It’s easy to default to tried-and-true Champagne when shopping for bubbly, but what if you’re looking for something new? Something different? Something a little unexpected?
Champagne is still revered, and for good reason. But superb sparkling wine is now made the world over, using a range of grape varieties and production techniques to create a splendorous array of styles.
From Old World to New, traditional wine regions to burgeoning ones, we dove into the bubbly bin to create a must-have cheat sheet for all your sparkling wine needs. We’ve also included a perfect pour at every price point, ensuring you a seriously successful and immensely satisfying holiday season.
Domestic Sparklers Come of Age
California has had a long love affair with sparkling wine production.
Korbel Champagne Cellars, in the coastal woods near the Sonoma Coast, has produced a wide range of sparklers since the late 1800s. Other homegrown producers include Iron Horse and J Vineyards & Winery, both tucked into the cooler reaches of the Russian River Valley.
Jack and Jamie Davies were the first to make a big move in the modern era, however. They took over the forgotten Schramsberg Vineyards in Calistoga in 1965 to attempt a Schramsberg Cuvée with the help of neighbor Peter Mondavi. Schramsberg sparkling wine soon found worldwide fame and even made its way into the White House. By 1972, California had drawn wide interest for its traditionally styled sparkling wines.
In Mendocino, famed chocolate maker John Scharffenberger established Scharffenberger Cellars in the Anderson Valley in the 1980s. It’s now owned by Maisons Marques & Domaines, the American wing of Champagne Louis Roederer.
Today, California’s ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay continue to seduce the Old World. The French have established sizeable New World outposts in Napa with Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon and Mumm Napa Valley, and in Mendocino with Roederer Estate. Meanwhile, the Spanish family behind Freixenet is making impressive wines at Carneros-based Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards.
There are also pockets of sparkling wine production in the Central Coast and Santa Cruz Mountains, including Santa Maria, Arroyo Grande and Sta. Rita Hills. An increasing number of growers and producers believe these areas possess ideal climates for sparkling wines.
Schramsberg 2009 J. Schram (North Coast) $127, 97 points. Enticing aromas of toasted almond and pear tart lead to an equally seductive and complex palate that is dry but rich in feel. It has the complexity and layering of a wine aged a long time on the yeast, and shows excellent concentration that leads to a long, lingering finish. This is Schramsberg’s top-of-the-line Chardonnay-based wine and it definitely lives up to its billing in this vintage. Best after 2023. Cellar Selection. —Jim Gordon
Domaine Carneros 2011 Le Rêve (Carneros); $115, 95 points. Made entirely from estate-grown Chardonnay, this blanc de blancs is heady and intense with ample mousse and body. Green-apple Jolly Rancher flavor meets steely acidity that takes on a tone of wet stone and a focused structure, with a lasting impression of pineapple upside-down cake and crème brûlée. —Virginie Boone
Pashey 2014 Cuvée Extra Brut Méthode Champenoise Estate Grown (Willamette Valley); $65, 94 points. Estate-grown fruit—principally Pinot Noir with 8% Chardonnay—goes into this impressively complex sparkling wine from Trisaetum. It’s rich and deep, showing both power and finesse. A fine bead and light details of cocoa, coconut and cream bring exceptional complexity. Editors’ Choice. —Paul Gregutt
Gloria Ferrer 2015 Late Disgorged Brut Rosé (Carneros); $50, 93 points. Made from 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay, this is cranberry colored and flavored, with a rich, thick mousse. Delicately textured, it has back notes of orange and strawberry and bright, fresh, persistent acidity and a complex lingering of seashell. —V.B.
Iron Horse 2010 Brut LD (Green Valley); $110, 93 points. Made from equal parts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and late-disgorged after seven years en tirage, this is the winery’s top-of-the-line bubbly, and it shows. Gorgeous wafts of peach skin tease the nose before dry, layered components of lemon peel, white flower and apple skin shine on the palate, dipped in a strong mineral streak of crushed stone. —V.B.
Sparkling Pointe 2008 Brut Séduction (North Fork of Long Island); $68, 92 points. This top-tier wine from the Long Island sparkling house shows a wonderfully developed nose of toasted almond, citrus cream and brioche. Soft, small-bead bubbles roll across the palate, carrying a concentrated stream of citrus and salty nut flavors that linger for days on the finish. This méthode Champenoise is a blend of 45% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier and was aged eight years on the lees. Editors’ Choice. —Alexander Peartree
More top-rated American bubblies
Roederer Estate 2011 L’Ermitage Brut (Anderson Valley). $48, 95 points. Dry and nicely mature, this complex wine is always among California’s best bubblies. It combines great balance, tiny bubbles and some very interesting flavors that make it as appealing as a well-cellared white Burgundy at its peak. Hints of toast, butter and almond fill the aroma, while lemon, crisp apple and baking spices fill the palate. It has lively acidity that’s softened by a good sense of body. Editors’ Choice. —J.G.
Flaunt NV Brut (Sonoma County). $85, 94 points. This is winemaker Dianna Novy Lee’s debut sparkling wine, blending 56% Chardonnay and 44% Pinot Noir and then aging the wine on the lees for three years before release. It impresses from first sip, showing acid-driven raciness and a core of green apple, lime zest and biscuit flavors that linger. It’ll serve well as a delicious aperitif or fitting companion for the table. Editors’ Choice. —V.B.
