Whether you’re staying in or heading out on the last day of 2021, it’s likely a cool, crisp glass of sparkling wine will be part of the festivities. And who better to offer suggestions than the owners of wine shops who stock only the best of the best at a variety of price points and from around the world? While Champagne from the villages of Reims and Epernay, France, in the country’s Champagne region, are traditional picks, options are available from nearly every wine-making region around the world.
“While New Year’s Eve is a time of festivity and breaking out the bubbles, they don’t have to be crazy expensive to be a delicious complement to your meal, add to the life of the party, and provide in hope of a more normal year ahead,” says Phil Bilodeau, owner of Thief Wine Shop & Bar, inside the Milwaukee Public Market.
Phil Bilodeau, of Thief Wine Shop & Bar
Wine: Jansz NV “Premium Cuvée”
Region: Tasmania, Australia
Why: “Made in the traditional method by one of the pioneers of Australian sparkling wine, this Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend is crisp, creamy and toasty, with great length,” says Bilodeau. “A nice alternative to true Champagne at a fraction of the price.”
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Wine: De Saint-Gall NV “Le Selection” Brut
Region: Champagne, France
Why: “The Saint-Gall is a true Champagne that drinks well above its price, with notes of brioche, lemon curd from the Chardonnay, subtle red berry from the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, vibrant acidity and wonderful persistence,” says Bilodeau.
Wine: Paul Chollet NV Brut Rosé, Cremant d’Bourgogne
Region: Burgundy, France
Why: “This Brut rosé of Pinot Noir is nuanced and delicious, featuring wild strawberry, bright Rainier cherry, and a rounded mouthfeel,” says Bilodeau. “We’re currently pouring this by the glass at our wine bar, and it’s been a customer favorite, for good reason.”
Jake Hansen, of Scout Wine Merchants
Wine: Adriano Adami “Vigneto Giardino Rive di Colbertaldo” Prosecco Superiore di Valdobbiadene DOCG, 2020
Region: Veneto, Italy
Why: “Three things set this wine apart,” says Hansen. “It’s a single-vineyard Prosecco; this vineyard is in Valdobbiadene, a ‘Superiore,’ or more prestigious, part of the area; and it’s a vintage Prosecco, so all of the grapes were harvested in 2020, which is uncommon. It’s light and elegant, almost evaporating on your tongue, but crammed full of green orchard fruits, apricot, peach and lemon. Drink this before a meal to get your taste buds fired up, or enjoy with appetizers such as fresh fruits, salad or prosciutto-wrapped melon.”
Wine: Charles Heidsieck “Brut Réserve”
Region: Champagne, France
Why: “The Brut Réserve is a big, complex Champagne,” says Hansen. “Forty percent of this bubbly’s base is reserve wines that are an average of 10 years old. This adds a nutty, roasted hazelnut quality. It’s an amazing Champagne, exuding fresh pastry, lemon meringue and roasted almonds. Enjoy it with rich seafood preparations, caviar, or, if you’re on a budget, fried chicken.”
Wine: Schramsberg “J. Schram” Brut, 2012
Region: North Coast, California
Why: “This is Schramsberg’s tête de cuvee—their best of the best, top-end sparkling wine,” says Hansen. “For the amount of time and love that goes into this wine, it outdrinks the price. It has the lovely smell of a bakery when you start to pour it, followed with waves of dried tropical fruits, green apple, orange peel, lemon meringue, roasted nuts and candied ginger. I don’t pay too much attention to critic scores, but when Wine Spectator gives a wine 98 points, I pay attention. Have this with lobster rolls, smoked salmon, veal piccata, or—and trust me on this one—a bag of potato chips.”
Allie and Brad Kruse, of Nonfiction Natural Wines
Wine: Milan Nestarec Danger 380 Volts
Region: Moravia, Czech Republic
Why: “Danger is certainly not shy, with punchy acidity, hits of kiwi and mango, and strong (but not perfume-y or overpowering) floral notes. An electric pet-nat that will wow your food- and wine-loving friends, without breaking the bank like true Champagne. This would play nicely with takeout Chinese or Thai fare, soft cheeses and shrimp cocktail.”
Wine: Bichi Pet-Mex
Region: Tecate, Mexico
Why: “With a mysterious, unidentified grape variety, from a region we don’t see a whole lot of wines from. Bursting with ripe strawberries and tart grapefruit, it’s also absolutely perfect for New Year’s Day brunch—no added juice required. Pairing wine with Mexican food can be a huge challenge, especially when the perfect cocktail (the margarita) exists, but this wine can complement spicier fare with its refreshingly fruity character and subtle hint of sweetness.”