All is Sparkling for the New Year

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Champagne is the obvious go-to for New Years’ bubbles. But there are a slew of other options out there that are both much more affordable and surprisingly appealing. Here are three to think about.

sparkling-vignetteHAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

Cava – This Spanish sparkling wine is made in the traditional manner of Champagne (methode traditionelle), mostly near the town of San Sadurni de Noya in Cataluna. Whereas Champagne is made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes, Cava is made from another trio: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, although Chardonnay is also used nowadays.

Characteristics: In general, Cava tends to be lighter bodied than Champagne, with a good deal of earth and fruitiness.

Our picks: Gran Sarao Brut Cava Penedes

Prosecco – Prosecco is the name of both a grape varietal and the sparkling wine that hail from the Veneto region of Italy. Unlike Cava and Champagne, which are produced using the intense traditional method, Prosecco is made using the simpler tank method. The resulting wine is, consequently, less complex than Cava and Champagne, but still makes a lovely aperitif.

Characteristsics: Prosecco is light and festive and even, in some cases, a bit citrusy. I find it less yeasty in general than other sparkling. It also makes a great base for adding a splish of Campari (or Lillet Rouge) as the Venetians do for a Spritz.

Our pick: Sorelle Bronca Prosecco

American Sparkling Wine – Only sparkling wine that is made in the region of Champagne can be called Champagne, which means that all bubblies in America are termed sparkling wines. But don’t think that means they’re inferior; there are several well-regarded sparkling wine houses in the US making everything from delicate Blanc-de-Blancs to beautiful salmon-colored Brut Roses.

Characteristics: Because American sparkling wine doesn’t come from a specific appellation (and isn’t necessarily confined to a certain method), characteristics vary widely.

Our Pick: Schramsberg Brut Rose Sparkling Wine

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Manchego and Nutmeg Gougeres

Gougeres (“goo-zhehr”)–little mini cheese-puffs about as light as air–are the classic nibble with Champagne. (Here, we give them a Spanish spin with manchego cheese . . . try them with a glass of cava.)

manchego-nutmeg-gougeres-recipe4 ounces (1 stick) butter, cut into small cubes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) grated manchego cheese, divided
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine butter, salt, pepper and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and remove from heat immediately.

Pour in flour and stir with a mixing spoon (mixture will be stiff) for 3-5 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Stir in eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition, then stir in 1 cup cheese and nutmeg.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer dough to a pastry bag and pipe 2-inch mounds 2 inches apart onto both sheets. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top and bake for 25 minutes, switching pans half way through.

Serve warm or at room temperature, or cool completely and freeze in a freezer-safe zip-top storage bag. (Reheat frozen gougeres in a 375 F oven for 5 minutes.)

Serves 18

  • Alison Ashton

    mmm, gougeres….

  • Jacqueline Church

    I learned a new word “splish” – love it! And bubbles. And of course, gougeres. My friend calls them “cheesy poufs” even in the fancy pants restaurant she asks for them by her name “cheesy poufs.” I love it.