Ringing in the New Year with a glass of bubbly is a hand-in-hand tradition dating back as far as anyone I hunted down could recall. Pursuant to that, with each annual descent of Times Square’s ceremonial ball comes the ever pressing question: “With so many bottles to choose from, which should I get?” Luckily our friends Nick Ciallelo & Tom Edwards of Fox and Hound Wine & Spirits in New Paltz helped me to sort this all out.
“Most of the common commercially available sparkling wines you’ll see these days net in around 12% alcohol”, Nick prefaces, assuring an easy drinkability of most any bottle one may choose. “And with the quality of their production getting better each year, these wines don’t need to hide in a punch – they’re delicious on their own”. When fielding questions for bottle recommendations, Nick often starts with one simple question: Dry or Sweet? [An FYI for those unfamiliar with wine vernacular – while we all know what sweet tastes like, the oxymoronic label of dry refers to beverages lacking in sweetness.]
“Generally speaking, if you favor sweeter wines, reach for a Prosecco, Asti, or Brachetto”, Nick advises. While each variety is going to be different, these wines (whose names are sourced from the grape varietals used to make them) are produced in a way that reserves more of the grape’s residual sugar, leaving a sweeter finish on them. “Fans of something less sweet should look for a bottle labeled Methode Champenoise or Champagne Method”, he adds. This production method is more time consuming and results in wines that have a more complex flavor. The labeling difference here is a bit funny, though, and can be confusing – true Champagne is produced using a specific set of grapes that are grown, harvested, and processed in the Champagne region of France using the time-tested Methode Champenoise. Everything else – which should be labeled as “Champagne Method” – is produced using the same time-tested method with grapes from different regions of the world.
“In terms of pricing, the best deal on sparkling wine in most any store is found in a Prosecco or something similar”, advises Tom. Prosecco production has increased substantially in the last few years, improving its taste and quality and making it a great value. “If you’re looking to treat yourself a bit, reach for something labeled Champagne Method”, he says, pointing to some selections he has just brought in from California. “They’ll be wines made in the style of traditional champagne with a lower price point”. If you’re looking to truly treat yourself (after all, New Year’s only comes once a year), reach for the traditional Methode Champenoise. “The price tag is higher, but they’re exquisite wines who have earned their reputations for a reason”, Nick & Tom agree.
Regardless of what’s more important to you in commemorating your New Year’s Eve – taste or price – Nick & Tom offer up these suggestions:
Riondo – this Italian Prosecco is a great toasting drink with a moderate sweetness. A couple of varieties are available ranging from $12-14 a bottle.
Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace – this French sparkling is a Champagne Method produce is the Alsace region. The bottle says “Blanc de Blancs” because the wine is made with 100% white grapes (pinot blanc in this instance) giving it a light finish with a little bit of richness. A great guilt-free splurge at $20 a bottle.
Heidsieck Monopole – this classic French sparkling was the exclusive sparkling on the Titanic and has been a pillar of quality for decades. They have several varieties available, all produced with an exquisite flavor profile. Bottles start at $45 each.
To pick up the wines listed above or grab a recommendation for your New Year’s Eve celebration, drop in to the gay-owned & operated Fox and Hound Wines & Spirits in New Paltz Plaza, New Paltz. You can also reach them at 845.255.7475 and foxandhoundwines.com.