What’s a party without a bottle of sparkling wine? In my book, that’s no party, and I bet you agree with me. (If you don’t agree with me, even better, because after you get a taste of the two bottles of sparkling I’m going to recommend for your holidays parties this year, you’ll be a convert.)
I’ve taken care of your red and white wine party needs, so now we turn to the bubbles. In keeping with my mission — wines affordable for 75 to 100 guests, and selections that pair with a variety of foods, from vegetable and charcuterie trays to smoked fish dip and cheeses to pork sliders and caviar — I have narrowed my roster to two worthy selections, one hailing from Emilia-Romagna, the other from Napa Valley.
They fit comfortably within my guidelines, because they adhere to the budget, they are delicious, and they pair wonderfully with a variety of foods.
First, we’ll go domestic, and open a bottle of Mumm Napa Brut Prestige. I did that very thing about a week ago, and had nothing but a great time drinking the contents. Citrus and toast notes shine here, and I enjoyed the way the Mumm married with the cold chicken I was eating. The blend is 45 percent Chardonnay, 45 percent Pinot Noir, and 10 percent Pinot Gris/Pinot Meunier, a combination that results in a sparkling with a bracing acidity and vibrant fruit. A little toast and yeast thrown in rounds out the effect on the palate. Alcohol here is 12.5 percent.
Mumm Napa has, of course, roots in France, where the house was established in 1827 by Jacobus, Gottlieb, and Philipp Mumm in Reims. Mumm Napa’s first vintage was produced in 1983 under the capable stewardship of Guy Devaux, and the team in California have been going strong since then. This bottle retails for around $20, and I found it at Total Wine recently for $13.79.
Off to Italy now, and to a wine that is among my “has given me the most pleasure of anything I’ve opened in the past three months” bottles. It’s the Premium Vecchia Modena from Cleto Chiarli e Figli, one of the oldest and best producers of Lambrusco. Yes, Lambrusco. It’s bubbly, it retails for around $15, and you need to drink more Lambrusco (it’s a grape and a red wine), because it’s a fun and underappreciated wine.
The Vecchia Modena is made from Lambrusco di Sorbara (one of the six most commonly found varieties of Lambrusco, and considered to be the finest). The village of Sorbara, located north of Modena, provides the name. Interesting fact: Sorbara vines are prone to dropping their flowers, which lowers fruit yields and concentrates flavors. That’s a good thing.
And this wine has flavor to spare. If you are serving a pasta salad with peppers and mozzarella, enjoy, because it’s going to be a hit. Roast beef and a horseradish sauce? Ditto. As with the Mumm, the Cleto Chiarli is food-friendly and adaptable. Alcohol clocks in at 11 percent, and you should serve it cool (between 50 and 52 degrees Fahrenheit). Houston Wine Merchant has carried it, and ask your favorite wine shop to stock it if they don’t already.
That’s it. You have all the wines you need for a great party or two, so enjoy the holiday season and drink well, with people you love.