Why a Professional Taster Won’t Drink Champagne this NYE—and What They'll Have Instead | Wine Enthusiast
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Why a Professional Taster Won’t Drink Champagne this NYE—and What They’ll Have Instead

Champagne is often considered the gold standard when it comes to sparkling wine. The wine has been marketed so well that plenty of consumers refer to any sparkling selection as Champagne.

While it is undoubtedly delicious and deserves all the respect and most of the fanfare, there is a whole world of sparkling wine to choose from. Every wine-producing country in the world can make sparkling wine, and many do so with great results.

After what feels like millennia indoors, a restlessness has developed in me. I no longer desire established standards the way I once did. The things that made Champagne the go-to are the same things that now have me turning away—strict laws and regulations, as well as consistent profiles, are leaving me bored and in search of adventure.

The pét-nat craze reads as symptomatic of our ennui with the standard and drive to seek something new. Something fun.

You don’t have to venture far to find something different in the world of bubbles. The crémants of France all have their own charms, and I find myself reaching for sparkling bottles from my favorite regions for still wines. Alsace combines Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois beautifully, and the combination shines in a uniquely brilliant way.

But staying in France is still a relatively safe choice.

To find a bottle to truly delight, there needs to be surprise. Australia has produced interesting bubbly bottlings for decades, but open a bottle of Aussie sparkling at a party? You are a renegade and a hero.

Italy has also helped tickle our taste buds thanks to its expansive variety of sparkling wines. Franciacorta can easily scratch the Champagne itch and consistently pairs well, with even a heavy meal.

Prosecco has ruled the lower price point for sparkling wines, with only some competition from Spain’s Cava. More adventurous Prosecco offerings have become increasingly available in local wine shops; even my less zealous wine-drinking friends are asking about col fondo.

For many Millennials like me, parties have left the dining room because, well, we don’t have them. They have moved to rooftops and parks. Across the U.S., sparkling wines are shifting away from being packaged in heavy and scary-to-open bottles to cans, which is a much nicer way to celebrate an evening than a High Life. Many wineries have woken up to this reality of a shifting audience and use case.

It’s true that there’s never a bad time to drink Champagne, and consumers seem to agree as sales are still rising, but it might be more exciting to drink a Bugey-Cerdon from the Jura instead. My friends and I will continue to regift the same bottle of “special” Champagne for every birthday, housewarming, baby shower or engagement, but as to what we’ll actually be popping and enjoying to celebrate those occasions? Something far less ordinary.


This article originally appeared in the December 31, 2021 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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