Roco 2015 RMS Brut (Willamette Valley). $65, 93 points. The blend is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, within spitting distance of the 2014 cuvée. Made in the traditional méthode Champenoise, it’s a savvy, sexy bottle of bubbly. Lightly candied fruit flavors of orange peel, pineapple and poached pear penetrate deeply into the palate, with a fine bead and a burst of toast. —P.G.
Goat Bubbles 2015 Blanc de Noirs Bien Nacido Vineyard (Santa Maria Valley). $60, 93 points. Freshly smashed lemon aromas meet with yeast and sourdough on the nose of this excellent bubbly bottling. The palate’s bubbles are soft and inviting, with flavors of yuzu, fresh bread and the slightest hints of smoke and ash. —Matt Kettmann
Mumm Napa 2011 DVX (Napa Valley). $70, 93 points. A 50-50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, given time to age, this shows layers of richness that can only be earned over time. Rounded supple acidity supports broad complex layers of green apple, Meyer lemon and peach. It finishes crisp and dry. –V.B.
Thacher 2013 Hastings Ranch Vineyard Blanc de Blanc Viognier (Adelaida District). $60, 92 points. Rarely does a sparkling Viognier hit the market, and it’s doubtful that any could be as good as this bottling by brewer-turned-winemaker Sherman Thacher. Extremely effervescent bubbles shoot out aromas of Asian pear, lemon zest, gardenia and the slighest hint of guava tropicality. The bubbles are soft on the sip, carrying honeydew and sharp lime flavors. Editors’ Choice. —M.K.
Scharffenberger NV Brut Excellence Méthode Traditionnelle (Mendocino County). $18, 91 points. This enticing and supple wine starts with aromas of bread dough and toasted almonds. The palate brings flavors of both fresh and baked apple on a plush, softly sparkling texture. —J.G.
J Vineyards & Winery NV Cuvée 20 Sparkling (Russian River Valley); $38, 91 points. Broadly defined in honeysuckle, peach, brioche and moderate acidity, this is a crowd-pleasing and immensely likable sparkling wine. The finish lingers on a deep, nutty tone. —V.B.
Elk Cove 2015 La Bohème Estate Grown Brut Rosé (Yamhill-Carlton). $50, 91 points. Sourced from the oldest vines of the estate’s La Bohème vineyard, this lush sparkler is made from 100% Pinot Noir. Its pretty strawberry shade matches the scents and flavors. With exceptional concentration and elegance, it seemingly gathers strength through its long, flavorful finish. –P.G.
William Heritage 2015 Estate Reserve; Brut Rosé (Outer Coastal Plain). $40, 89 points. Aromas of croissant and golden raspberry are delicate on the nose. Bright, rich flavors of cherry and papaya on the palate are laced with grapefruit acidity and an underpinning of biscuit dough. Somewhat frothy bubbles are persistent but light, while a strawberry flavor emerges on the finish. —Fiona Adams
Think Beyond Champagne
Even in France, Champagne isn’t the be-all and end-all of bubbles.
Crémant is the name adopted by many French wine regions to describe wines made in the same way as Champagne, with the second fermentation in the bottle. It—and other styles of sparkling wine—can be found everywhere wine is made in France. They typically sell for anywhere between $15–35, half the price of most Champagne. In style, they are almost all brut, or dry, while in flavor, the variety is enormous.
Burgundy’s crémants, made from the same grapes (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) as Champagne, can be impressive in their style and richness. While just across the Saône valley from Burgundy, Jura uses the same grapes to produce its Crémant de Jura. And in the Loire, there’s an array of styles and names. Vouvray’s Chenin Blanc makes ageworthy sparkling wines matured in the limestone caves under the vineyards. Saumur uses blends of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay for its more varied offerings. There’s also a Loire-wide appellation, Crémant de Loire, which produces some of the best sparkling wines in the valley.
The Languedoc region also has a rich history of sparkling wine production, dating back to 1531. Early sparkling wines were produced primarily from Mauzac, a local grape, and called Blanquette de Limoux. Today, while Blanquette is still made, production has expanded to include Crémant de Limoux, a Chardonnay-based sparkler with a smaller percentage of Mauzac included.
Lucien Albrecht NV Brut (Crémant d’Alsace); $17, 91 points. Touches of lime and lemon zest entice on the shy but refreshing nose. The palate adds a mellow ripe-apple note, helped along by a creamy mousse. The long finish is poised and dry. Foley Family Wines. Editors’ Choice. —Anne Krebiehl, MW
J. Laurens 2016 Clos des Demoiselles Tête de Cuvée Brut (Crémant de Limoux); $22, 91 points. Delicate aromas of crushed white peony, lemon verbena, chalk and apple flesh dance in the bouquet of this attractive sparkling wine, while flavors of green apple, yellow plum and lemon zest are direct and mouthwatering. The palate is fresh and zippy, with a lively mousse and bright acidity that lead into a medium-length but seriously refreshing finish. Vigneron Imports. Editors’ Choice. —Lauren Buzzeo
Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau NV Pétillant Brut (Vouvray); $23, 90 points. Nutty and fruity at the same time, this pear-flavored wine with its hint of honey is dry while also soft. It offers intriguing balance between roundness and dryness, a refreshing style that will make a fine aperitif. Michael Corso Selections. —Roger Voss
Bailly-Lapierre NV Brut Pinot Noir (Crémant de Bourgogne); $25, 90 points. Full bodied and rich with red fruits and crisp acidity, this wine, made from 100% Pinot Noir, shows a ripe character and a firm texture. Its bright fruit and tight texture will open up to offer a lovely wine for near-term enjoyment. Regal Wine Imports Inc. —R.V.
