New Years

New Years and weddings are times most people enjoy “champagne”—the name many people use for sparkling wine in general, although it correctly applies only to sparkling made in Champagne region of France.

With celebrations imminent, a bubbly brush up:

First: method. Best bubbly is made using “méthode champenoise” or “traditional method” which involves fermentation in the bottle.

“Charmat,” “metodo Italiano,” or “bulk process” involves fermentation in large tanks; most Italian sparklers are made this way. Good value, but does not achieve heights possible with bottle fermentation.

At lowest end are wines simply injected with carbon dioxide. You don’t have to be wine snob to disdain these offerings.

Second: name. Champagne is made in Champagne, and you pay plenty to have effete effervescence tickle your nose. Enjoy as good or better for less. Here are names to look for: cava (Spain), spumante and frizzante (Italy), sparkling wine (U.S. and other countries), cap classique (South Africa), sekt (Germany), and crémant (French sparkling not made in Champagne).

Third: sweetness. Brut is most common sweetness—or lack of sweetness—drunk today. Brut has less than 11.25 grams of sugar and extra brut less than 4.5 grams. If you like your bubbly dry, buy brut.

Extra dry (also called extra sec)—counter intuitively—is sweeter than brut, with 9 to 15 grams of sugar. Sec is next sweeter, with 12.75 to 26.25 grams of sugar. Notice there is no bright line of sugar where extra dry becomes brut or sec. There are sweeter choices, but these three will be what you encounter most often. Experiment to find your sweet spot.


• Louis Perdrier Brut Excellence. Some citrus and green apple. France; value buy. $8

• Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut. Green apples; crisp. Spain. $10

• Cinzano Asti. Sweet Muscato pleaser. Italy. $12

• Sumarroca Caul Brut Reserva. Long fermentation in bottle; soft and elegant. Spain. $14

• Adami Prosecco. Green apples, tropical fruit; dry Italy. $14

• Chandon Extra Dry Riche. Peaches, nectarine, apricot. California. $20

• Graham Beck Brut. Top value, clean and fresh. South Africa. $16