Still searching for the perfect bottle of sparkling wine to serve at your New Year’s Eve party? Or are you looking for something special to share with you New Year’s Eve kiss? Champagne shopping can be overwhelming, which is why we’ve broken down the basics for you to make that wine aisle a little easier to navigate this New Year’s Eve.
Technically speaking, a bottle of sparkling wine is only truly considered Champagne if it is harvested and made within the Champagne region in France. Champagne is made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and/or Pinot Meunier grapes exclusively. Don’t let misleading labels fool you, if it’s not a Product of France, it’s not really Champagne. Strict regulations surround the making of Champagne, ensuring its top quality and, unfortunately, top price. There are three levels of Champagne, each varying in makeup and price.
Non-vintage Champagnes are put out every year and are made from grapes grown in different harvests. This grape blend is then aged for a little over a year. If you’re looking to buy the real deal Champagne but keep within a tight budget, non-vintage is the way to go.
Vintage Champagne consists of grapes from a specific year’s harvest. That year will be displayed on the bottle. Only quality grapes are chosen from the harvest, and are then aged for a minimum of 3 years. Not every year yields a vintage harvest, only those years that have an exceptional harvest will be made into a Vintage Champagne. It may be a bit more of a splurge for a Vintage bottle, but you can rest assured that it will taste fantastic.
Prestige Cuvee Champagne — Dom Perignon and Cristal are famous examples of Prestige Cuvee Champagne. These are the flagship, top-quality, best bottles put out by the region’s vineyards. They are aged for a number of years and, whether they are vintage or non-vintage, they consist of grapes from exceptional years of harvest. You will be hard pressed to find a bottle of Prestige Cuvee Champagne for less than $100 a bottle.
Prosecco is Italy’s version of Champagne. Although there is a village in Italy that bears the name Prosecco (where it is said that the prosecco grape originated), the grapes are grown and the wine is made in a few different regions in the country. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco does not benefit from being aged. It is typically fruity, dry, easy-drinking, and very affordable. If you’ve ever had a Bellini, you’ve probably had Prosecco. If you are throwing a party and need at least a case of bubbly, Prosecco is a fabulous choice that is sure to please any crowd.
Cava is Spain’s take on bubbly. Cava is said to be made in a very similar style to Champagne and, like Champagne, has some regulations surrounding its production. It tastes vastly different though because it is made using different grape varieties more suitable to Spain’s growing climate. Like Prosecco, Cava is easy on your wallet, so it’s an affordable alternative to Champagne.
Varying Degrees of Sweetness
Another thing to look at when shopping for Champagne, is the varying degrees of sweetness.
very little residual sugar
sweeter than Extra Brut, but still not very sweet
middle of the road in terms of sweetness
on the sweeter side
Now that you’ve got the basics down, perhaps it’ll be a little easier to choose the perfect bottle of bubbly to pop open at midnight. Whatever you choose, be sure to serve it in a champagne flute, likeRiedel’s Vinum XL Champagne Glasses, and be sure to serve it between 45-50° F for maximum enjoyment.
By Sarah, Wine Cooler Direct