Not every New Year’s Eve celebration is a formal dinner with fine wines. Some like to pop corks, blow whistles, bounce balloons, and crank up the music while drinking an array of inexpensive wines. If that’s your party, then, this is your article.
Bubbles can be expensive. But you can enjoy nonvintage Francois Montand Blanc de Blancs Brut made in the Champagne’s traditional method without the Champagne price. Produced from white grapes (the meaning of blanc de blancs) grown in the Jura—the region bordering Switzerland and named for the Jura Mountains—Montand’s sparkling wine delivers a pear scent and flavor that’s carried on bubbles as soft as the price. Ideal for an aperitif. 85 points. Widely distributed. Priced between $9 and $15, you can fill up the ice buckets.
I like cava, the sparkling wine made in the traditional method from Spain’s Penedes region, generally from indigenous grapes, macabeo, parellada and xarel-lo. Juve & Camps makes excellent cavas from its vineyards and winery in northeastern Penedes—not far from Barcelona—and an affordable star for ringing in the year is the 2015 Juve & Camps Reserve de la Familia Brut Nature.
Aged for three years and with no dosage, the sparkling wine’s dryness is offset by the rich fruit and soft texture. Ideal as an aperitif, or with ham, seafood and vegetable tapas served on toasted bread. 88 points. Widely distributed and reasonably priced at $14 to $20.
La Vieille Ferme is my go-to wine label when I want good value. Created nearly 50 years ago by the Perrin family, owner of the renowned Chateau de Beaucastel, the Perrins have recently added sparkling wines to the line.
The nonvintage La Vieille Ferme Reserve Rose’ is created by the Methode Contemporaine that the Perrin Family developed after five years of research. Unlike the Charmat method, which pumps gas into still wine, or the traditional method of creating the bubbles in the bottle with a second fermentation (used for Champagne and other fine sparkling wines), La Vieille Ferme’s sparklers capture the CO2 created during the fermentation of the still wine, then reintroduce it to the wine just before bottling, producing refined bubbles.
The translucent, tangerine-tinted Reserve Rose’ is a blend of grenache, cinsault and pinot noir, offering lively red-fruit aromas and flavors with a generous, round texture and dry finish. 88 points. Prices range from $14 to $18, with exceptional value found at the lower end.
For the wine-curious crowd, pour the 2016 Szigeti Pinot Noir Brut Rose’. Made in the traditional method by the Szigeti (ZIG-it-ee) brothers in Burgenland Austria, this tasty red-fruit-scented and-flavored sparkler will ignite the wine conversation. It’s aged for 20 months, bringing more complexity than usually found in good-value wines. Serve this alongside your tuna, salmon, mushroom, or eggplant dishes. 89 points. Prices range from $18 to $28. Best value is found at less than $25.
Still wines have a place on New Year’s Eve, too, and here are a few that deserve a place at the party.
2018 Villa Matilde Falanghina Campania, coming from vineyards that lie between the sea and the extinct volcano of Roccamonfina in Italy’s Campania region, is a medium-bodied white wine with floral and tropical fruit aromas and flavors and a clean, fresh finish. I enjoyed it with roasted cauliflower Romanesco dressed with salmoriglio at Manhattan’s Scarpetta restaurant. It will also be delightful with a bowl of spaghetti and clams. 88 points. Retail prices range from $14 to $17.
Crisp, light-bodied white wines are the essence of Savoie, the French Alpine wine region abutting Switzerland and Jura. The 2018 Domaine Pierre Boniface
Les Rocailles Apremont white wine displays floral, vanilla and nectarie aromas, and offers refined pear and white-peach flavors with mild acidity and minerality in the finish. With a low 11.5 % alcohol, this is an ideal wine for quaffing parties. 87 points. Retail prices are $12 to $19. Excellent value is found at less than $15.
With its brilliantly crimson hue, Valpolicella delivers fruit aromas and flavors, ranging from cherry to strawberry to raspberry, carried on a soft texture that make it the perfect crowd-pleasing wine. The 2016 Bertani Valpolicella Ripasso is that and more: ripasso, which means “to pass over again,” is made by adding the pomace of amarone or recioto wine to the fermenting Valpolicella, giving the latter greater aroma, flavor and body. Some in the wine trade like to call ripasso a “baby amarone.” In one sense it is, but in reality, it’s a category of its own.
Bertani’s ripasso is absolutely delightful. It has the black-cherry fruit concentration and plush texture of a new world pinot noir; fresh acidity keeps the wine lively on the palate, and carries it to a long, pleasing finish. It’s perfect with meat-sauced pastas, eggplant parmigiana, and chicken cooked any style. 90 points. Widely distributed, retail prices range from $24 to $35. Good value is found at less than $30.
Navarra is the wine region in northern Spain that few know. Overshadowed by neighboring Rioja, it struggles for an identity in the wine market. But that can be good news at the check-out counter.
Made from garnacha, the 2016 Bodegas Nekeas El Chaparral de Vega Sindoa Navarra was vinified and aged for five months in a mix of new and used French oak barrels, then, bottled unfined and unfiltered. This straightforward winemaking produced an eye-catching bright red wine with juicy raspberry and cherry aromas and flavors. Lively and immediately drinkable, it’s just what your New Year’s Eve party needs. 87 points. Retail prices range from $11 to $17.
Party on! Happy New Year!
Photos by John Foy