Top 15 Classic Sparkling Wines for the Holidays

These classic sparklers are perfect for the holidays


La Methode Champenoise, Methodo Classico, Classic Sparkling wine--no matter what you call it we know what you’re talking about. It’s probably a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but not always; lean, crisp and fresh with a hint of sweetness and underlying toasty, yeasty notes adding complexity to the fruit.

Fermented first for alcohol, then a second time, in the bottle, for the fizz, there are many sparkling wines, but nothing quite like this classic style. We call it Methode Champenoise since it seems to have originated, or at least attained its greatest glory in the hallowed region, but compelling examples now come from around the globe, with prices that make it accessible to virtually everyone looking to add some special sparkle to their holidays.

Here are some of my favorites for this year, starting with the best values and working our way to some top choices.

Champagne image via Shutterstock

Bagrationi Classic Sparkling Wine Extra Dry Republic of Georgia 12% $13

Assertively aromatic with an array of notes that range from slightly oxidized roasted nuts and cured meats to dried herbs, honey comb, and peach fruits all topped with a touch of lime preserves. Gently sweet on the palate, this bottle has been around for some time showing a softening of the bubbles and a very smooth and attractively opulent mouthfeel. There’s some lovely fruit here, a bit of quince, something vaguely sweet, green apples and pithy lemon notes along with some almond nougat. The finish is dry and long, with lots of leesy flavors, some hints of roasted chestnut and a nice mineral finale. This is not going to be to everyone’s liking but it is a unique and distinctive sparkling wine with plenty of complexity. 89pts

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NV Korbel Sec 12% $13

Almost peachy on the nose with plenty of orchard fruit topped with hints of smoke and jasmine. Apple fruit on entry is quite pronounced along with a touch of sweetness, though it’s nicely balanced by plenty of acidity. The palate shows more floral character, something tropical and pungent which is a departure for classic sparkling wines. Fun, with a relatively fine mousse and a modest pithy citrus finish. 86pts

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NV Langlois Cremant de Loire Brut 12.5% $18

Dusty and earthy on the nose with a hint of clay over dried apple and old wood aromas all covered with a fine veil of dry yeast. Pretty big on entry with intense, juicy acids supporting rich apple, lemon cream and white peach flavors. The mousse is fairly fine and this is easy to drink with hints of ripeness and creaminess adding lush softness on the palate. The acidity extends the pithy lime finish making this long and detailed. A flavor profile that is a bit unusual for a sparkler but delicious all the same. 89pts

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Szigeti Blanc de Blancs Brut Austria 13% $23

Creamy on the nose with hints of vanilla, chalk and a hint of herbs over banana and pineapple fruit. Round and rich in the mouth with bright acidity up front followed by a large-scaled, creamy and gently sweet mid palate full of kiwi, lemon and banana fruit with a hint of vanilla on the back end which is followed by a dry, mineral inflected finish. A bit simple and fruity. 88pts

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NV Gustave Lorentz Cremant d’Alsace 12% $24

Crisp and well framed white apple fruit greets the nose followed by hints of sweet almond croissants and a touch of peach. Tart and yet gently sweet at the same time, this has a lovely mouthfeel with a light streak of astringency that runs through it. The fruit recalls the nose with tart apples dominating sweeter peachy notes and adding in a touch of pineapple on the back end that leads to a wonderfully firm, mineral and bitter apple laden finish. Rather tense. 88pts

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2007 Domaine Carneros by Taittinger Brut 12% $25

Sweet nougat, lime and lemongrass aromas greet the nose over a light bed of smoky yeast notes. Soft, expansive, creamy and frankly a bit sweet even if the acidity is nice and bright. A fruity style, easy to drink with tart fruit flavors and surprisingly good length with mineral and leesy flavors on the finish. 88pts

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NV Berlucchi Cuvee ‘61 Brut 11.5% $25

Tight on the nose with yeast dough, sweet almond and ripe apricot fruit. Soft, supple and gently sweet on entry, this is rich with ripe peach and pear fruit. Very well balanced it’s neither sweet nor tart on the palate just lush and giving with a bright, tense feel and gentle mineral hints on the backend that lead to a moderately long, brisk, yeasty yet fresh finish. Lovely and certain to be a crowd pleaser. 89pts

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2011 Yorkville Cellars Rennie Vineyard Sparkling Malbec California 13% $30

Faint rose color. Sweet and sour on the nose with powdery candied cherry and raspberry aromas that are subtle yet brightly framed with hints of lemon and herbs. Very fruity on entry, with a nice balanced sweet/tart edge to the lemon, raspberry and blueberry flavors. The finish shows a hint of breadiness with lots of tart berry and citrus fruit. This is fine sparkling wine with training wheels, nice sophisticated texture with rich fruit flavors that anyone would love. This would be a party favorite. 90pts

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  • Snooth User: dkstar1
    482017 31

    that headline is grossly misleading (and inaccurate).

    Dec 27, 2012 at 12:46 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,750

    You are absolutely correct. An error in production that I should have caught. I've changed the title here, but it will remain Champagne in your email. My apologies

    Dec 27, 2012 at 1:03 PM

  • Snooth User: SM
    1097030 218

    Thanks for the information Mr. Dal Piaz, unfortunately for us it will be going to COSTCO and choosing between their limited Moscato or Prosecco selections.

    But I do have to say I am impressed that you have gone beyond the 'safe' zone of Cava, Prosecco and the 'hallowed ground' of Champagne. The Georgian and Austrian sparklers seem pretty interesting as did the Mendoza one, perhaps one day I will come across them.

    Happy New Year celebrations and wishes to you and the whole Snooth team, may 2013 be a year of success, happiness, health and prosperity for all of you.


    Solomon Mengeu

    Dec 27, 2012 at 11:02 PM

  • Korbel…. Korbel????? WHat on earth is "classic" about Korbel?

    Dec 31, 2012 at 11:42 AM

  • Snooth User: amour
    Hand of Snooth
    218530 2,203

    Well written....came across real!...AND I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU, GREGORY...having gone the whole way and back...from Vintage Bollinger, Salon, low down to Andre!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Jan 07, 2013 at 11:36 AM

  • great

    Aug 12, 2013 at 11:46 PM

  • Snooth User: CarBuyWhiz
    1332598 26

    Really wonderful

    Aug 17, 2013 at 2:28 AM

  • awesome

    Sep 06, 2013 at 1:07 PM

  • nice

    Sep 11, 2013 at 2:03 AM

  • awesome

    Sep 24, 2013 at 5:49 AM

  • Striking

    Oct 09, 2013 at 5:25 AM

  • Snooth User: jamchimps
    1385295 43

    Its grand :)

    Oct 28, 2013 at 2:24 AM

  • Snooth User: gamysplash
    1487309 35

    Its good

    Apr 04, 2014 at 4:54 AM

  • Snooth User: gamysplash
    1487309 35

    Its calme :)

    Apr 04, 2014 at 4:55 AM

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