How to Pair Your Party with the Perfect Sparkling Wine

Learn to pair the right sparkling wines and Champagnes based on your New Year’s plans—whether a big party, a small group of friends or intimate dinner.
Photo by Meg Baggott / Styling by Ray Garraffa

There are times when only bubbly will do, and New Year’s Eve is at the top of that list. Whether you ring in the new year with a huge party, a relaxed circle of friends or a formal dinner with your nearest and dearest, we have the right kind of fizz for you.

There’s a sparkling wine to fit any occasion, mood, food, music or wallet. Here are the best corks to pop as you count down to midnight.

Luxurious & Intimate

Dinner à Deux

The table is set, the napkins folded, the silver polished and the glasses sparkle. The oysters are shucked and a delectable menu is perfectly prepped. The mood is festive, and the flavors will be as subtle and eclectic as the playlist that will set the evening’s tone.

Only the very best fizz is good enough to crown the year’s final moments. Spoil your guest and yourself with a vintage or special cuvée bubbly from the world’s most gifted winemakers. Raise your game with traditional, bottle-fermented sparkling wines. They may have benefitted from extended lees aging, or they’re vintage-dated, hail from an unusual region or prized single vineyard. Every care has been lavished on these wines, and you can taste that. If chosen well, they can take you from apéritif to dessert, and heighten the festive tone.

Spoil your guest and yourself with a vintage or special cuvée bubbly from the world’s most gifted winemakers.

Start with a taut, crystalline blanc de blancs, made purely from Chardonnay. With an uplifting, lemony freshness, it pairs well with seafood or light starters.

Mature, vintage-dated wines have the depth to match main courses. Their soft effervescence can accentuate the slightest nuances of a dish. Aged rosés seem to be made especially for wild mushrooms or truffles, as these wines echo their earthy flavors perfectly.

Pinot Noir-dominant sparklers or blanc de noirs have enough backbone and body to pair with light and dark meats, even game. Wines with higher dosage can make for a thrilling finish paired with an elegant dessert—look for the words “demi-sec” on the label.

Sparkling Wines for a Date
Photo by Meg Baggott / Styling by Ray Garraffa

Recommended Wines

Krug 2002 Brut (Champagne); $259, 100 points. This is a fabulous wine from the greatest Champagne vintage so far this century. Still young, it blends almost equal amounts of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fleshed out with Pinot Meunier. The minerality and the rich apple and green fruits are balanced, and acidity cuts into the wine with a pure, perfumed line of freshness. The wine could be drunk now, but it will age well into the the 2020s. Moët Hennessy USA. Cellar Selection.

Salon 2004 Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut (Champagne); $520, 98 points. Salon’s releases are rare and signify a great vintage—the last release was the 2002. Coming from grand cru vineyards in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, this 2004 is complex and concentrated, capturing the essence of Chardonnay in Champagne. Intense minerality and ripe apple and citrus fruits accompany the purity and crisp texture that are part of its ability to age. The wine can continue for many years, certainly to 2025 and beyond. Vineyard Brands. Cellar Selection.

Iron Horse 2010 Cuvée M (Green Valley); $62, 94 points. This one-time-only blanc de blancs is made from a Stony Hill Chardonnay clone planted in a single block of the producer’s vineyard—since planted to Pinot Noir. This sparkler is sublime, the mousse silky and speckled in minerality. Lemon, pear and brine combine to good effect on the palate, buoying the exuberant fragrances of orange peel and cream pie.

Louis Roederer 2011 Brut Rosé (Champagne); $80, 94 points. A blend of grapes from Cumières in the Marne Valley and the Côte des Blancs, this is a rich, well-balanced and very young brut rosé. It is ripe, while keeping an almost austere texture and acidity that will soften and broaden out as it ages. Drink now for the lively red fruits, but better to wait until 2019. Maisons Marques & Domaines USA.

 Ca’ del Bosco 2011 Vintage Collection Dosage Zéro Metodo Classico (Franciacorta); $75, 93 points. Subtle but enticing scents of pear, citrus zest, pastry and a warm whiff of freshly baked bread lead the nose. The smooth, creamy palate delivers juicy yellow apple, tangerine zest, aromatic herb and a spicy ginger note while tiny, persistent bubbles lend elegance. A bitter almond note closes the finish. Banville Wine Merchants.

