Know your Sparkling Wine this Holiday Season

The holidays are here and it’s likely that you will need to purchase sparkling wine for a party you are attending, to offer as a gift or to pour at midnight to guests of your New Year’s Eve celebration. With all the options at the wine store, how do you begin to make sense of it all? Here is some information and a few options to help you make the right decision, whatever your budget might be.

Sparkling Wine Terms

Blanc de Blancs – made from white Chardonnay grapes. This wine’s light and a bit sweet.

Blanc de Noirs – made from a blend of red grapes. This wine is honey-colored and has big flavors.

Rosé – light pink in color, this wine is slightly sweet and beautifully festive.

Vintage – wine made with grapes that are harvested in the same year.

Non-vintage – wine made from grapes that could be from various harvests.

Brut – this popular style means the wine dry.

Extra Brut – this term indicates an “extra” dry wine.

Extra Dry – middle of the road dry, not as dry as Brut (great as an aperitif).

Demi-Sec – this is a sweet wine that pairs well with fruit and dessert.

Sparkling Wine – It’s all in a Name

Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and several other countries produce delicious sparkling wines that vary widely in style, price and production method. Here are some of the most popular ways “sparkling wine” is referred to around the world.


Sparkling wine can only be referred to as “Champagne” if it comes from the Champagne region of France. Champagne from this region is made using Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes.


Although used as a general term for Italian sparkling wine, Prosecco is actually the name of the grape from the Veneto region used to make sparkling wine. Because fermentation for Prosecco is done in stainless steel tanks, it is less expensive to make than bottle-fermented Champagne.


Cava, the Spanish word for “cellar”, is produced in the Penedes region of Spain. Cava is either white or rose and is made using Méthode Champenoise, the method used to produce Champagne in France.

Sparkling Wines under $30

La Marca Di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco (Trevisio, Italy) – light, crisp and offers a pleasant dry finish that’s citrusy and fresh ($12).

Chateau Frank Célèbre (Finger Lakes, NY) – this sparkling Riesling offers apple on the nose and tiny, creamy bubbles ($20).

2008 Naveran Dama Cava (Catalunya, Spain) – aromatic wine with pear and apple flavors ($20).

Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut (Anderson Valley, CA) – flavors of ripe pear with nutty notes ($22).

Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé (Napa Valley, CA) – nice yeasty aromas and juicy fruit flavors ($25).

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut NV (Reims, France) – very clean, light-to-medium style ($25).

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé NV (Alsace, France) – features rich strawberries-and-cream flavors ($25).

Sparkling Wines under $100

2009 Szigeti Brut Rosé NV (Burgenland, Austria) – pale pink in the glass with sweet, yet dry, strawberry notes ($30).

Heidsieck & Co Monopole Blue Top Champagne Brut (Epernay, France) – creamy, mousse-like with tiny bubbles that coat the mouth and provide a dry, long finish ($40).

Domaine Carneros Cuvée de la Pompadour NV (Napa Valley, CA) – wine by French Champagne house Taittinger, this rosé offers ripe strawberry flavor with a nice level of acidity ($42).

Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut (Epernay, France) – understated elegance and subtle flavors ($45).

Sparkling Wines over $100

2000 Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Brut Blanc De Blancs (Reims, France) – big fruity flavors on an outstanding, rich wine ($150).

2004 Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Brut (Epernay, France) – Golden, yeasty, floral, crisp in the well-known flowered bottle ($150).

1999 Pol Roger Brut Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill (Epernay, France) – hints of honey and lemon with a long, enjoyable finish ($175).

Many reputable wine shops offer discounts ranging from 10% – 15% if you buy wine by the case or on certain days of the week, so plan ahead for upcoming parties and save.

One rule I adopted many years ago is to not wait for just the ‘right’ occasion to pop open a bottle of bubbly. This style of wine is incredibly food-friendly and should be enjoyed year-round.

Whichever sparkling wine you opt for this holiday season, I hope you enjoy it with dear friends and family.

Happy holidays,

Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County, NJ.  As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry of which she’s a 15-year veteran.  Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.