radio about New Years bubbly and the year in wine.
Jonathan Alsop, of the Boston Wine School, talks with Boston Public Radio about New Years bubbly and the year in wine.
Credit Mr Moss / Flickr

The anticipation of a champagne toast at midnight overlays the whole night: special wine, special glass, special opening technique, special timing. Often all this special-ness compounds to disaster, or worse: disappointment. Alsop stopped by the Boston Public Radio studios to give us some affordable bubbly alternatives, and look at the year's best wines:

Champagne Alternatives: Lowering the Ante

Sparkling wine from any place other than Champagne, France occupies a profoundly lower price range. Is a $15 Spanish Cava as good as a $75 Champagne? Maybe not, but five bottles are almost always better than one bottle.

  • Dr. Loosen Sparkling Riesling (Germany, about $12) - fruity, a little sweet, if you love Riesling, you'll love sparkling Riesling. 
  • Gruet Blanc de Noirs (New Mexico, about $15) - best, least expensive American sparkler - my favorite, at any rate. 
  • Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs (Napa, about $40) - best American sparkler.
  • Segura Viudas Cava (Spain, about $8) - great value, traditional Euro style sparkler. 
  • Riondo "Spago Nero" Prosecco (Italy, about $12) - user friendly screw cap! 
  • Almanegra Sparkling Chardonnay 
  • Sparkling Rose or Sparkling Malbec (Argentina, about $25) - southern hemisphere adventure, especially the sparkling red Malbec.
  • 90+ Cellars Moscato (Italy, about $12) - sweet, pretty, great with dessert.

Sampled on the Show:

  • 2004 Westport Rivers Vintage Rose (current vintage about $25) - think global, drink local!

2012 Wine Year in Review:

  • Robert Parker sells the Wine Advocate
  • The Year Of Rose... again! 
  • Best new wine: Morellino di Scansano
  • Big year for Moscato, which turned up in hip hop songs all over the place this year

January: An Excellent Month for the Grapes Down Under:

The perihelion- which is when the earth is closest to the sun by a little less than 5 percent-is around January 3. Five percent may not sound like much, but it makes a big difference in grape ripeness. This is why Australia and South America are so famous for darkly intense red wines - Shiraz, Malbec, Carmenere. These same grapes are not nearly as powerful when grown in the Northern hemisphere, at least so far.


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