Is this the New Year's Eve you ditch Champagne for cheaper sparkling wine? Las Vegas sommelier tells you how

Planning to pop open some bubbly this New Year’s Eve? If so, a Las Vegas wine expert says that high-priced bottles aren’t always the best for your palate, or your wallet,  particularly if your party involves lots of guests — and having six or seven bottles on hand.

Although the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, is one of Sin City’s most luxurious hotels, its wine director, Will Costello, says: “Especially during this time of year, a bottle of very expensive Champagne that might cost $200 to $300 sometimes is not the best route to go.”

At the Mandarin Oriental’s premier restaurant, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, guests can order bottles of sparkling wine from France for $60 and ones from Israel for $65.

Costello says that although the real thing from the Champagne region of France is best known and often the most expensive, many people prefer the taste of less-costly sparkling wines.

“Just like a home on the beach in Venice Beach is worth many millions of dollars, but somewhere a few miles inland is going to be half or a third the price, such is the case with sparkling wines,” he explains. “If you look outside the hot spot, you may find some relative values.”

During a wine enrichment class in mid-December, participants blind-taste-tested varieties of Champagne and other sparkling wines. Their favorite was a bottle of Domaine Chandon, a sparkling wine from Napa Valley.

Costello, who is one of just 233 Master Sommeliers in the world, says the Napa Valley sparkling wine, which I found online for less than $20, mimics the taste and feel of more expensive Champagne. The reason: extensive aging, which creates smaller bubbles in the bottle.

“Finer bubbles truly do make a better glass of Champagne,” Costello says.

That said, some people prefer the fruitier, less-fermented taste of alternatives such as Prosecco, he says, adding that some “really fantastic” sparkling wines retail for about $10.

 

“For a celebration – when, in my opinion, more is better - having six or seven bottles for the same price that you would pay for one [pricier product] is always a benefit,” he says.

And some surprisingly cheap varieties make good mixers for a weekend brunch.

“We have Korbel and André in our fridge [at home] on a consistent basis,” he says. “If you put Kern’s guava nectar in one of those lesser-priced sparkling wines, you’re going to have a really great Sunday.”

Want to learn more? Costello will discuss the price points of various wines and how they compare quality-wise during a March 18 class at the Mandarin Oriental at the Strip resort.

Red and white wines – inexpensive ones and bottles that are four times as expensive – will be tasted as the Master Sommelier explains what goes into making an expensive wine.

The class costs $50 and begins at 4 p.m. Info and reservations: (702) 590-8882.

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