How to Get Your New Year's Eve Bubbly Without Paying a Bundle

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It's not surprising that Champagne is the traditional tipple for New Year's parties: The wine of kings has a luxurious reputation that elevates even the most plebeian celebration, and its cheerful little bubbles seem to promise a bright, sparkly future. But as 2011's annus pretty-damn-horribilis transitions into 2012, it is hard to justify shelling out a small fortune for a bottle of genuine French Champagne.

Still, if the idea of ringing in the New Year with cheap substitutions like J. Roget or Korbel leaves you feeling flat, don't worry: There are plenty of other sparkling options out there.

Prosecco and Cava: The Classic Standbys

Lorena Ascencios, the wine buyer at Astor Wines and Spirits says that, when it comes to great sparkling wines at a great price, the best choices are "Prosecco and Cava, hands down." Prosecco, produced in Northwest Italy, comes from glera or prosecco grapes. "It's a good sipping sparkler," Ascencios notes, with outstanding bottles available in the $10 to $15 range.

Part of the reason that Prosecco is so much cheaper than Champagne lies in its preparation method. Champagne is produced through a process called methode champenoise, in which it's fermented twice -- once in a barrel, and a second time in its bottle. Prosecco also has a two-stage fermentation method, but the second fermentation happens in a large steel tank. Afterward, the sparkly wine is bottled under pressure.

The Prosecco production process -- called the Charmat method -- costs less than methode champenoise and results in wines with larger bubbles. Ascencios likes Scu Do, which her store sells for $8.96 a bottle, and Mia, which costs $6.96. While these tend to be sweet, some Proseccos are drier: Castelir, for example, costs $16.95 a bottle and offers a more sophisticated flavor.

For those who prefer a more traditional champagne flavor, Cava is also a great option. Ascencios describes the Northeastern Spanish wine as "dry, with mineral flavors more attuned to salty foods, snacks, and seafood." Unlike Prosecco, Cava is often made through methode champenoise, which produces a drier bubbly. Not surprisingly, Cavas can be a bit more expensive, but Ascencios notes that there are some great deals available for under $15. She especially suggests Casteller, which Astor sells for $11.96 a bottle; Naveran, which costs $14.96; and Savia Viva, which costs $8.96.

Find the Real Thing ... for Less

While there are lots of great sparkling wines available for under $15, for some people, only true French bubbly will do. As with any other purchase, brand-name Champagnes often cost more than lesser-known gems. But the price difference doesn't necessarily reflect a higher quality wine. Large Champagne companies often spend a lot of money on promotion, passing the cost on to the consumer. By comparison, Ascencios notes, smaller brands often "are just doing what is second nature to them -- giving phenomenal value for the price."

Some especially good deals include Michel Loriot Blanc de Noir, which Ascencios' store sells for $36.96 a bottle; Pierre Brigandat non-vintage brut, which retails for $32.96 a bottle, and Brigandat Rose, which costs a bit more, at $39.96 a bottle.

Go Farther Off the Usual 'Wine Country' Map

Another method for getting a good bottle for less is to search among more obscure wine-making regions, which often produce outstanding vintages for less than their better-known cousins. For example, Hungary's Torley Winery has been producing sparkling wines since the 1800s, but its relative obscurity means its offerings can be real bargains. Tess Lampert, a representative of the Blue Danube wine company, notes that Torley's Gala wine "offers fruity flavors and loose bubbles," much like a Prosecco. Its Hungaria Grand Cuvee, on the other hand, is bottle-aged -- like a Champagne -- and has a "yeasty" flavor and "tight, small bubbles," much like the French wine.

Vintners from around the world offer sparkling wines that are surprisingly good and surprisingly low-priced. So when it comes to finding a great wine for New Year's Eve -- or for any day, for that matter -- Ascencios offers great advice: "Don't be afraid of something you don't recognize. There are a lot of interesting wines off the beaten path!"

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.









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Jay

Happy holiday~ Its great to find others who are as tall as me and share similar experiences! --->Bigtalls. C Q M <--- is a fun place to meet other tall people online. It makes the world seem smaller! - Free to browse and join for serious relationship. You dont have to be tall, but you can meet one.

January 02 2012 at 8:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wendy harrison

Barefoot Bubbly is very reasonable and good (about $7 - $8) for a bottle. Try it with a little peach schnapps and you have a taste treat.

January 01 2012 at 8:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David

costco has had Piper Hiedsieck Brut Champagne, that's right, the real deal, on sale for $22 + tax this week. The dollar is getting stronger and the economy weak so the big houses can sell it for this. Until recently you couldn't buy ANY true Champagne for less than $30, so stock up! I would buy that any day of the week for as long as I live rather than a prosecco or an American sparkler for $15-16, not that those can't be good but for the difference that is my preference. The French in Champagne still make sparkling wine the best, in my opinion. And the extra $7 on New Year's isn' that much of a splurge. You just need to pay the right pirce, wait for that, and then stock up. Cheers!

December 31 2011 at 5:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dabrownman

For the price and not dry as dirt I prefer a nice Moscato from Italy. Not too sweet and for $7 a bottle very nice. I buy after New Years when they are very very cheap and keep two in my refrigerator for a year and drink them the following year, I also do this with a good Cava and Prosecco. The bubbles get smaller and the taste is enhanced as it ages. I won't drink, eat or buy anything French after they refused to go into Iraq with the rest of the sane world. The French are very evil indeed, the men tend to be aholes and their champagne is vastly over rated and way over priced. US Sparklers are just as good and affordable.

December 31 2011 at 3:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
souplineobama

kick hussein obbumer out on his azz for a great 2012

December 31 2011 at 2:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nikkiskate

go for the grower Champagnes! This one's amazing: http://grapefriend.com/2011/12/28/chateau-weinstein-grower-champagne/

December 31 2011 at 10:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Shaun Logan

Not really any good advice here. Its basically a plug for a store to sell wine. When it comes to quality..Krug is known as the best mass producer. Cristal is nice but you're paying for the bottle because the champagne is just ok-the rose is a little better. Dom has amazing quality coinsidering how much they produce (better than Cristal). I have a ten year vertical of Dom from 1976-1986 and just drank the 76-it was still great. Want quality..If you're really cheap try Cava-its similar to Champagne. Prosecco's are sweet crap..My advice: go look for what you like. Choose Blanc de Blanc or Rose and spend over $25. Veuve is great for a reasonable price, Schramsberg etc..

December 27 2011 at 10:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BARBARA & BERNIE

I can only agree: Gruet is my choice, not because I live in New Mexico, but because it is a wonderful bubbly (if you don't want to call it champagne) and because it is reasonably priced.

December 27 2011 at 9:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
savemycountry911

Bubbly for less? Sit in the bathtub and pass gas.

December 27 2011 at 8:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BLONDIE & GRUMPY

Thank you, Bruce, very informative article...

December 27 2011 at 6:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply