Sunday April 20th 2014

Budget friendly bubblies for New Year’s Eve: Jacques’ sparkling wine favorites

By: Susan Axelrod

Video by Susan Axelrod

New Year’s Eve and sparkling wine go together like … peanut butter and jelly … French fries and ketchup … Calvin and Hobbes or … well, you get the idea.

But you don’t have to spring for pricey Champagne or be stuck sipping plonk — there are more choices than ever in the middle of those two extremes.

Jacques deVillier of Old Port Wine and Cigar on Commercial Street in Portland recommends sparkling wines from Italy and Spain as fine — and perhaps even preferable — lower-priced alternatives to the French gold standard, Champagne.

A little sparkling primer:

1. Sparkling wine can only be called Champagne when it is from the Champagne region of France. It is made by what’s called “methode champenoise” – a traditional, labor-intensive and costly process whereby the wine undergoes its second fermentation in the bottle. This creates Champagne’s distinctive “tiny bubbles” and according to Jacques, gives the wine its characteristic “yeasty,” rich flavor.

2. Other sparkling wines are made using methode champenoise but because they are not from Champagne, they don’t carry that name. Examples are Schramsberg sparkling wines from California — which has a Maine connection, the vineyard owner went to Bowdoin — and cremant sparkling wines from the Burgundy or Bordeaux regions of France. (In discussing wine, a capital letter is only used for regions, not for grapes or style: Champagne and Bordeaux are regions;  pinot noir is a grape and cremant is a style.)

3. Other notable sparkling wines are from Italy (prosecco and moscato) and Spain (cava); these are generally cheaper alternatives to Champagne since many are priced at well below $20 a bottle. Some of these wines are also made by methode champenoise, but most undergo secondary fermentation in steel tanks, which gives them a crisper, brighter quality.

Jacques recommends:

Jeio prosecco (Veneto, Italy) $14

Bailly Lapierre cremant (Burgundy, France) $16

Vietti moscato d’asti (Piedmont, Italy) $16

Naveran cava (Penedes, Spain), $15

His bottom line advice: Drink what you like, because there are delicious, New Year’s Eve-worthy choices no matter what your budget.