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The Best Sparkling Wines

Though we firmly believe that bubbles should be enjoyed year-round, no special occasion excuses required, laying in a good supply over the holidays is a necessity. Since we’ve all suffered the consequences of overdosing on corner-store sparklers—which are often sickly-sweet yet somehow enamel-strippingly acidic—we asked our resident wine guy, Oscar Mason, for a few recommendations on sparkling wines that are a bit cleaner. You can only call a sparkling wine “Champagne” if it actually hails from the Champagne region of France, which means they often come with a heftier price tag—Cava and Prosecco offer econommical alternatives that don’t sacrifice on quality.

  • Castellroig Brut Cava NV, $13

    Castellroig Brut Cava NV, $13

    “While it can seem at times like Cava’s best use is propping up endless-Mimosa brunches, it is made in exactly the same way as Champagne and can, in capable hands, deliver equally stunning wines at a fraction of the price. Castellroig is one of a growing number of smaller producers who do things the right way: they farm organically, focus on the best quality grape varieties (in this case Xarel-lo, which channels clean, pure citrus fruit), and let the grapes do the talking. Easygoing and inexpensive, this is a perennial crowd-pleaser and a great go-to for any sparkling wine cocktail.”

  • Sorelle Bronca Extra-Dry Prosecco NV, $18

    Sorelle Bronca Extra-Dry Prosecco NV, $18

    “Prosecco is the name of both the grape variety and the region north of Venice where this wine is produced. Unlike Champagne and Cava, carbonation usually takes place in tanks rather than the bottle to retain the floral freshness of the young wine. The “Sorelle” (sisters), Antonella and Ersiliana Bronca, farm their vineyards organically and use a rare technique that allows them to ferment in batches throughout the year, ensuring each bottle is as fresh as possible. Ideal as an aperitif, preferably during daylight hours.”

  • Lise et Bertrand Jousset Rose à Lies Pétillant Naturel 2014, $23

    Lise et Bertrand Jousset Rose à Lies Pétillant Naturel 2014, $23

    “Though they’re best known for still whites made from Chenin Blanc, Lise and Bertrand Jousset happen to be one of only a handful of producers to have mastered Pétillant Naturel, the oldest (and trickiest) method of making sparkling wine. Since no sugar, yeast, or sulphur is added in this process, the pure, exuberant fruit comes through unencumbered. Rose à Lies, made from Gamay and Grolleau, tastes of strawberries and summer herbs and finishes with tangy, saline minerality. I like this first thing in the morning on Christmas Day, to ward off evil spirits.”

  • Stéphane Tissot Rosé Indigène Crémant de Jura NV, $30

    Stéphane Tissot Rosé Indigène Crémant de Jura NV, $30

    “The Jura, a tiny and, until recently, almost forgotten region on France’s eastern border, is one of the few areas that can compete with Champagne’s complexity and finesse, and Tissot is one of the best producers in the area. This brooding rosé, made from Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir and aged extensively in bottle for extra depth, is powerful yet nimble enough to complement everything on the Christmas buffet.”

  • Agrapart & Fils Les 7 Crus Brut Champagne NV, $44

    Agrapart & Fils Les 7 Crus Brut Champagne NV, $44

    “While the big luxury houses still get most of our attention, the real buzz in Champagne is with the smaller Récoltant-Manipulant (“Grower-Producers”). Rather than buying in fruit, these producers use only grapes that they grow and farm themselves, showcasing the nuances of the vineyard rather than the skill of a blender. The Agrapart family specializes in Chardonnay, which emphasizes the mineral, elegant side of Champagne. This is the dark gray suit of Champagnes; it’s never out of place.”

  • Bollinger La Grande Année Brut Champagne 2004, $120

    Bollinger La Grande Année Brut Champagne 2004, $120

    “If 2015 has been particularly kind to you, you might consider splurging on something with which to say farewell. For pure excess, Bollinger is hard to beat. Based on Pinot Noir, which produces the densest Champagnes, and fermented in oak barrels to accentuate that richness, this shows earthy flavors like mushrooms and toasted nuts along with classic pear and brioche notes. Drink this in a white wine glass rather than a flute, or you’ll miss out on the full spectrum of flavors.”

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