And so begins the annual rigmarole of what to drink with turkey, what goes best with latkes, what to pour with pecan pie. But that’s not really how people drink during the holidays. In practice, holiday drinking has nothing to do with pairing and everything to do with finding, in the case of wine, something that can take you from late-afternoon snacking, through big dinners, and into the loud and celebratory postprandial hangout. As we’ve said time and time again, there is no better time to procure an all-purpose magnum than the stretch between mid-November and New Year’s Day. The bigger the bottle, the better.
This year, we decided to give ourselves a new challenge. Instead of rounding up a list of our favorite versatile wines in large format, we chose just one single magnum to be our party wine all season long. With a price limit set at $75 or less, we called on our brain trust of sommeliers and wine shop buyers to see what magnums they’d be opening this year. Somewhat surprisingly, what dominated the votes were characterful sparkling white wines from Italy, col fondo prosecco from the Veneto to pignoletto pét-nat from Emilia-Romagna.
The model example came from Talitha Whidbee of Brooklyn’s Vine Wine: Folicello Il Bianco Ancestrale. “It’s the perfect pét-nat,” she says. “I honestly don’t know how you could have a party without a bottle or two of this on hand; it has tiny bubbles and lovely aromatics with citrus and minerality.”
Drinkers know Emilia-Romagna for its fizzy red Lambrusco, but there’s also a tradition of making sparkling wines from the region’s white varieties, including pignoletto and montuni, which Antonella and Marco Folicello have grown in the plains between Modena and Bologna since the 1980s. Il Bianco relies on the latter, blended with pinot bianco and trebbiano di spagna (all farmed organically), and is priced at $48 for the magnum and around $20 for 750 milliliters. Beyond being sublimely drinkable, it’s the ideal way to introduce a crew to the natural sparkling wine movement happening in Emilia-Romagna, beyond Lambrusco.
Folicello Il Bianco Ancestrale
Not only a place for Lambrusco (or prosciutto or balsamico), Emilia-Romagna has a lengthy history of crafting sparklers in the pét-nat style from white grapes like pignoletto, montuni and trebbiano. This bottling, from the Folicello family, is montuni-forward, giving the wine body and structure to accompany its consummate deliciousness. Farming 30 acres organically, Antonella runs the show, with her daughters Federica and Irene now working to learn the ropes from her and their father.
In this vein, Natalie Hekmat of Los Angeles’ Voodoo Vin recommends Federico Orsi’s orange pignoletto pét-nat, Sui Lieviti, from the slightly higher-altitude vineyards of the nearby Colli Bolognesi. There, Orsi has an impressive vegetable and animal farm alongside his vines, biodynamic winemaking at its finest. Look for magnums of the leesy, refreshing 2018 vintage to be around $60.
Moving further east into Romagna, Adrian Weisell, of Oak Park, Illinois’ Anfora Wine Merchants, points to Filippo Manetti’s Campaglione Bianco ($50, 1.5 liters) for its “yellow apple, quince, apricots, dried straw and sage”—in other words, fall-perfect flavors. The wine is from a tiny medieval village in the Apennine mountains called Campiume, where Manetti converted an ancient church into his cellar.
Finally, col fondo prosecco—the OG style of prosecco, made by fermenting slowly in bottle as opposed to rapidly in pressurized tanks—also received some callouts. “This is a fantastic compromise for the natural wine enthusiast that wants something with an edgy character but has family members who don’t drink the same Kool-Aid as us,” says Justin Vann, of Houston’s Nancy’s Hustle. Chris Lingua, of Sauvage in Phoenix, calls out Casa Belfi’s Anfora ($75, 1.5 liters) as “a drinker and a thinker.” Aged for nine months in amphorae before bottling, Lingua says col fondo prosecco is ideal for pre-game, throughout a meal and beyond. “It can even land the plane at the end of the night,” he quips.
But we digress. Each of these sparklers is capable of landing the plane—and then some. Our challenge was to choose just one. And so, may we suggest you share a magnum as cheerful and bright and big-hearted it is unexpected. This Folicello’s for you.