Gusbourne Estate 2011 Blanc de Blancs (England), $80, 93 points. Creaminess and stone are all that is signalled on the nose. The palate opens with a generous spirit that unites green apple crispness, lemon freshness, shortbread richness and chalky depth. There is an undertow of lemon oil and lasting length. There is something generous and rounded about this wine that does not stem from dosage. Intriguing, wonderfully dry, grown-up and totally lasting. This is still taut and will gain from bottle age. Broadbent Selections, Inc.

A Relaxing Gathering

Your Favorite 8-10 People

You’ve been busy all year. It’s a night for quality time with family and close friends. You want a stress-free evening with real conversations. The last hours of 2016 are about sharing and relaxing.

Free yourself from the stresses of a formal dinner and do the work before your guests arrive. Prepare large sharing platters and bowls, and place them in the center of the dinner table. Then, crack open a bottle and begin the feast.

Everyone can go at their own pace—a kind of relaxed banquet that lends itself to varied cuisines and leaves room for that favorite family recipe. Just make sure there’s something for everyone. Pick a theme: Make the most of your heritage recipes or pick fragrant Indian, hearty Mexican or colorful pan-Mediterranean dishes. Have plenty of spare plates and cutlery nearby so no one has to run around.

To Champagne or Not To Champagne

The fizz to ensure an effervescent evening must be versatile. You want soft mousse, enlivening freshness and flavor that will stand up to, but not
overwhelm, the food. Nonvintage bottlings of traditional-method sparkling wines are perfect. They have an ideal balance of acid and sweetness and pair well even with exotic dishes. Their freshness will cleanse the palate and highlight different flavors. Their inherent lightness will spark lively interaction. These wines come in many guises: surprisingly affordable nonvintage Champagnes, American classics, numerous French crémants, citrusy Cavas or even exotic Tasmanian sparklers.

Sparkling Wine for a Group
Photo by Meg Baggott / Styling by Ray Garraffa

Recommended Wines

Jansz 2010 Vintage Cuvée (Tasmania); $44, 93 points. Negociants USA, Inc. Editors’ Choice.

Alta Alella 2012 Privat Laietá Gran Reserva Brut Nature (Cava); $36, 92 points. Apple, mineral and mild briny aromas are complex and interesting. Firm in body, with cutting acidity, this brut nature is bone dry, with white stone-fruit flavors that lean towards neutral except for a hint of salt. Minerality and cleansing acidity push an air-tight finish. Avant Garde Wine & Spirits. Editors’ Choice.

Schramsberg 2012 Blanc de Noirs Méthode Traditionnelle Brut  (North Coast); $41, 92 points. A very light-colored wine made from dark grapes, this is a detailed and multilayered beauty. Fresh ginger, cinnamon and brioche aromas lead to an elegant texture and vivid fruit flavors like white cherry and raspberry that energize the palate and linger long on the finish. Editors’ Choice.

Bailly-Lapierre NV La Burgondie Brut Réserve (Crémant de Bourgogne); $11, 90 points. This is a crisp, refreshing wine. With a mousse that is lively but with a creamy edge, it offers attractive apple fruitiness. A hint of toast suggests some good bottle age. The wine finishes with a mineral, tangy aftertaste. Plume Ridge. Best Buy.

Drappier NV Carte d’Or Brut (Champagne); $49, 90 points. This well-balanced nonvintage Champagne from this major producer in the Aube region is dominated by Pinot Noir, giving rich character and structure. Red apple and ripe melon flavors mean everything is in place, making for a wine that is deliciously ready to drink. Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.

Lucien Albrecht NV Brut (Crémant d’Alsace); $17, 90 points. Lifted notes of ripe, juicy apple are foremost on the nose. They also shine on the palate, where they are countered by a fine, gentle and creamy mousse and lovely freshness. This is beautifully composed, understated, fresh and elegant. The dry finish shines with lemon and echoes long. Pasternak Wine Imports.