Gérard Bertrand NV Ballerina Brut Étoile Rosé (Crémant de Limoux); $50, 90 points. There’s a lovely top-note of strawberries and cream throughout the nose and mouth of this sparkling wine, with additional glimmers of ripe yellow melon and clementine. The palate is fresh and lively, with a pithy texture that’s balanced by bright acidity and snappy red currant and cherry tones that unfold on the finish. USA Wine West. —L.B.
Celene NV Jade Ballarin Collection Précieuse Blanc de Blancs Brut (Crémant de Bordeaux); $15, 89 points. This attractive, crisp blend of Sémillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc is light, lively and packed with fruit. Aged for 18 months in bottle before release, the wine now has some maturity and a touch of toast as well as crisp fruit. Drink now. Private Cask Imports. —R.V.
More top-rated French bubblies
Henriot 2006 Millésime Brut (Champagne); $99, 96 points. Now mature, this wine is rich and stylish. As it matures, it has developed a ripe yeast and toast character along with a beautiful patina of intense spice, and minerality along with great complexity. The wine is fully ready, a great experience to drink now. Maisons and Domaines Henriot. —R.V.
Krug NV Grande Cuvée 166eme Edition (Champagne); $175, 95 points. This is the latest incarnation of Grande Cuvée, now in its 166th edition. Toasty aromas signal an enticingly mature wine, rich with intense secondary flavors. It preserves the wonderful richness and the style of this producer. The wine is ready to drink now, but it will be also enjoyable for many more years. Moët Hennessy USA. Cellar Selection. —R.V.
Besserat de Bellefon 2013 Triple B by Besserat Brut Nature (Champagne); $95, 94 points. Produced from organically grown grapes, this is an impressively rich wine. Its generousity derives from the ripe grapes and the intense fruitiness that balances the total dryness of the wine. Drink from 2020. Winesellers, Ltd. Editors’ Choice. —R.V.
H. Blin NV Rosé de Saignée Edition Limitée Extra-Brut (Champagne); $96, 94 points. The color of this limited-edition production is darker than many rosés, the product of skin contact rather than adding red wine. The color also heralds the richness of the wine, with its several years of bottle aging. Toast comes through the red fruits and the well-balanced acidity. Drink now. Soilair Selection. Editors’ Choice. —R.V.
Montaudon 2011 Millesimé Brut (Champagne); $65, 93 points. This young wine needs plenty of bottle age. At the same time its rich potential is all there with ripe fruits, apple and peach flavors, and tight acidity. A lower dosage than for the nonvintage wines from this producer allows the fruit to sing. Drink from 2020. Total Wine & More. —R.V.
Jean-Baptiste Adam NV Brut (Crémant d’Alsace); $23, 92 points. The rich spice of maple syrup makes a fleeting appearance on the fresh apple-driven nose. The palate foams with the finest mousse of creamy bubbles and smooths all the lemon and apple freshness into a joyous unity. This is fresh, apple-driven, lemony and very refreshing. The finish is dry and utterly mouthwatering. The Sorting Table. —A.K.
Kuentz-Bas NV Tradition Brut (Crémant d’Alsace); $24, 91 points. A vivid ripe-apple note melds with spiced cookie and tangy grapefruit peel tones on the nose. The palate shows great harmony between these rich but brisk, ripe but fresh, generous but slender elements. The result is a very creamy, rounded but apple-driven fizz for all occasions. Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. —A.K.
Domaine du Petit Clocher NV Brut (Crémant de Loire); $25, 90 points. This wine, like so many in the Loire, was aged in the chalk caves around the town of Saumur. An elegant blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it conveys a cool feel along with bright acidity and a creamy, apple aftertaste. Drink now. Kinson The Future of Wine. —R.V.
Victorine de Chastenay 2013 Brut Millésimé (Crémant de Bourgogne); $30, 89 points. With some age in the bottle, this wine shows sophisticated maturity while still keeping plenty of fruitiness. Crisp but creamy, it offers a rich texture and is ready to drink. AWDirect (The Wine Trees Portfolio). —R.V.
Monmousseau NV Vigneau Brut (Crémant de Loire); $20, 88 points. A blend of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, this soft and creamy wine is full of delicious apple and creamed-pear flavors. It has a nutty edge, the palate filled out by the warm Chardonnay. Drink this wine now. USA Wine Imports. —R.V.
Quality from North to South
Once reserved to a few select areas of northern Italy, quality sparkling wine production is now booming all over the country.
Prosecco, the crisp and informal sparkler that’s surged in popularity worldwide, is made in the Veneto region from the native grape Glera. Producers generally make the wine in steel tanks, though a few estates are going back to the traditional method of finishing fermentation in the bottle, which leaves a fine residue on the bottom that adds flavor and depth.
