Sommeliers advise on which Champagne, sparkling wines to buy for New Year’s Eve

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Pop! The effervescent sound of celebration. Holidays—specifically, New Year’s Eve—typically provide a good reason to open a bottle of bubbly. However, with the exception of well-known luxury labels such as Moët & Chandon, many consumers are stumped by what to purchase—especially bottles that won’t leave a dent in their wallet.

The Georgia Straight asked two Vancouver sommeliers for their recommendations on Champagne and sparkling-wine alternatives. Pick up a bottle that suits your taste and budget, and then the hardest part will be waiting for the countdown.

David Stansfield, a consulting sommelier who works with the Vancouver Urban Winery, Tap & Barrel, Cuchillo, and Bestie, tells the Straight that for celebratory occasions, he often buys sparkling wine rather than Champagne.

“When I’m trying to save money…for the price of one bottle of Champagne I can buy a couple bottles of cava,” Stansfield says, explaining that cava is a Spanish sparkling wine made from three grape varietals native to Spain.

Stansfield’s current favourite is Parés Baltà Cava Brut ($19.99). “It has two bonuses: one is that it’s certified organic, so you can drink your part for the Earth. The second is that it’s got a cool label, which I figure counts at a party.”

His other recommendation will appeal to locavores. The Vancouver Urban Winery has joined forces with land-based wineries in B.C. to produce the Colab series. Just in time for New Year’s Eve, the Railtown winery has released the VUW x Backyard Vineyards The City 55 Blanc de Noir Brut ($25), available only at the VUW wine shop at 55 Dunlevy Avenue.

“The cool thing about this for me is that it’s not even 100-mile diet, it’s 55 kilometres,” Stansfield says. “All the grapes for this wine were actually grown in Langley.”

Both sparkling wines that Stansfield mentions are on the drier side. For something a bit sweeter, Bryant Mao, wine director and sommelier at Hawksworth Restaurant, suggests a moscato such as Australia’s Innocent Bystander Moscato ($19.99).

“It’s off-dry, usually five percent alcohol, and slightly fizzy,” Mao says by phone. “It’s quite fun as well.”

For wine drinkers ready to make the price leap to Champagne, which gets its name from the region in France where it’s produced, Mao advises seeking out a bottle of grower Champagne rather than one made by a major house. “Grower Champagne” refers to wines made by the farmers who own the vineyard.

“Usually, the quantity is a lot smaller and the style is different,” Mao explains. “Billecart-Salmon and Pol Roger would be my top choices. They’re in the range of $60 to $70 [per bottle]. If budget is not a problem, it’s always good to have a bottle of Krug.”

Stansfield echoes Mao’s sentiments. “It is New Year’s Eve, so if I had the money or if I was spending somebody else’s money, what I would be drinking is Krug Grande Cuvée,” he says about the $255.95 bottle of Champagne. “It’s in the same range as Dom [Pérignon] and Cristal, so I figure if you’re spending that kind of money you don’t want to get a wine that everybody else is drinking. You want to get the best possible wine, and this might be that one.”

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