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Bubbly makes every night New Year’s Eve

By Dave Buchanan

While holidays are when most people open sparkling wines, there's no reason to wait until the tinsel is falling off the tree to open something bubbly and fun.

With some friends over for a between-the-holidays midweek gathering, I gathered an assortment of various bubblies to share. I didn't have enough of any one to make it the focus of the party but there was enough variety to open some eyes to the possibilities you can find in sparkling wines. Here's what we tasted and toasted:

The Jaume Serra Cristalino, a Spanish Cava (I know that's redundant but don't tell; some folks don't know that Spain produces Cava) made from Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes. I've written before about this light and refreshing bubbly but last week I saw a shopping cart full of this wine at a local store and it was selling for $5 a bottle. So I bought a bunch of bottles because you never know when something needs toasting. The taste and nose is reminiscent of a Prosecco, lots of green apple and mineral with more citrus than you'll usually find in Prosecco. Crisp finish and did I mention it sells for $5?

The Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco ($12-$14) is a wine you rarely see in this town dominated by Mionetto and Zardetto, two fine and well-known Prosecco producers but not quite the level of Nino Franco's better efforts. Franco makes a line of delicious Prosecco (or Prosecci) at his winery in Valdobbiadene in the Lombardy region of northeast Italy, where some of Italy's finest Prosecco is made.
A touch of yeast, citrus, lively fresh fruits and melon. Quite nice.

Robert Mondavi has added a sparkling wine to his Woodbridge label of affordable wines. The non-vintage California Brut Sparkling wine (SRP is $10 but you can find it for less) is made in the Charmat method (same as Prosecco) with primary and secondary tank fermentation. Shows flavors of green apple, pear and citrus with a note of yeast. Pleasant and lots of bubbles.

The evening's favorite, however, was a wine I smuggled into flyover country from the East Coast. Last year, during VINO 2010, the four-day all-Italian wine fair in New York City, I had the pleasure of meeting winemaker Riccardo Ricci Curbastro from the Franciacorta DOCG, also in the Lombardy region of northeast Italy.

Blogging colleague Susannah Gold, also enchanted by Franciacorta, has a wonderful article on Curbastro and an informative article about Italian sparkling wines for New Year's Eve here. Franciacorta is another of Italy's largely unknown (particularly outside of the larger cities) but entirely-worth-the-effort-to-find sparkling wines, of which you can read more here from Gregory Dal Piaz on Snooth.

Many things contribute to making Franciacorta such a delightful wine. The winemaker's talent, of course, but also the use of the methode champenoise with the wine undergoing secondary fermentation in the bottle instead of the tank (the Charmat method). Our party enjoyed the Brut (60 percent Chardonnay, 30 percent Pinot Bianco and 10 percent Pinot Nero) but Curbastro also offers an Extra Brut made 50/50 of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir to all you Anglophones out there).

I'll let you take it from here. There are plenty of opportunities to open a sparkling wine on New Year's Eve without breaking the bank. And don't just wait for a holiday, because nothing makes any occasion a festive occasion more than the POP of a cork.
As Curbastro would say, Tanti Auguri e Felice Anno Nuovo.


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