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Stories from the valley

Do this One Thing and You won’t mess up the Holiday Champagne

Contributed by Tim Johnson

It is a pressure like no other, when you’re asked “Hey bring a bottle of bubbly with you when you come!” “Oh no…” you say, “not again. I never know what to do other than spend a lot of money and hope for the best.” Follow this one rule and you bring a great sparkling wine. Follow the second and you can save some coin AND bring a great sparkling wine.

The first rule of bringing a great sparkling wine is just a little bit of sweet. We all know extra brut right. If brut is good more of it must be better. Not really.

Extra brut refers to the least sweet (very dry) sparkling wine. While great for a toast or with just a cheese course, most find it too tart and sour for their taste certainly if it is part of a casual gathering with lots of different appetizers.

Instead you want to find something with just a bit more sweetness to go well with a variety of foods or just for sipping.

The second rule is you don’t have to bring Champagne to bring a great sparkling wine. Bring Prosecco or Cava (again keeping in mind rule #1) and you will save yourself some coin – perhaps a lot, and bring something everyone loves.

For those unfamiliar – Prosecco is the sparkling wine of Italy, fermented in tanks it is both a great wine and value. It tends to be a bit more sweet than other sparkling wines. Cava is the sparkling wine from Spain and fermented in the bottle just like Champagne, but far less expensive. Again, follow rule #1 and DON’T BRING EXTRA BRUT.

Here is a recent piece in Food & Wine for those who want a bit more information.

My suggestions for sparkling wine available at any of the big wine box stores:

California Sparkling Wine (méthode Champenoise; basically our champagne)

Schramsberg Blanc de Noir – just a fantastic sparkling wine from Napa Valley. Pear, peach and apricot and classic fresh baked bread with just a bit more sweetness to make it my favorite sparkling wine to bring.

Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc – a wonderful wine with green apple, orange blossom and apricot. Lots of fresh baked bread on the finish. Slightly drier.


Armani – a very nice wine with apple blossom, apricot and mineral. Look for Albino Armani.

Dei Signori – the have several bottlings widely available. Look for brut/dry. Notes of peach, pear and summer fruit.


Villa Conchi – a wonderful wine with apple, pear and citrus.