Farther north, Trento is one of Italy’s most storied areas when it comes to sparkling wines that are refermented in bottle, a k a metodo classico. High altitudes, which impart fresh acidity to international grapes, are key to the finesse of Trentodoc bottlings.
Franciacorta produces fresh and savory metodo classicos from predominantly Chardonnay and Pinot Nero. Thanks to the optimal growing conditions here, many producers can top off disgorged bottles with wine or skip the dosage entirely, resulting in the increasingly popular pas dosé or dosage/dosaggio zéro (no dosage).
In Piedmont, Alta Langa is showing potential with international grapes, while some producers in Barolo and Barbaresco are making graceful sparklers from Nebbiolo. And Moscato d’Asti, the sweet sparkler that spurred imitators around the world, delivers a tropical fruit flavor with freshness and style.
Frothy, food-friendly Lambrusco is the king of sparkling wines around Emilia-Romagna. The best of these red sparklers are from the denominations Grasparossa di Castelvetro, Lambrusco di Sorbara and Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce.
In Campania, Greco and Aglianico yield vibrant, refined bubbly wines. Sparklers are popping up everywhere in Sicily, but those made from Nerello Mascalese grown on the slopes of Mount Etna deliver finesse, flavor and structure.
Ca’ del Bosco 2013 Vintage Collection Dosage Zéro (Franciacorta); $75, 95 points. This stunning sparkler is all about precision, finesse and purity. It opens with enticing scents of white spring flower, crushed stone, lemon pastry and hazelnut. The aromas carry over to the chiseled palate together with creamy yellow apple, tangerine zest, brioche and mineral notes alongside an elegant perlage. Vibrant acidity gives it balance and structure. Santa Margherita USA. —Kerin O’Keefe
Paltrinieri 2017 Radice (Lambrusco di Sorbara); $20, 93 points. One of the wines that put Lambrusco back on the map, this vibrant, linear wine boasts aromas of wild strawberry, violet, red cherry and grapefruit. The aromas carry through to the slightly sparkling, savory palate along with cinnamon and white pepper notes. Crisp acidity lifts the savory finish. Lyra Wine. Editors’ Choice. —K.O.
Ca’ dei Zago 2015 Dosaggio Zero Metodo Classico (Prosecco di Valdobbiadene); $25, 93 points. This elegant, savory sparkler opens with inviting aromas of dried wildflower, mature orchard fruit and a yeasty whiff of bread dough. On the creamy palate, a soft mousse accompanies yellow apple, white peach and citrus zest alongside accents of dried herb and a hint of ginger. Ethica Wines. Editors’ Choice. —K.O.
Ferrari 2012 Riserva Perlé Rosé (Trento); $60, 93 points. Delicate scents of field flower, warm bread crust and a whiff of orchard fruit come together in this elegant sparkler. The bright, silky palate offers sour cherry, pear and tangerine zest alongside tangy acidity and a vibrant, refined perlage. Taub Family Selections. —K.O.
Rotari NV 40 Anni Special Limited Edition (Trento); $40, 92 points. Packed in a festive gold-wrapped bottle in honor of the firm’s 40th anniversary, this 100% Chardonnay opens with delicate scents of white stone fruit, bread crust and a hint of toast. The elegant palate offers yellow apple, pear, citrus zest and hazelnut alongside fresh acidity and a refined perlage. Prestige Wine Imports Corp. Editors’ Choice. —K.O.
Dubl NV Brut Rosé Metodo Classico Aglianico (Vino Spumante); $50, 91 points. You’ll find inviting scents of bread crust, orchard fruit and Mediterranean brush in this southern Italian sparkler. The creamy palate doles out white cherry, strawberry, candied citrus zest and nectarine alongside a foaming mousse and bright acidity. Domaine Select Wine & Spirits. —K.O.
More top-rated Italian bubblies
Berlucchi 2010 ’61 Nature (Franciacorta); $70, 95 points. Balanced and fragrant, this impressive sparkler offers alluring scents of yellow stone fruit and an inviting whiff of brioche. A blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Nero, it’s elegantly structured and focused, delivering flavors of yellow apple, white peach, bread crust and crushed stone framed in bright acidity and elegant perlage. A vanilla note lingers on the bone-dry finish. It’s extremely well balanced and refined. Terlato Wine International. —K.O.
Maso Martis 2014 Dosaggio Zero Riserva (Trento); $67, 94 points. Elegant and silky, this lovely sparkler opens with aromas of wildflower, crushed herb, orchard fruit and a yeasty hint of bread dough. Made with 70% Pinot Nero and 30% Chardonnay, the vibrant, creamy palate shows red cherry, Gala apple, white peach and tangerine zest alongside bright acidity and an ultrafine perlage. A mineral note lingers on the dry, juicy finish. Noble Harvest, LLC. —K.O.
Colombo NV Silvì Metodo Classico Riserva Rosé (Alta Langa); $40, 93 points. Strawberry, cherry, baking spice, bread crust, citrus and ginger aromas follow through to the fresh, creamy palate. A soft, silky mousse lends elegance. Panebianco. —K.O.
