From beach outings to barbecues to battling feelings of festive stress, December is jam-packed with moments made for popping the cork on something sparkling.
The first glass of Champagne in our house on Christmas day is a bit of a ritual. The anticipation builds all day from the moment we finish our breakfast serving of trifle, ramping up considerably when the cheese comes out of the fridge to begin its slow journey to room temperature. The glasses are assembled and the cork is ceremoniously popped open to a grand audience of thirsty onlookers. We are a bunch of hopeless wine nerds in my family.
But Christmas is more than just December 25th, and sparkling wine is more than just Champagne. So the month of December, with its myriad Christmas parties and drinkies and the like, is ripe with occasion to drink all kinds of delicious fizzy wines.
Read on for our guide – and be sure to avoid the Christmas crowds and buy Champagne online without leaving your desk, as you valiantly pretend you’re still doing meaningful work in the second half of December.
For an impromptu Saturday afternoon at the beach (less than $15):
Prosecco was the wine that defied the need to have a reason to drink fizzy wine. It’s Tuesday? Lovely, where are the flutes?
This offering, from Borgo San Leo, is a classic of the prosecco genre: light, a bit sweet, and extremely non-demanding. It has plenty of green apple and citrus flavours, with a touch of honey and vanilla, so it is perfectly yum when you just chuck it in a flute and go to town.
But it’s robust enough that you can add a splash of orange juice for a mimosa, or peach juice for a bellini. It’ll also work perfectly as the spritz to your Aperol.
For after you accidentally incorporated Franklin Road into your trip home at 9pm on a Friday and now you desperately need a drink (less than $20):
I really do think that no one does good cheap bubbles like the French. Fizzy New Zealand wines for under $20 can be extremely hit and miss, whereas any French wine under $20 will be a solid investment.
This wine is made from chardonnay, and is fresh, zingy, and will pair perfectly with that cheeseburger and fries you grabbed on the way home in an attempt to soothe your rage.
It’s got enough fleshy stonefruit and vanilla for you to forget all your troubles, but is light and fine enough that you can have a couple of glasses without feeling horrible the next day.
For when you’re going to a Christmas barbecue and you know everyone will have Lindauer and you want to smugly show them how fancy you are ($20-$30):
This wine has a label that looks luxe enough for at least three people at your party to comment on it. It’s plenty rich and creamy, but that’s balanced with a heap of strawberry and raspberry on the palate. It’ll work perfectly with slightly richer seafood, like calamari or barbecued prawns, but it’ll stand up to a sausage in bread as well.
France’s wines are plagued by prestige – the more prestigious they become, the more collectors fawn over them and the more expensive they get. Which is why wines like the Aimery Brut Rosé, from the reasonably obscure Limoux region in the south, offer such great value.
For toasting to your beloved flatmates in front of your scraggly tree before you all jet off to your respective families for Christmas ($30-$40):
I always wonder why people insist on buying the cheapest Champagne, just because it’s Champagne, when they could be drinking one of New Zealand’s top methodes for a similar price.
The Nautilus Marlborough Cuvée is easily the equal of many of France’s finest – it’s a complex, rich wine that deserves an extremely hearty cheersing with the people you love most in the world.
It’s a pinot noir-dominant wine and has spent a long time (three years!) ageing on its lees. As a result, it’s a hefty boy with gingernut biscuits and hazelnut on the palate. You would do very well to shuck a couple of Mahurangi’s finest as an accompaniment, although that might be a bit much for flat family dinner.
For 12pm on Christmas Day when you’re knee deep in wrapping paper, there are five under five, and dinner is still just a twinkle in your mother’s eye ($40-50)
It’s nice to find a Champagne under $50 that isn’t the stock-standard Moët that you’ve been drinking every year since you were four years old. Nothing wrong with Moët, it’s just that Gardet, from a lesser-known house, is an outstanding wine.
It’s a dry, fresh Champagne with green apple and lemonade on the palate, and a little bit of vanillary sweetness to round it out. It’s surprisingly complex for the money you’ve spent on it.
Gardet is a great lunchtime Champagne, and will wash down a Christmas Day sandwich with thick slices of ham, enough dijon mustard to make you see stars and some tiny cornichons.
For when several people have commented on how moist the turkey is but after four hours of careful basting your nerves are frazzled and you need something to see you through dinner ($50-60):
I’ve written in my notes for this one “Tastes like a vanilla ice cream!” which I think is the most compelling argument I could possibly make for any wine.
The Ployez-Jacquemart Champagne house is, like Gardet, small and quite unknown, which can be a massive win for thrifty Champagne drinkers. This wine is made from grapes sourced from Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards, and is aged on its lees for four years, giving a creamy texture and lovely richness to this wine.
Do not waste this wine on an empty stomach – this is one for the Christmas table in all its glory.
For when you’re a goddamn wine nerd with a full-time job and no dependents ($75+):
The Prélude, made entirely of Grand Cru fruit, is a treat: a wine to open when the wine is the occasion, and everything is chosen to suit it, rather that the other way around.
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This wine is a 50:50 blend of chardonnay and pinot noir. It is rich, creamy and decadent, but with enough structure and minerality that two glasses, three glasses, four glasses isn’t quite enough, and suddenly the bottle’s finished.
It’s a cliche maybe, but you gotta make sure you look out for number one on Christmas, as well as all your loved ones. The Prélude should be a Christmas gift to yourself – when you open it, you’ll be touched that you got yourself such a thoughtful gift this year.
Don’t share it with anyone.
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