red new year

The tradition of ringing in the New Year with a glass of Champagne goes back to the nineteenth century, when, thanks to the rise of industrialization, those who weren’t nobility finally had enough money to at least afford the stuff on special occasions. Wanting to emulate the upper classes, the new middle class took to purchasing Champagne during times of celebration, such as weddings, birthdays and of course, New Year’s Eve. Because it wasn’t an everyday beverage, thanks to its price tag, popping a bottle came to signify that you were marking that the occasion was special. The rest is history.

But what if you hate Champagne, and sparkling wine in general? For you, there is probably nothing worse than being presented with a glass of bubbly and told to prepare for the toast. If that’s the case, every occasion isn’t as special for you as it is for others because you aren’t enjoying what you’re drinking, and that’s a terrible thing. But don’t worry, there’s no rule that says the only beverage you’re allowed to drink when the clock strikes midnight is Champagne. Which is why we’re here to help.

When choosing the beverage that’s going to be in your glass at midnight, we think it’s important that you adhere to how the tradition started in the first place, meaning drink something that’s special enough that you wouldn’t consume it, or buy it, on a regular basis. With that in mind, here are 3 great wines that aren’t Champagne, but are just as perfect for toasting the New Year.

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Made in the French region of Bordeaux, this sweet white dessert wine was a favorite of Napoleon, so much so that when the region classified itself in 1855, they actually named Chateau d’Yquem, the most famous producer of Sauternes, Premier Cru Supérieur, which was a classification above even the great reds of the region.

While you may not drink d’Yquem on New Year’s Eve, since it is quite expensive, there are many other affordable Sauternes on the market that are also special, just ask your wine merchant what they have. Also, because the wine is sweet, you only need a small amount in your glass to fully savor it, making it perfect for toasting.


This is a rich and decadent red wine from Italy that’s made by partially drying the grapes before they’re pressed. Doing so concentrates the flavors and delivers a wine full of delicious raisin and chocolate flavors with very little acid. Pair this with a slice of chocolate cake and you can skip the ice cream.

Because the process of creating Amarone is both time and labor intensive, not to mention very few grapes get chosen to be dried in the first place, it’s not a wine you’d buy everyday, making it a great one to open on New Year’s Eve.

Rioja Gran Reserva

Drinking a Rioja Gran Reserva means drinking something really special. While classified Bordeauxs, Burgundies and Barolos are produced every year, an estate only produces a Gran Reserva in its best years, and these wines then have to spend two years in oak barrels and three more in the bottle before they’re ever released on the market. That’s a ton of attention and care before you ever get to popping the cork.

The good news when it comes to Rioja, even Gran Reserva, is that they’re relative bargains when you compare them to bottles of their Bordeaux, Burgundy and Barolo counterparts. For example, in 2003, the Gran Reserva by Cune, which was widely considered the best Gran Reserva on the market, retailed for only $63 bucks!

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