Willie's World - Sparkling Wines for Any Occasion

Three bottles of wine against a background of sparkling wine bubbles

When I first sold wines in the early 1970s, Champagnes provided the sizzle, pop, and thrills for celebrations and gatherings to bring in the new year. While other sparkling wines were available then, there was a great chasm between those wines and Champagne. Fifty years later, our choices have grown, and excellent quality sparkling wines can be found beyond the area of Champagne.

While Alsace remains a mystery for many wine enthusiasts, Crémant d’Alsace has many significant inroads in the marketplace. Restaurant lists, especially French bistros, are routinely offering one or two and providing patrons with excellent value for the money. Try these two offerings from highly regarded producer Gustave Lorentz, they provide excellent food match opportunities.

Gustave Lorentz Crémant d'Alsace Brut (France). This wine is bright and rewarding on the palate! Fresh, authentic, and effervescent, this sparkling wine shows dried fruits, sandalwood, earthy notes, and ripe citrus. Excellent with full-flavored appetizers as your guests are arriving for dinner.

Gustave Lorentz Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé (France). Made with 100% Pinot Noir, this is a dazzling rosé; it is a racy and alive pink beauty, with fragrant strawberries running wild; bright with a touch of minerality; try it with a sashimi party and friends.

Over the last two decades, Spain’s Cavas have seen significant improvements. Once merely considered a pure value for low-end bubblies, viticultural and enological improvements have brought these Spanish sparklers into the competitive premium sparkling wine area. The Florinda Cava Brut is a lovely example of excellence.

Florinda Cava Brut (Spain). A Cava with elegance and style, this classic blend of Xarello-lo, Macabeo, and Parellada is purely Spanish. Active and bright with lively effervescence, this wine sparkles with floral notes, tart apples, and perky citrus. Serve it in the backyard with friends, conversation, and grilled crab legs.

Proseccos have long been popular in the marketplace, and in recent years, the wine has become competitive with the world’s most favorite sparkling wines. Clean and fresh, they provide a great way to bring in the new year.

Luca Bosio Prosecco di Nonna Angela Extra Dry (Italy). Luca Bosio is one of Italy's most dynamic new forces. This wine is active, bright, and fresh. A lively mousse, compelling peach pit, and stone fruits burst out of the glass as the wine is poured, with dried fruits and tart apples in the finish. Have a party, bring some fresh peaches (in the summer) or frozen peaches in the winter, and make a Bellini to enjoy with family and friends.

There was no mention of Argentine wines in the 1970s, let alone sparkling wines, and the Pascual Toso Sparking Chardonnay will make you pay attention to what this country is doing with its sparkling wine entries. More than for toasting, this wine shows excellent food and wine-matching potential.

Pascual Toso Sparkling, Mendoza (Argentina). Over the last two decades, Pascual Toso has gained international prominence. This wine starts with active effervescence before offering earthy and rustic notes, hints of apples and rocks in the desert, and savory in the finish. Perfect with grilled halibut.

In 1991, apartheid was abolished in South Africa. The country’s vintners have been playing catch up to join the global wine world. I have been tasting my way through the country’s wines; the Simonsig Brut Rosé is excellent and brings their offerings to the forefront.

Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rosé, Western Cape (South Africa). A rewarding sparkling rosé wine, this wine is active and lively from start to finish. Earthy notes, ripe strawberries, slight creaminess, slightly elevated on the palate. Bring it to dinner with roast chicken on the menu and wow your friends.

There is a place for a lively, low-alcohol sparkling wine, and New Age from Argentina has made an excellent one.

New Age Sweet White Wine, San Rafael – Mendoza (Argentina). Translucent starbright color, light citrus, and floral notes, medium sweet, fresh, and fun in the finish. Serve it with a splash of lime and enjoy while watching sports on a big-screen TV.

Champagne is one of the world’s iconic and most loved wine regions. Historically full of stories, wine lovers' passion for these bubblies will always be there. Yet the wine world has expanded and come together to provide wine lovers with outstanding sparkling wines from all over the globe. We now have choices to fit the occasion. Happy Holidays and welcome to 2023!

—Wilfred Wong