Toast the New Year and Discover the World With Five Unordinary Sparklers


Every winter, New Yorkers celebrate the culmination of the year’s successes and defeats with bubbles, eagerly toasting to the year ahead. And with each passing season, the variety of geographical origins and price points available expands. If so inclined, you could drink a bottle of sparkling wine from somewhere different 365 days in a row, and keep going the following year.

In homage to the diversity of our vibrant, multi-culti city, I’ve selected five bottles from five regions around the globe. This year, we look to Brazil, Portugal, New York, Italy, and England for fizzy inspiration (and perhaps a little travel motivation).

Before drinking your bubbles, consider upgrading your glassware to Riedel’s Veritas Champagne glasses ($69/set of two, available online at Riedel or locally at Macy’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond). Flutes, although pretty, constrict the aromatics of the wine, while wide-mouthed coupes expose it to too much air. Riedel’s Champagne specific glass (good for all types of sparkling), offers a larger bowl to optimize flavors and aromas.

Serra Gaúcha, Brazil
Brazil makes wine, and it’s pretty good. The Italian-immigrant population that forms the base of the industry is particularly adept at bubbles. Most of the country’s viticultural pursuits occur near the Argentinean border in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. Within the state, the most developed and important region is Serra Gaúcha. Within that region is Vinícola Salton, the country’s oldest, continuously operating winery founded in 1910.

Wine to try:
Vinícola Salton Intenso Sparkling Brut NV, $18.99. Crisp and refreshing with tropical notes. Available at Ambassador Wines (1020 2nd Avenue, 212-421-5078)

Alentejo, Portugal

Port. Dry, tannic reds. Madeira, maybe. This summarizes what most people think of when “Portugal” and “wine” share a sentence. But the country’s lesser known whites are used regularly as a base for quality bubbles. For example, Alentejo winery Esporão’s winemaker David Baverstock blends arinto and antão vaz for his Champagne method sparkling, aged 9 months on the lees.

Wine to try: Herdade do Esporão Vinho Espumante Bruto 2013, $19.99. Elegant and intense, with citrus and biscuit notes. Available at Easillage Wines (138 1st Avenue, 212-677-7070).

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Long Island, New York
Over the decades, Long Island’s homegrown wine industry has made big strides in converting potato farms into world-class vineyards. And no region these days calls itself complete without a sparkling wine producer. Thus, Sparkling Pointe, founded in 2004 by attorneys Tom & Cynthia Rosicki, serves as the state’s only winery to specialize in “methode champenoise.” They are aided by winemaker Gilles Martin who hails from Champagne.

Wine to try: Sparkling Pointe Brut 2012, $29.99. Creamy and toasty with lemon and pear notes. Available online direct from the winery.

Franciacorta, Italy
Prosecco garners the most attention because of its accessible price point and fresh, fruity flavors. But if you’re looking for Italy’s yeast- and brioche-filled answer to Champagne, head to Franciacorta. Based in Lombardy, the vineyards lay where the Alps meet Lake Iseo near Brescia. Wines that carry the Franciacorta DOCG only be made in the traditional method, or metodo classico, as they say in Italiano. Tucked into the hills near an 11th century monastery, is the small, innovative producer La Valle, owned by the Pezzola family, and now imported into the U.S. for the first time.

Wine to try: La Valle Franciacorta Brut Rose 2011, $43.99. The charming hue of a pink floral bloom, lively flavors hint at berries, cream, and biscuit. SRP is $55, but the wine is on sale online through Bedford Wine Merchants (in Bedford, NY)!

Sussex, England
The future of English wine is now. In fact, Ridgeview Estate in southern England has focused on making fine sparkling for nearly 20 years already. Located just 88 miles north of Champagne, they use the same traditional varieties (chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier) and methods of production, and share soil similarities (chalk and limestone). If climate change continues, the region might soon enjoy the marginally balmier climate of Champagne. (Good for the Brits; could be bad for the French).

Wine to try: Ridgeview Estate Blanc de Blancs, $40. Brisk and lemon-tart, cushioned by honey, yeasty notes and creamy bubbles. Available at Frankly Wines. (66 West Broadway, 212-346-9544)