Moser 2013 Extra Brut Rosé (Trento); $40, 93 points. Elegant and savory, this lovely sparkler hits all the right buttons, starting with an enticing fragrance that recalls wild berry, Alpine herb, bread crust and a hint of baking spice. On the creamy, weightless palate, bright acidity lifts strawberry compote, ripe Rennet apple, citrus zest and a ginger note while a silky perlage lends finesse. A flinty mineral note energizes the finish. Divino International Wine & Spirit, LLC. Editors’ Choice. —K.O.
Saracco 2017 Moscato d’Asti; $18, 92 points. This fragrant, foaming sparkler boasts heady scents of yellow stone fruit and crushed herb. Mirroring the nose, the savory mouthwatering palate doles out juicy apricot, ripe yellow peach and sage. Fresh acidity and a creamy mousse provide freshness and finesse. WinesU. Editors’ Choice. —K.O.
Medici Ermete NV Metodo Ancestrale (Lambrusco di Modena); $27, 90 points. Wild berry, dried rose, violet and an unusual but intriguing whiff of garrigue lift out of the glass. On the savory, fizzy palate, vibrant acidity supports succulent red cherry, white peach, strawberry, lemon zest and bread dough. It’s fun and easy drinking but also loaded with personality. Kobrand. —K.O.
Nicosia 2015 Sosta Tre Santi Metodo Classico Carricante (Sicilia); $25, 90 points. Mature yellow apple and bread crust aromas carry over to the lively palate along with bitter walnut and a vanilla note. Fresh acidity and an elegant mousse provide the framework. FX Magner Selection. —K.O.
Villa Sandi 2017 Vigna La Rivetta Brut (Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze); $42, 90 points. Honeysuckle, ripe green apple and banana aromas follow over to the creamy palate along with a note of pastry cream. A silky mousse provides an irresistibly soft texture. Folio Fine Wine Partners. —K.O.
Banfi 2014 Cuvée Aurora Rosé (Alta Langa); $30, 90 points. Chamomile flower, red berry and pastry dough aromas lift out of the glass. The tangy palate offers sour cherry, Rennet apple and a yeasty hint of bread crust alongside racy acidity and a lively perlage. Banfi Vintners. —K.O.
Bisol 2017 Dry (Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze); $40, 90 points. Delicate scents of banana, honeysuckle and tropical fruit lead the nose on this foaming wine. The off-dry palate offers ripe white peach, pineapple and a dollop of vanilla pastry cream alongside a silky mousse. Wilson Daniels. —K.O.
More Than the Bargain Bin
While everyone loves a bargain, Spanish Cava is a class of wine that has been shackled by the popularity of its value-priced tier. For better or worse, the wine, made in the classic Champagne style, has thrived mostly because of its affordability.
Consumers have turned to an ocean of inexpensive Cavas to fill their aperitif glasses and make Mimosas for decades.
But if you have a taste for high-quality bubbly, Cava—which largely relies on the indigenous white-grape trio of Xarello, Parellada and Macabeo (a k a Viura), and can also include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Trepat or even Monastrell—deserves your consideration.
Fresher in aromas and lighter-bodied than Champagne, Cava is made largely in northeast Spain, in the province of Catalonia (although, by law, it can hail from anywhere in the country). The Penedès, located just outside Barcelona, is the capital of its production, with the town of Sant Sadurni d’Anoia functioning as the heart of Cava country.
Many sparkling-wine styles are produced in the region, so here is a cross section, ranging from sweeter bruts to steely brut natures, for your palate’s pleasure.
Agustí Torelló Mata 2012 Gran Reserva Brut Nature (Cava); $35, 92 points. Rich, mature aromas of brioche reflect autolysis. A full palate with just enough acidic freshness is layered and complex, while spiced apple flavors are yeasty. A mild note of toast melds with a hint of butter and brioche on the lingering finish. As gran reserva Cava goes, this is a winner. Hidalgo Imports, LLC. —Michael Schachner
Llopart 2011 Leopardi Gran Reserva Brut Nature (Cava); $40, 91 points. Yeasty sourdough aromas are fresh and mature at the same time. A full palate with integrated acidity offers fine balance, while this brut nature mixes a white peach flavor with a mild astringent note prior to a finish that’s dry, steady and airy. Drink through 2021. Jorge Ordóñez Selections. —M.S.
Gramona 2005 Celler Batlle Gran Reserva Brut (Cava); $105, 91 points. Chiseled aromas of mineral, oyster shell, tangerine peel and lemon-lime are a fine lead into a mouthfilling palate with modest textural complexity. Yeasty flavors of white stone fruits are mature and nutty, while this top-end Cava is smooth on the finish. Drink through 2022. European Cellars. —M.S.
More top-rated Spanish bubblies
Pere Ventura 2012 Gran Vintage Gran Reserva Brut (Cava); $53, 91 points. Yeasty, bready aromas of briny nectarine show early onset autolysis. This gran reserva brut is plump and round, but low on energy and bead. Flavors of dried papaya and melon include a note of brioche, while this is steady, bready, mature and ready on the finish. Drink now. Palm Bay International. —M.S.
