Why You Should Try a Sparkling Red Wine This Holiday Season

Roasted ham and beef briskets call for a bubbly with more oomph than a delicate white or rosé can deliver.

Two glasses of sparkling red wine on a table decorated for the holidays
Sparkling red wine "has a surprise factor that makes it a conversation piece," says winemaker Todd Graff of Frank Family Vineyards in Napa Valley. Photo courtesy of the vineyard

What do we imagine when we hear the words sparkling wine? Perhaps flutes of Champagne for a wedding toast or a bottle of pink bubbles at the holiday table? Rarely, if ever, do our minds conjure a crimson-hued sparkler. If they do, the idea of a sparkling red is usually associated with sweetness.

Few wine enthusiasts realize there’s a delightful category of dry red bubblies that are fruity and not sugary (in fact, they’re vibrant and downright delicious). But that’s changing. According to a recent report from Data Bridge Market Research, the market for sparkling red wines is steadily growing. Currently valued at $343.83 million, it is expected to reach $531.69 billion by 2029.

Although the category is vast, most Americans are familiar only with Lambrusco, the juicy sparkling red that hails from northern Italy. (You might remember those old commercials for “Riunite on ice…it’s nice,” one of the largest Lambrusco brands.) But there are plenty of other styles from regions around the globe, made from grapes of all kinds, including pinot noir, frappato and syrah.

Here in New Jersey, Hunterdon County’s Beneduce Vineyards makes a fizzy red with the hybrid grape chambourcin. Winemaker Mike Beneduce named the wine Chambrusco, combining the grape name with the Italian wine cousin that inspired it.

Not all red bubbly, of course, is inspired by Italy. At Napa Valley’s Frank Family Vineyards, winemaker Todd Graff makes a distinctive, dry red sparkling wine each year using a method more aligned with the French. “Our Rouge is not a nod to Lambrusco, or really any other country’s sparkling red,” says Graff, who makes the wine in méthode champenoise fashion, the same used to produce Champagne, involving a second fermentation in the bottle.

“When people see it, their immediate assumption with a red sparkling is that it’s going to be sweet—and it’s not. It’s dry,” he says. “It’s such fun wine to show to guests, because it has a surprise factor that makes it a conversation piece.”

Before Graff joined Frank Family, he spent a decade at places such as Schramsberg Vineyards, a California winery north of San Francisco and Napa, committed to making high-quality sparkling wines. 

My mind—and my palate—always drifts to sparkling red wine at this time of year. Bubbly is a go-to choice for any holiday meal, but sometimes, roasted hams and beef briskets call for one with more oomph than a delicate white or rosé can deliver. That’s why I reach for enjoyable sparkling reds like Frank Family’s Rouge and Beneduce’s Chambrusco, which can stand up to a heartier plate of holiday food. 

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Beyond Lambrusco, I’ve enjoyed dry sparkling reds from La Garagista Farm and Winery in Vermont, as well as the brambly and fizzy sparkling syrah from Treveri Cellars in Washington State’s Yakima Valley—an example of an esoteric style that’s popular in Australia. If you haven’t tried a dry red fizz before, the holidays are a perfect time to do so.

Graff agrees that sparkling wines like his Rouge pair perfectly with holiday feasts—and he’s not alone. 

“From Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day,” he says, “it’s hard to keep in stock.”  

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