This weekend is the first crush of holiday parties, and if you’re not prepared, you’re not alone. It’s hard enough deciding what wine to bring to a dinner party, but holiday parties present a whole new cadre of conundrums. How fancy is the party? How much money do you want spend? Will the wine be drunk there or kept for later?
I’ve found that a bottle of sparkling wine will never go amiss at a holiday party, and I’ve got a method for figuring out what to bring to each occasion. And though it’s Champagne month on Cluster Crush, there’s no reason you need to splurge on a pricy bottle of Champagne for every festivity this season. Likewise, you don’t want to show up with something that doesn’t seem special.
So here’s my rule of thumb: In order to determine what bottle you should be bringing with you, let the dress code be your guide. When you figure out what you’re wearing, you will figure out what kind of sparkling wine to bring. Here are the four types of parties I’ll be attending this holiday season, and what I plan to bring to each.
If I’m attending a casual affair among friends where I’ll just be wearing jeans and a sweater, I tote along a bottle of Cava from northwest Spain. You can find white or rosé Cavas out there. Whites are generally made from the Macabeu grape while the rosés tend to have a bit of Monastrell blended in. These wines tend to be light-bodied and lively, and best of all, they’re very budget friendly, often ringing up in the $10-$20 range.
For my go-to, I buy Segura Viudas Brut Reserva. It’s a bit richer than your average Cava and that pewter crest on the bottle lends it a bit of gravitas. For something a little more offbeat, the rosé Cava Raventós i Blanc de Nit is a fabulous choice that your friends might not have tried before, with lovely floral and stone-fruit flavors.
Now we’re getting into slightly more formal territory. If I’m invited to a cocktail or dinner party, I’ll up my attire, and my wine purchase. You’ll find me wearing a jacket and slacks while the ladies in attendance might don a little black dress. In these cases, I find a Prosecco is a great choice. These wines from Italy can be just as refined as an expensive Champagne, and are usually crisp and acidic and thus versatile enough to pair with any number of food options.
There is a plethora of Prosecco for purchase out there, but I really like the inexpensive Sommariva Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore NV, which is quite dry and fresh, but gets your mouth watering; or the more complex (and only slightly more expensive) Sorrelle Bronca Particella 68 Prosecco, which is made from decades-old vines in a rocky vineyard that engenders more intensity and minerality to the wine but with delicious flavors of citrus and green apple.
Black Tie Brut
If you’re heading to formal affairs this holiday season, the choice is easy: Champagne. There’s no mistaking the James Bond of sparkling wines. Quality tends to be exceptional, there are options for every budget, and bringing a bottle of Champagne lets your host know that you think this is a special occasion. So if I’m wearing a tuxedo, or you’re donning a ball gown, we should both be bringing a bottle of brut to the bash.
A bottle of non-vintage brut in the $50-$100 range like Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut or Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve should do for your average fancy-dress revels. But if that year-end bonus hit your bank account early, or you really want to impress, do a little homework and buy a nice bottle of vintage Champagne. No one will turn down a bottle of Dom Pérignon or Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame, but dig a little deeper to unearth lesser-known gems like a Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs, Ruinart “Dom Ruinart” Brut Blanc de Blancs, or Pommery’s Cuvée Louise Brut.
Silly Sweaters and Sekt
I’d hoped the trend would have ended by now, but sure enough, there is an ugly Christmas sweater party or two in my near future. To match the off-the-wall tone of these get-togethers, I go for a wild card sparkling wine: Sekt.
Sekt is a sparkling wine from Germany, typically made from Riesling in the same way that Champagne is made (i.e. secondary fermentation). The best way I can describe them is spunky. They tend to be really light and acidic with flavors of tropical fruits and flowers, so they’ll keep the mood energetic and upbeat. Dr. Heyden Riesling Prestige Brut is a great one from Germany’s Rheinhessen region, while if you want to throw a curve ball at your fellow partygoers, you can opt for the dry rosé NV Latitude 50 Sekt made from Pinot Noir is a bold choice.
What will you be bringing to your holiday parties? Tweet me @clustercrush!