Sparkling Wine Picks From Our Reader Panel

On a cold and rainy Saturday a few weeks ago, we convened ten VinePair readers in a SoHo loft with one mission, help us select the best sparkling wines for the holiday season. A few months ago we had a thought: since no one critic can ever represent the myriad taste preferences wine drinkers have, and often these critics can bring too much experience and therefore baggage to tastings, what if we instead asked our readers, everyday wine drinkers who know what they like, to decide what bottles we should be drinking during the most festive time of the year.

VinePair issued an open call to wine brands offering them to submit their sparkling wines to be considered by our panel (something we hope to replicate in the year to come for several other categories) and we put all that was submitted before the panel. The options were as varied as the numerous types of sparkling wines on the market. We had representations of Cava, Franciacorta, Cremant from several regions, American sparklers and even a sparkling Shiraz. The only wine conspicuously missing was Champagne, whose houses were contacted, but chose not to submit offerings for the panel.

The Sparkling Wine Reader Panel

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We asked the panel to judge the wine both on quality – how much they enjoyed it – as well as a variety of other categories, including whether or not they felt it worked for a group or party and if the wine felt special enough for ringing in the new year. Here are the results:

The Best Overall Bottle Of Bubbly

Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta BrutSurprising to all of us, the overall winner of our tasting was a bottle of Franciacorta. To be specific the winning bottle was the Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta Brut. We’ve known for some time now that Franciacorta was making a name for itself as the highest quality bubbly coming out of Italy, but we were all truly surprised at just how great this bottle of wine was. Our panel remarked at how well-balanced the wine was, and how “special” it tasted. One taster in particular said she was drawn to it because of how different it seemed to taste from the other wines. Something just made it stand out, though she couldn’t specifically say what.

Fraciacortas in our tasting also did rather well overall, with three in our top five. This caused many of our readers to conclude Franciacorta to be a great bet for this holiday season, and we wholeheartedly agree.

The Best Bubbly For a Group/Party

Willm Cremant d'Alsace Blanc de BlancsWhen it came to choosing a bubbly that would go well for a group or party, our readers noted they were looking for a wine that seemed to be a real crowd pleaser, felt festive and also was easy to enjoy. In this category, the two wines that stood out were both Cremants from Alsace. For a group the panel chose the bottle of Willm Cremant d’Alsace Blanc de Blancs Brut and for a party the clear winner was the Allimant Laugner Cremant d’Alsace Rosé Brut, which seems appropriate.

Allimant Laugner Cremant d’Alsace Rosé BrutNo one on the tasting panel had ever had a sparkling wine from Alsace, so most were surprised at how much they enjoyed them. Our tasters loved the Allimant Laugner Cremant d’Alsace Rosé Brut for a party because they felt the wine was exactly what they expected, pleasing and fun, plus the pink hue gave off a beautiful and festive flair. When it came to the Willm Cremant d’Alsace Blanc de Blancs Brut, one reader referred to it as a party in their mouth, while another said how fun it was to drink. Great qualities when you’re looking for crowd pleasing wines.

The Bubbly For New Year’s Eve

Veuve Ambal Crémant de Bourgogne Brut PrestigeWhen it came to selecting the wine our tasters felt should be used to ring in the New Year, we looked both at their overall rating, as well as the rating for this specific category, and the Veuve Ambal Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Prestige was the clear winner. When discussing this wine, one taster commented that it just felt special, while another said tasting this bottle was like making the varsity, while the other bottles were simply still playing for the JV.

Many of the other Cremant de Bourgognes we sampled also fared well, which reenforces this category as a great region to look for at your wine shop. It gives you the quality many look for in Champagne, without the hefty price tag.

The Best Budget Bottle

Codorniu 'Anna' Brut CavaIn addition to all of the categories listed above, we realize sometimes you want to serve more than one or two bottles of bubbly and therefore you need an affordable bottle of wine that’s going to deliver – the clear winner here was Anna de Codorníu Cava Brut. This was an easy sipper — while it didn’t blow anyone away, it didn’t offend anyone either. It was universally pleasing, and at an average cost of $12 a bottle, a great go-to when you need to buy more than one.

Our Reader Panel, The Sparkling Wines They Sampled And Some Much Needed After 'Work' Treats!
Our Reader Panel, The Sparkling Wines They Sampled And Some Much Needed After ‘Work’ Treats.