Big House Party

Celebrate With a Crowd

Tonight you want to throw the bash of the year—and with an effortless blend of ease and sophistication, indulgence and generosity. Nobody does this like the Italians: La dolce vita is what you’re after—a sense of joy and plenty that will be memorable but not break the bank.

Prep everything in advance so you can spend your time chatting, dancing and flirting. Adorn your buffet table with towering platters of cured meats like Finocchiona and Milanese Culatello and Coppa. Wrap wafer-thin slices of prosciutto around grissini. Sit colorful grilled peppers and zucchini dressed in olive oil alongside toothsome chunks of Parmesan and a whole wheel of Gorgonzola topped with toasted walnuts. The idea: keep it simple but utterly authentic. Guests can help themselves while you make sure that drinks are topped up and the music keeps playing.

Prep everything in advance so you can spend your time chatting, dancing and flirting.

Large ice buckets should hold bottles of Italian fizz. Prosecco, of course, is everybody’s frothy favorite, either on its own or as part of a cocktail (place stemware strategically around the house and have swizzle sticks and peach purée ready for guests to mix their own Bellinis). Traditional-method bubbles from Franciacorta or Trento will put those who like drier flavors in a party mood, not to mention they match particularly well with the cheeses, especially Satèn and pas-dosé or zero-dosage styles. A dry, sparkling Lambrusco will surprise guests with its unexpected pleasures, especially paired with charcuterie.

If you’d like to go beyond serving straight fizz, set up a bar and let everyone mix up a Poinsettia cocktail: sparkling wine mixed with Cointreau and cranberry juice. Refresh everyone after midnight with fizzy lemon floats—scoops of lemon ice cream, topped with fresh berries and Prosecco.

Sparkling Wine for a House Party
Photo by Meg Baggott / Styling by Ray Garraffa

Recommended Wines

Fratelli Berlucchi 2012 Freccianera Brut Rosé (Franciacorta); $43, 91 points. A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, this opens with aromas of red berry, baking spice and a pastry note. The bright palate shows strawberry, cherry, cinnamon and bread crust framed in a silky mousse. Selected Estates of Europe, Ltd.

Paltrinieri 2013 Grosso Metodo Classico (Lambrusco di Modena); $30, 91 points. Enticing scents of fragrant blue flower, red berry and baking spice lift out of the glass. The bright savory palate offers strawberry, raspberry, wild cherry, and tangerine alongside zesty acidity and a firm, continuous pelage. Porto Vino Italiano.

Bisol 2015 Crede (Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore); $22, 90 points. Wildflower, ripe orchard fruit and a whiff of aromatic herb are some of the scents you’ll find on this. The foaming linear palate doles out apple, pear, lime and a hint of lemon drop alongside fresh acidity and a soft mousse. Wilson Daniels Ltd.

Ferrari NV Brut Metodo Classico (Trento); $25, 90 points. Scents of mature orchard fruit, fresh bread dough and citrus lead the way on this delightful sparkler. The bright palate delivers pear, apple, lime and a hint of pastry cream alongside lively acidity. It closes crisp and clean. Palm Bay International.

Korbel NV Brut Rosé Méthode Champenoise California Champagne; $14, 89 points. This light-bodied bubbly has a pale copper color, spicy aromas, bright cherry and peach flavors and a slight touch of sweetness that makes the texture quite plush. It’s sophisticated, complex and just plain delicious. Best Buy.

Henkell NV Brut (Germany); $8, 88 points. Hints of creamy yogurt meld into bright tropical swirls of mango, melon and tangerine in this fun, fizzy sparkling blend. It’s delicately effervescent with bristling lemonade acidity. Mionetto USA. Best Buy.

Published on December 27, 2016
Topics: Entertaining
About the Author
Anne Krebiehl MW
Contributing Editor

Reviews wines from Austria, Alsace and England

German-born but London-based, Anne Krebiehl MW is a freelance wine writer contributing to international wine publications. She also lectures, consults and translates and has helped to make wine in New Zealand, Germany and Italy. She adores acidity in wine and is thus perfectly suited to her Austria/Alsace/England beat. Her particular weaknesses are Pinot Noir, Riesling and traditional-method sparkling wines.

Email: akrebiehl@wineenthusiast.net.




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