Do a Google search for New Year’s Eve cocktails and you will find champagne mixed with all sorts of things and a long list of other sweet and complicated drinks. I don’t know about you, but the thought of an electric blue martini scares me. Not only does the drink require more ingredients than I put in the dish I made for dinner, but I also wonder how much artificial coloring it takes to make anything so brightly colored. No thank you. I’d rather stick with something simple!
Us wine drinkers can sometimes be difficult to please when it comes to drinking something different. I don’t know why but I just don’t care for champagne all that much, unless it’s mixed with pineapple juice in a mimosa for brunch. I do enjoy a simple low-sugar cocktail on occasion, like a Manhattan, Old Fashioned, or dirty martini, but New Year’s Eve seems like it requires something special. I’ve thought about my options and decided to share three alternatives to wine or champagne that you can enjoy this New Year’s Eve.
Moscato d’Asti seems like the perfect alternative to champagne, one that I find much more enjoyable. It’s sweeter than a dry champagne but still light due to the effervescence, and it has great aroma and flavor. As an added bonus, it is more affordable than champagne, too! This is especially true for the Risata Moscato d’Asti, which I picked up for around $12 on sale with the other sparkling wines on sale before New Year’s.
The Risata Moscato d’Asti is also pretty well rated. Wine Enthusiast awarded it 84 points, saying:
True to its name, this Moscato delivers musky aromas of soapy flower, honey, acacia flower and stone fruit. It shows sweet, smooth creaminess as well.
Wine.com says describes the Risata Moscato d’Asti as having floral hints and flavors of peach and apricot, and I agree. Aromas of flowers and honey dominate the nose and continue into the flavor, which is complimented by additional creaminess and flavors of peach and apricot. I also pick up a little pear or honeydew melon. I appreciate that the Risata Moscato d’Asti is only lightly effervescent, especially compared to the cheaper sparkling wines that are infused with CO2. It makes this bubbly light and very easy to drink!
Port is a special treat for us winos, a treat intended for special occasions. Take New Year’s Eve, for example. If you are planning to celebrate on the couch next to the fire or around your dinner table with friends, port might be just what you need to ring in the new year.
Ruby port tends to taste like what it is: red wine that has been fortified with brandy. In the 1700s, the British discovered that wine fortified with distilled spirits survived a trip from Portugal to London. The art of making port has been refined since then, and on the most basic level, there are two different types of wood barrel-aged ports: ruby port and tawny port.
Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Porto is a quintessential ruby port. Although port can get pricey very quickly, this is an affordable one at around $20 a bottle. Wine Enthusiast awarded it 89 points, saying:
W & J Graham makes one of the best-known Reserve Port brands. And a great wine it is, too. It is soft, but there are tannins. It is fruity, but there is good concentration. And with its flavors of ripe black figs and dark chocolate, it is an immediately appealing wine.
The Graham’s Six Grapes has always been one of my favorites amongst the reserve Portos. Deep, rich, and satiny, this one drinks smooth and long. I would pair it with more decadent desserts such as dark chocolate mousse or thick mocha cheesecake. (Tasted: October 25, 2016, San Francisco, CA)
I find the Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Porto to be very smooth, almost satiny in the mouth as Wilfred Wong says, but with a little bite of tannins at the end like Wine Enthusiast described. I taste the black figs and dark chocolate that Wine Enthusiast describes, but I also pick up fruit jam. I find that it has the perfect amount of sweetness for a port, making it easy and enjoyable to drink.
The best part about the Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Porto is that it is widely available. I found it at the liquor store in Costco for less than $18 after seeing it at several other local liquor stores, and it sells on wine.com for $19.99. It’s a very reasonable price for such a nice, special occasion drink!
Unlike ruby port, which ages in oak barrels for a couple of years and maintains most of its red wine color and flavors, tawny port gets its caramel color and flavors from oxidation that takes place while the port ages in wood barrels for many years. Tawny port spends at least 10 years in wood, and sometimes a lot longer. The result is a caramel color and flavors reminiscent of toffee, dried fruit and nuts.
Hardy’s Whiskers Blake Classic Tawny is a fantastic example of a tawny port. Wine Enthusiast rated it 88 points and called it a “Best Buy”, saying:
This widely available, bargain-priced tawny remains an Australian classic, offering toffee and walnut aromas and flavors along with dust-covered leather and just a hint of fresh fruit. It’s lighter in weight than you might expect from a Port-inspired New World wine, but offers a tasty drop on a wintry evening.
The Whiskers Blake Tawny Port lacks the bite typical of a tawny port. Instead, I find that this port is rich with the toffee and walnut Wine Enthusiast described with a little touch of coffee on the finish. It is very, very sweet, but still enjoyable because it is so smooth and flavorful. It’s quite the bargain!
Happy New Year!
The Risata Moscato d’Asti, Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Porto and Hardy’s Whiskers Blake Tawny Port all offer a departure from champagne or wine. They are interesting and flavorful, yet still widely available at local stores or wine.com (click the links in this post). Special occasions call for special drinks, and these three fit the bill without breaking the bank!
Cheers and happy new year to you and yours!