Inexpensive sparkling wines to drink on New Year's Eve.
Burgundy, whose northern tip nearly touches the extreme southern end of the Champagne appellation, also produces sparkling wines. The Louis Bouillot Crémant de Bourgogne Perle de Vin GrandeReserve Brut ($16) is made by the méthode Champenoise from two of the three grapes used for Champagne, chardonnay and pinot noir, and it does indeed quack a lot like a duck—a discount duck, anyway. It has a strong green-apple note, along with suggestions of lemon and yeast and a firm spine of acidity. There aren't layers of complexity to be peeled back here, but for good, cheap fun, you could do a lot worse.
If you crave something a little offbeat, another French bubbly, the Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon ($20), can satisfy that urge. This is a semisweet rosé made in the foothills of the Alps, roughly halfway between Lyon and Geneva. It is a blend of two red grapes—gamay (the signature variety of Beaujolais) and poulsard—and is produced by bottling the wine when it is only partially fermented. Some additional fermentation takes place in the bottle, but residual sugar remains. The result is a charming sparkler with a luxuriant cherries-and-berries bouquet, some yeasty overtones, and a plush feel in the mouth. It will pair well with most desserts but can also handle cocktail duty. Better yet, at just 7.5 percent alcohol, it is guaranteed to be a headache-free indulgence.
Lastly, a perennial recommendation: The Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut NV ($21), from California's Mendocino County, is consistently one of the best value bubblies on the market. It has an appealing perfume of lime, toast, yeast, and nuts, which gives way to a delectable citrus riot on the palate. With its assertive flavors and brisk acidity, the Roederer sits at the brawnier end of the spectrum, but for the quality and price, it has few equals.
And if none of this has yet convinced you to make it a sparkling wine on New Year's Eve, consider the words of John Maynard Keynes, the late economist whose insights are being looked to now as a possible means of escaping our current predicament. Keynes once said that his only regret in life was that he didn't drink enough Champagne. I long ago vowed not to repeat his mistake, and while Keynes would probably agree that this is not a season for extravagance, he would surely recommend that we all have something effervescent in our glasses come midnight. Given the economic outlook, he might even prescribe heavy drinking.
Photograph of cork popping out of champagne bottle by Stockbyte.