Raventós I Blanc 2014 De La Finca Conca del Riu Anoia (Penedès); $40, 91 points. Raventós I Blanc is one of Spain’s best producers of sparkling wines, although theirs are no longer classified as Cava. This has aromas of briny apple and yeasty vanilla setting up a stony palate with narrowing acidity. Flavors of lemon and orange peel are from the brut nature school. It feels chalky and citrusy on a lean, long finish. Skurnik Wines, Inc. —M.S.
Covides NV Comte de Foix Reserva Especial (Cava); $18, 90 points. A rich nose is composed of bready apple and yeasty notes. A tight juicy palate is based on lemony acidity, while this brut tastes of barely ripe stone fruits and citrus. On the finish, this is so smooth that it seems like a still table wine as much as Cava. Lobert Imports LLC. —M.S.
Juvé & Camps 2013 Gran Reserva Brut (Cava); $50, 90 points. Fresh minerally aromas of wet stone and nectarine feed into a mature palate that’s not overly active or bubbly. Flavors of apple, celery, white pepper and green herb are classic for brut Cava, while this feels good on a mild finish. Drink now. MundoVino–The Winebow Group. —M.S.
Marqués de la Concordia 2012 MM Reserva de la Familia Brut Nature (Cava); $15, 89 points. Apple and brioche aromas are composed on the nose. A plump, slightly oxidized palate offers mild fruit tones, but shows a welcome shot of citrus on the finish. The Haciendas Company. —M.S.
Parxet 2015 Brut Reserva (Cava); $22, 88 points. Fresh pear, apple and seashell aromas form the welcome on this vintage brut. A steady palate is a bit foamy and unrefined. Flavors of vanilla, white tree fruits and yeasty bread are mildly complex in front of an even finish. Biagio Cru Wine and Spirits. —M.S.
Germany & Austria
Suave, Seductive Sekt
Rare as these bubbles may seem stateside, they’re certainly worth seeking out. Often floral and fruity on the nose, traditional-method German sekt is remarkably complex in its flavor profile, with bristling acidity and a delicate, dancing mouthfeel. It’s made from an array of grapes, such as Riesling, Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder), Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) or Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder), and offers a unique alternative to Champagne, frequently at a lower price.
The same is true for Austrian sekt. If the country has one key prerequisite for making sparkling wine, it’s the acidity bestowed onto the base wines by the cool nights of its continental climate. The long growing season, usually endowed with stunningly sunny autumns, gives rich fruit flavors. The best sparklers are an ideal combination of the two, enriched by rounded yeast texture and flavor conferred by traditional bottle fermentation.
Von Buhl 2015 Riesling Brut Sekt (Pfalz); $45, 94 points. Delicate biscuit and brioche accent concentrated yellow apple and pear in this dazzling Riesling sekt. Made in the traditional method, its petillance is fine and persistent, filling the palate with a rich but yielding mousse. Racy lime and lemon acidity guides a piercing finish. The finish is exceptionally long, lingering with a silken honeyed cling. Rudi Wiest Selections. Editors’ Choice. —A.I.
Bründlmayer NV Extra Brut (Österreichischer Sekt); $55, 93 points. Creamy, aromatic and fresh notes of fine, ripe yellow apple and pastry on the nose lead onto a fresh, bright and equally creamy palate, where a streak of lemon freshness provides structure and direction. This is complex with its hints of flint and lemon-flecked short crust. The mousse is fine and detailed; the style is slender and elegant but rich. A very classy sparkler that will also develop. Drink now–2025. Terry Theise Selections. Editors’ Choice. —A.K.
Dr. Loosen 2011 Brut Rosé (Mosel); $35, 92 points. Blossoms and berries abound in this vibrantly composed sparkling Pinot Noir. It’s fresh and fruity while also nuanced by hints of caramel and crushed stones. A lavishly textured mousse and fine, persistent bubbles extend the elegant finish. Loosen Bros. USA. Editors’ Choice. —A.I.
More top-rated German & Austrian bubblies
Anton Bauer 2014 Vintage Brut Reserve Rosé (Wagram); $45, 93 points. A subtle nose gives glimpses of melon and ripe stone fruit. On the palate this is tempered both by fizzing lemon freshness and a creamy, yeasty, rich backdrop of autolysis. This is the palest rosé fizz ever, but the richness of the fruit shines through and lends lots of substance and depth, so much so that this demands food. Astonishing length. Lovely now but will develop. Drink now–2025. KWSelection.com. —A.K.
Maximin Grünhäuser 2014 Sekt Brut Riesling (Mosel); $38, 93 points. Enticing whiffs of brioche, biscuit, lemon and lime introduce this lovely brut-style sparkling. It’s bracingly fresh yet bursting with juicy tangerine and yellow peach flavors. Filigreed in structure and with pin-point, persistent petillance, it’s a convincing argument for Champagne lovers to drink more sekt, especially considering its price. Loosen Bros. USA. Editors’ Choice. —A.I.
Raumland 2008 Cuvée Marie-Luise Brut Blanc de Noirs (Germany); $50, 93 points. Vibrant raspberry and currant are shaded by hints of blossom, smoked nut and brioche in this dazzling Pinot Noir sparkling. Made in the traditional method, it’s nervy and spry with tiny mouth-filling bubbles and a rich mouth-filling mousse that’s elegant yet expansive. Aged at least eight years on the lees, it’s a complex, seamlessly integrated sparkler. Rudi Wiest Selections. Editors’ Choice. —A.I.
