Plan Smart: 10 Great Sparkling Wines that Won’t Blow Your Budget
“Bubbly,” synonymous with celebration, never goes out of style. Whether it’s welcoming the New Year, the new boss, the new product or simply to thank the team for a job well done, the sound of popping corks is a festive one. While all that popping is a boon for venue F & B revenues, it’s the planner who’s tasked with locking in the bubbles – be they from Champagne, France or Napa or Italy or Spain or one county over – at a price that won’t be a budgetary buzz-kill.
So, how to wade through the sea of bubbling grape juice? Taste test, know your guests and check out these effervesent ideas from our well-versed hospitality experts to help you discover a few sparkling wines that really shine:
1) HIGH-END CLASSICS, FOR LESS
What’s on client wish lists? Often it’s the classic Champagnes from France like Perrier-Jouet, Laurent Perrier, Billecart-Salmon and Veuve Cliquot. For planners with a budget to track though, the classics can seem out of reach, but don’t rule them out so fast advises Martin Diehr, Director of Food & Beverage at La Playa Resort, in Naples, Florida: “During the holiday season, many vendors will offer great discounts on bubbles.” Diehr suggests asking the venue’s sommelier or wine buyer to source vendors who may be open to doing end-of-the-year deals so they can clear their shelves, enabling planners to serve actual Champagne with a ‘wow’ factor.
While Diehr is partial to Laurent Perrier Brut to “impress wine lovers in the know,”and the instantly recognizable, orange-labeled Veuve Cliquot, he also thinks highly of Napa, California’s Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut, which is “a stunning sparkling wine.” It’s also about half the price of its French cousins which is music to this planner’s ears (much as we adore that orange label). (Retail: $31 – $35)
2) GREAT TASTE, LEANER LINE ITEM
Planning a mid-sized gathering of 100+ guests with a lean budget? Then you might want to take a tip from Oscar Nicanor, The St. Regis Mexico City’s Sommelier who likes Agustí Torello Mata Brut Reserva, a sparkling Spanish wine – also known as cava – that features fine, long-lasting bubbles, and a fresh yet complex taste that belies its wallet-friendly price. (Retail: $11 -$15 )
At Gateway Canyons Resort in Colorado, Director of Conference Services, Denise Wall often looks for tasty, locally-produced wines, (yes, there are wineries in Colorado!) but when it comes to sparkling wines for mid-sized groups, she’ll recommend a higher-end prosecco such as Nino Franco Grave di Stecca Prosecco from Veneto, Italy. (Retail: $31- $35)
3) BIG CROWD, MODEST BUDGET
“I love Laurent Perrier Rose,” says Gena Chen, Director of Catering & Event Management at The St. Regis, San Francisco, but for planners with less to spend and 200 or more guests to serve, Chen often suggests Mas Fi Cava Rose Brut. “ It’s a beautiful sparkling cava with a lively pink color, fine bubbles and a fresh profile.” Better yet, “It’s not expensive but looks it—and is a great choice to help planners stay within budget.” Retail: $11 – $14)
When the budget is conservative and the crowd sizeable, for example, 250 – 500 guests, The St. Regis’s Nicanor gives Italian prosecco Jeio Colmei Extra Dry the thumbs up, as does Wine & Spirits Magazine which recently awarded it 90 out of a 100 possible points. (Retail: $10 – $15 )
When groups swell to 500 or more, Nicanor suggests the well-regarded Vilarnau Brut, a fresh and pleasantly acidic Spanish cava that recently took Gold at The 2015 Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships. (Retail: $10 -$15).
Another volume option at an attractive price point? Diehr recommends Domaine Ste Michelle “Michelle” Brut from Washington State. It’s a sparkling wine that’s always a consistent, complaint-free crowd pleaser, with great taste, quality and value.
4) SECRET STASHES
Last but not least, here are a few more tastes-pricier-than-they-are personal bubbly favorites:
Mionetto Prosecco Brut
Seen at numerous fashion parties and publishing industry events, it’s priced right, tastes great and the bright orange label is an eye-catcher.(Retail: $12)
Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut
An under-the-radar winner made using the ‘methode champenoise,’ by top-drawer Napa producer Schramsberg Vineyards & J. Davies Estate. My personal favorite for drinking and gift-giving. (Retail: $25 )
Camps D’Estels Cava Brut
A recent discovery from relative newcomer vintner Camps D’Estels Winery (established 2004), this cava is light and fruity but not sweet and that works well with food. (Retail: $15 )