It’s a time-worn adage that Americans drink most of their sparkling wine for the year in that brief stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Time-worn in part because, in the past few years, bubbly things have broken out of their holiday pen, and are being enjoyed year-round. While I applaud this, I don’t entirely understand what happened. Wonky marketing types like chalk it up to prosecco, because of course. While I’m less convinced, there’s no denying that a broader embrace of sparkling wine—including pétillant naturel, drinks in cans, a wider diversity of Champagne—has finally taken hold.
And yet here we are again, at that time of year, which means deciding what sparkling wine you’re toting to friends’ houses and opening yourself. This year, Team PUNCH decided to forgo the usual Champagne campaign and consider other options, all under $30, that you can not only rely on for the next few weeks, but also during the whole year. These are delicious no matter when you drink them, and they come across as fancy without actually being fancy. Which is the whole point, right?
From our recent tasting of more than 25 sparkling wines, here are the 12 standouts.
Tried and True
These are the utility hitters, the ones that could stand in for Champagne, but could also serve well on Mimosa or French 75 duty. We skipped some of the of the usual choices, like prosecco or crémant (although we couldn’t resist one crémant in particular), in favor of things that offer great talking points at a party.
Outré In the Best Way
You’re not always looking to normcore it with your fizzy wines. And that’s OK—sometimes it’s worth looking a bit farther afield, either because you want some variety, or you want to introduce friends to something new. These all showcase a different side of sparkle, proof there’s always something new to discover.
Brunch Wine (Still Suitable for People Who Hate Brunch)
These wines are just plain joyous: fruity, sometimes a bit sweet, uncomplicated in the best way. They’re as good, if not better, the morning after the party.