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

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

December 31, 2012

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. 

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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