Hager Matthias 2017 Pét-Nat Grüner Veltliner (Österreichischer Perlwein); $28, 92 points. Gentle hints of ripe yellow apple and yellow stone fruit play amid hints of pastry. The palate is rounded with more hints of apple, cream and short crust, united by a central seam of lemony, bright and integrated freshness. There is something totally honest, disarming and fresh-faced about this yeasty, leesy and fruity pét-nat. Volker Wine Co. —A.K.
Jurtschitsch NV Brut Rosé (Österreichischer Sekt); $29, 91 points. Subtle strawberry and lemon on the nose becomes much more pronounced on the palate. The foam is fine, and there is a taut line of freshness on a slender, linear body. This veers into the austere but also proclaims its pure, lasting freshness. Very classy, grown-up fizz. David Bowler Wine. —A.K.
Salomon-Undhof 2016 Wolke Für Zwei (Österreichischer Perlwein); $36, 90 points. A naturally cloudy hue and some funky, still reduced yeast notes give a very honest impression of ripe grapes. The palate is light and dry, slightly sparkling and tangy, with a real, pervasive freshness. A lovely, honest Riesling-based pét-nat. Fruit of the Vines, Inc.
Australia & New Zealand
Bubbling Up Down Under
In fact, fizzy wine is Australia’s fastest growing export category. Traditional-method bubbly is made in the country’s coolest corners, from South Australia’s Adelaide Hills to Victoria’s Yarra Valley.
It’s Tasmania that flies the fizz flag highest, however. The diversity of the area’s wine-growing zones is only just being understood, but all signs point to a bright and bubbly future, and current releases show the region’s power and potential.
Sparkling Shiraz, the tannic and frequently off-dry red bubbly that is uniquely Aussie, finds its home in most South Australian regions. Or you can try a fruitier, tank-fermented sparkler. Though trickier to find stateside, pét-nats are also everywhere in Australia.
New Zealand’s climate makes it an excellent place for first-rate sparkling as well. After all, where Pinot Noir thrives, so, too, do bubbles. Unfortunately, the popularity of the cheaper-to-produce Sauvignon Blanc means that many wineries have turned away from this labor-intensive wine style. But exemplary bottlings do exist, as producers across New Zealand are making sparkling wines to rival the best in the world.
Peregrine NV Methode Traditionelle (Central Otago); $45, 92 points. This is a traditional method Champagne blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It offers heaps of yeasty lees aromas mingled with bright apple and touches of toast and honey. The bubbles are bright and persistent, balanced by a slippery texture and a long, fruity, tangy finish. Vineyard Brands. Editors’ Choice. —Christina Pickard
Ninth Island NV Sparkling Rosé (Tasmania); $25, 91 points. Ninth Island is the second label of the well-respected Piper’s Brook, and its fizz is made by Natalie Fryar, the winemaker behind Jansz. This pink sparkler is made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Delicate notes of yeast, green apple, strawberry and watermelon rind are woven into a palate that’s creamy in texture but buoyed by a bright line of acidity and lively bubbles. Little Peacock Imports. Editors’ Choice. —C.P.
Delinquente 2017 Tuff Nutt Bianco D’Alessano (Riverland); $22, 90 points. This cloudy, unfiltered pét-nat is made from the Puglian variety Bianco d’Alessano. It changes rapidly in glass, morphing from tropical fruit and floral aromas to apple skins and green herbs. It’s pithy and slightly creamy on the palate, balanced by a refreshing zing of acidity and a fruity, herbal punch right to the end. A porch pounder through and through, especially considering it comes in at just 10% abv. Hudson Wine Brokers. Editors’ Choice. —C.P.
More top-rated Australian & New Zealand bubblies
Quartz Reef NV Brut Méthode Traditionnelle (Central Otago); $30, 92 points. This biodynamic blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Bendigo draws you in with attractive notes of ripe red apple, pressed yellow flowers, butter, and copper penny. It hooks you on the palate with a chalky texture, tingly acidity, and long, lingering finish. Complex and food friendly yet ultra drinkable. WineDogs Imports LLC. Editors’ Choice. —C.P.
Sidewood NV Sparkling (Adelaide Hills); $30, 90 points. This is a rich sparkling for those who like their bubbles full throttle. Enticing notes of bruised red apples, apricots, figs and honeyed nuts run throughout the wine. The mouthfeel is creamy, carried by fine bubbles. Less honeyed than the nose, the palate brings earthier flavors of wet hay and strawberry leaf. USA Wine West. —C.P.
The Lane NV Lois Blanc de Blancs (Adelaide Hills); $20, 90 points. This delicate, low key sparkler is a blend of three different clones of Chardonnay. The variety shows its many colors with subtle fig, white spice and tropical fruit notes. The palate is creamy but balanced by fine bubbles and crisp acidity. Pacific Highway Wine & Spirits. —C.P.
Sophora NV Cuvée (New Zealand); $16, 88 points. This is an opulent, showy style of a sparkling wine. Notes of honey, brioche, dates and ginger lead to a rich, round texture and vigorous mousse. The finish is a little mealy and sweet but there are plenty who will dig this rich style, particularly once they see the affordable price tag. Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners. —C.P.
