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.

The Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, is one of the city’s most luxurious hotels, but Will Costello, its wine director, says you need not spend a fortune. “Especially during this time of year, a bottle of very expensive Champagne that might cost $200 to $300 sometimes is not the best route,” he said.

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

Some people prefer the fruitier, less-fermented taste of alternatives such as Prosecco, he said, 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 said. “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 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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