It's not likely anyone set aside valuable paycheck funds to splurge on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, but that shouldn't mean missing out on toasting the holidays with a delicious glass of bubbly. Resist the urge to grab whatever's on the bottom shelf of your liquor store; with a little knowledge you can easily purchase a great bottle of sparkling wine without putting yourself in the poor house. Here are five options from us and Chief Wine Ambassador for City Wine Tours Wesley Narron that'll get you buzzed without breaking the bank.
Jaume Serra Cristalino Extra Dry Cava: "No, this isn't Champagne. It's cava, the Spanish sparkling wine and for the price you won't find a better-tasting bubbly cheaper than the Cristalino cava. Don't confuse this with the Cristal (Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece) made by French champagne legends Louis Roederer. Santa baby, you can buy a case of Cristalino (24 bottles) for what you'd pay for one bottle of Cristal. Get the Extra Dry style—not the Brut style—which despite its designation is actually a touch sweeter and softer than the Brut."
Narron notes flavors of "apple, pear and ripe peach...with hints of coffee" and recommends pairing the bubbly with Marcona almonds, Parmesan cheese or roast chicken.
Find it at Warehouse Wine and Spirits, 735 Broadway, 212-982-7770; $7.99 per bottle
Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Named for the genius Benedictine monks who invented sparkling wines in 1531, this oldest bubbly in France charts up with the country's finest champagnes when it comes to delicate flavor and tiny little bubbles. It's the go-to sparkler in my family whether we're celebrating a birthday, toasting the New Year or just feel like drinking something fizzy, so it holds a special place in my heart. It's bright and citrusy and just about perfect when served ice cold with some crisp grapes or a block of tangy goat cheese.
Find it at Garnet Wine & Liquors, 929 Lexington Avenue, (212) 722-3211; $11.99 per bottle
Clairette de Die Cuvée Impériale As the top sparking wine brand in France, you can definitely trust Jaillance when it comes to a delicious bottle of bubbly. This blend of 95% Muscat a Petits Grain and 5% Clairette slants on the sweeter side without getting completely into dessert wine territory. Notes of honey and flowers are balanced by soft bubbles; it's also lightly alcoholic at just 7% ABV, so you'll likely be spared a hangover if you find yourself rising with your alarm for work the next day. Pair it with chocolate to enhance its natural sweetness or with a salty snack for more balance.
Find it at Astor Wines & Spirits, 399 Lafayette Street, (212) 674-7500; $15.99 per bottle
Gruet Blanc de Noirs "While the name sounds French, this vintage actually comes from New Mexico by way of Champagne, France, where wine maker Gilbert Gruet grew up. Gruet relocated his family and his winery to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico after traveling through the Southwest and stumbling upon a small group of European expatriate winemakers. Blanc de Noirs literally means “white of blacks.” In other words, this is a white sparkling wine made exclusively from the Pinot Noir grape, whereas most champagne is made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes. The Blanc de Noirs reveals all the delicacy and complexity that is Pinot Noir."
You'll find an "explosive juicy flavor of raspberry with a hint of milk chocolate," according to Narron, who recommends sipping with fried mushrooms or extra dark chocolate.
Find it at New York Vinters, 21 Warren Street, (212) 812-3999; $17.99 per bottle
Jose Michel & Fils Brut NV This sparkling delight tops out our list price-wise, ringing up at just under $50, but with a good reason. This grower champagne—meaning from a family-run vineyard that grows its own grapes—uses 100% pinot meunier, a grape typically blended with other grapes and rarely used on its own. You'll immediately notice the bright, red berry flavor, which is enjoyable for sipping or with some lovely sharp cheese. As it's got a higher price tag, this bottle would be best reserved for a smaller gathering where it can truly be savored or for a special occasion during this special time of the year.
Find it at Whiskey & Wine Off 69, 1321 2nd Avenue, (212) 585-0005; $44.99 per bottle