Fowles Wine NV Are You Game? Sparkling (Victoria); $20, 88 points. An interesting blend of Vermentino and Arneis, this bubbly has a fruity nose of apple, lemon-lime and strawberry leaf with a yeasty core. There’s a touch of sweetness on the palate but it’s nicely balanced by plenty of acidity and lively bubbles. Fowles Wine Ltd. —C.P.
Allan Scott NV Cecilia Brut (Marlborough); $28, 87 points. Notes of pear, crisp red apple and a hint of buttered toast are accompanied by a waxy texture and some richness on the palate. A little simple and one dimensional, but a solid bubbly nonetheless. Craft + Estate–The Winebow Group.
South Africa & South America
The Southern Hemisphere Sparkles
South Africa produces a variety of sparkling wines, from bottle-fermented to Charmat selections. The highest-quality examples are labeled Méthode Cap Classique (MCC), sparkling wines that are produced using the traditional Champagne method, with a minimum of 12 months aging. A regulated term since 1992, MCCs can be produced from typical Champagne varieties, like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, but also varieties like Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinotage. From fresh and fruity to mature and complex, there’s a kaapse vonkel (Cape sparkle) for every palate and wallet.
Sparkling wines from South America are generally domestic products that locals use to celebrate special occasions. Although little of it is exported to the U.S., there are still a few worth checking out.
Brazil is the nominal category leader in South America. Brazilian sparklers are based mostly on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, although there’s also plenty of sparkling Moscato. The best examples are crisp, with overriding freshness and bright flavors of citrus.
Krone 2017 Twee Jonge Gezellen Vintage Rosé Cuvée Brut Méthode Cap Classique (Western Cape); $20, 90 points. Made from 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay, this brilliant brut rosé offers bright and snappy aromas of red currant, strawberry hull and fresh-cut apple. The palate offers more of the same, the tart flavors and mouthfilling mousse cut by citrusy acidity and nervy tension. Drink now–2022. Indigo Wine Group. Editors’ Choice. —L.B.
Simonsig 2017 Kaapse Vonkel Méthode Cap Classique Brut Rosé (Western Cape); $20, 90 points. Made from 72% Pinot Noir, 27% Pinotage and 1% Pinot Meunier, this sparkler boasts superbright scents of white melon, firm guava and red cherry that are supported by a pretty floral hint of fresh peony. It’s direct and focused on the palate, with vibrant acidity and brisk red-currant and pomegranate flavors that lend freshness through the medium-length close. Quintessential Wines. Editors’ Choice. —L.B.
Chakana NV Ayni Nature Sparkling Rosé (Paraje Altamira); $33, 88 points. A salmon color and aromas of orange peel and rubber form the opening on this rosé sparkler. A foamy mouthfeel is cut back and tempered by a bolt of citric acid, while this tastes briny and like citrus skins. Kysela Père et Fils. —M.S.
More top-rated South American & South African bubblies
Van Loveren NV Christina Limited Release Méthode Cap Classique Brut (Robertson); $25, 90 points. This wine is pretty, fresh and toasty all at once. It opens with aromas of hazelnut brittle, toasted challah and grilled red apple, all of which carry through to the medium-weight palate alongside additional flavors of pie crust and peach pit. Voluptuous in feel, the rich tones are balanced by medium carbonation and bright orange- and lime-flecked acidity. Cape Starz Wines LLC. —L.B.
Black Elephant NV Méthode Cap Classique (Franschhoek); $50, 89 points. Made from 75% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir, this spends 12 months on its lees and then 16 months in bottle before release. It’s surprisingly brisk and precise in character, with laser-beam notes of lime and green apple that are coupled with richer tones of rose petal and peach pit. The palate is zippy, with a full but aggressive mousse, high acidity and a mouthwatering finish. Meridian Prime Inc. —L.B.
Casa Perini NV Moscatel (Vale Trentino); $25, 88 points. Attractive aromas of gardenia, lemon-lime soda and lychee fruit set up a full foamy sugar-enriched palate with an acidic cut. Quick easy flavors of green melon and lychee are lasting on the finish. If you like sparking Moscato, this is your type of wine. Quintessential Wines. —M.S.
Undurraga NV Titillum Blanc de Noirs (Leyda Valley); $30, 88 points. Leesy stone-fruit aromas start out tight and crisp but lose clarity and cleanliness as this warms up in the glass. A lean, fresh palate holds flavors of barely ripe stone fruits and dried apricot that run long on a finish with bitter notes of grape skins. Maritime Wine Trading Collective. —M.S.
Casa Valduga NV 130 Brut (Brazil); $33, 88 points. Briny stone-fruit aromas are sweetened by notes of apple blossom. A full, slightly foamy palate is lively but brusque, while this tastes of yeasty peach and apricot in front of a mildly bitter finish. Heritage Link Brands. —M.S.
Cruzat NV Brut Método Tradicional (Luján de Cuyo); $15, 87 points. Aromas of brioche and white fruit struggle with freshness but succeed as a whole. A straightforward palate is solid, while this brut tastes of ripe apple and pear. A mild finish displays moderate depth and a hint of complexity. Elixir Wine Group. —M.S.