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Festive Sips for 2021

Recipes | By Margaret M. Johnson

If there was ever a year that couldn’t come soon enough, it’s 2021! And while Champagne is the traditional drink to welcome in the new year, there are other sparkling wines to fit every budget that are perfect for serving alone or with some other beautiful additions. Here’s a quick refresher course on “bubbles” and a few festive recipes…Cheers!

CHAMPAGNE refers to sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of France mainly from three grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier. No other sparkling wine can call itself Champagne! The method used in its production, called the “traditional method” or méthode champenoise,” consists of a number of lengthy, specialized steps that make it an expensive and exclusive drink. Champagne comes in a variety of styles and levels of sweetness including Blanc de Blanc (“white from white”), meaning white wine made from white (Chardonnay) grapes; Blanc de Noir (“white from black”), meaning white wine made from black grapes (Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier); Rosé, most often made by blending red and white wine prior to bottling; Non-Vintage (NV,) meaning that the wines are a blend of different vintages of wines; and Vintage Champagne, produced only in the most exceptional years, with 100 percent of the grapes used coming from the vintage stated on the bottle. Less than 10% of Champagne produced each year is vintage Champagne and the year of harvest is on the label.

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CAVA, a Spanish sparkling wine, is usually made with a few grape specific varietals — Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarello — although it can also be made from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir grapes. Like Champagne, the effervescence-producing secondary fermentation happens in the bottle rather than in a tank, but outside of the French region it’s known as “méthode traditionnelle.” One reason that cava is more reasonably priced — besides the name recognition and global demand that inflates Champagne's price point — is that the Spanish have mechanized the process of tirage, the rotating and tipping of the bottles during the secondary fermentation; in France, it’s often still done by hand.

PROSECCO, from the Veneto region of Italy, is made with prosecco (Glera) grapes. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco is usually produced using a method in which the secondary fermentation takes place in large stainless steel tanks rather than in individual bottles, making the wine less expensive to produce. The minimum production time is only 30 days. This method also impacts the flavor, making it lighter and less yeasty. Prosecco tends to be a little sweeter than Champagne or Cava, with bigger looser bubbles and flavors of apple, pear, lemon rind, and even tropical fruit.

CREMANT is a type of sparkling wine from France made in the traditional method of fermenting in bottle. It’s similar to Champagne but can come from any region of France.


Makes 1 drink

2 ounces cranberry juice

6 ounces rosé Champagne

Fresh cranberries, for garnish

Rosemary sprig, for garnish (optional)

Fill a tall glass with ice. Pour in cranberry juice and top with Champagne. Garnish with a few cranberries and a rosemary sprig.


Makes 1 drink

2 ounces peach purée or peach nectar

6 ounces Prosecco or sparkling wine

Peach slice, for garnish

Spoon peach purée into a chilled flute glass. Tilt glass and slowly pour in the Prosecco; stir gently to blend. Garnish with a peach slice.


Makes 1 drink

1/2 ounce Cointreau

6 ounces Champagne or sparkling wine

Pour Cointreau into a chilled flute glass; swirl around to coat inside of glass. Tilt glass and slowly pour in Champagne.


Makes 1 drink

1 teaspoon Poire William or other pear eau-de-vie

6 ounces Cava or sparkling wine

Pour Poire William into a chilled flute glass; swirl around to coat inside of glass. Tilt glass and slowly pour in Champagne.


1 1/2 ounces raspberry-flavored liqueur, such as Chambord

1 1/2 ounces agave or simple syrup

6 ounces Champagne or sparkling wine

Fresh raspberries, for garnish

Pour Chambord and agave into a chilled flute glass; stir to blend. Tilt glass and slowly pour in Champagne; garnish with a few raspberries.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page now includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, including how to order her cookbooks, visit