Home Consumer Holiday Bubbly That Won’t Break The Bank

Holiday Bubbly That Won’t Break The Bank

https://www.freepik.com/premium-photo/explosion-splashing-champagne-sparkling-wine_5586200.htm#query=new%20years%20toast&position=8&from_view=search&track=sph

By Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr

Although wine is not seasonal by design, the majority of sparkling wine and champagne is purchased in the last two months of the year. People gravitate to a glass of bubbles — “stars” as the monk Dom Perignon called them – for the celebrations that accompany the end-of-year holidays. Of course, sparkling wine is also associated with weddings, promotions, birthdays and other celebrations – but none so momentous as New Year’s Eve.

https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/celebrating-new-year_5398639.htm#query=new%20years%20toast&position=17&from_view=search&track=sphNo wine brings a festive atmosphere to a party like sparkling wine – especially champagne, a name reserved for the wines from the Champagne region of northeast France.  You can’t help but feel in a party mood as the bubbles slowly rise from the bottom of a tulip glass and dance spiritedly on the tongue. It sets the mood for celebration.

Sparkling wine is made in just about every country and with an array of grape varieties. In Champagne  – where sparkling wine was born – only chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot menieur are used. In Italy, home of prosecco, it is the glera grape that dominates sparkling wine.  In Spain, macabeo, parellada and xarello are the primary grapes used to make cava.

Prosecco is often the sparkling wine of choice because of its value. Slightly sweet, prosecco is also low in alcohol – generally 11.5 percent as compared to 14 to 15 percent for other sparkling wine. You can buy it as a rosé and Corvezzo even makes it organic and vegan. Other labels to look for include Mionetto and La Marca.

No matter what the grape varieties, the process – which the French have dubbed “methode champenois” — is about the same. Wine is first fermented in barrel and then fermented a second time in a bottle to seal in the CO2. The still fermenting wine is capped in a strong bottle to contain the gas until it is opened.  There are variations of this – such as cremant – but the process of creating CO2 is similar.

Global warming has had a profound effect on Champagne. Currently, the warming temperatures in this cool region are ideal. But the French depend on underripe grapes to make their special wine, so if temperatures continue to warm, the ideal region may move north. Southern England is currently making excellent sparkling wines as good as champagne.

You can spend a lot of money on champagne for such iconic labels at Crystal, Krug, Salon and Dom Perginon. But there are many other reliable French producers whose prices are often less than what you would pay for a sparkling wine from the United States. As supplies for these less expensive wines are abundant at this time of year, you don’t have to spend big bucks for luxury anymore.

If your holiday includes sparkling wine or champagne, here are 10 recommendations, many of which will not break the bank:

Champagne Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs

Champagne Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs ($90). We visited this property during a recent tour of France and expected to enjoy the iconic rosé most of all. But it was this wine, made entirely from chardonnay grapes, that impressed us the most. An abundance of tiny bubbles is the first indication of quality. But it is the balance and finesse that separates this wine from the crowd. Brioche aromas and lingering almond and orange zest flavors under a cloak of creamy texture.

Nicolas-Feuillatte Brut ($35). If it’s champagne or nothing at your house, Nicolas-Feuillatte delivers a lot for the money.  Creamy texture with citrus and spice notes.

Veuve-Cliquot Brut Yellow Label ($50). Citrus aromas, zesty acidity and clean, apple flavors with a dash of vanilla. It is a blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier.

Chartogne-Taillet Brut Cuvee Sainte Anne (Wine Chateau)

Chartogne-Taillet Brut Cuvee Sainte Anne ($60). More than a decade ago we visited with the owners of this small grower champagne house.  The champagne wasn’t as well recognized then as it is now but it is just as impressive as the day we tasted it. This blend includes all three champagne grape varieties and is stunning for its balance and finesse.

Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2019 ($42).  This producer was the first in California to make a commercial sparkling wine from chardonnay grapes. We have found it to be reliable and consistent year after year. In fact, we recently opened a 2004 Schramsberg J. Schram and it was one of the best we’ve ever tasted with this kind of age.  The Blanc de Blancs is vibrant, fresh with apple and almond notes.

Frank Family Vineyards Brut Rosé 2017 ($55).  From one of the most historic properties in Napa, this exciting rosé is a melange of raspberry and strawberry flavors with a hint of orange and mineral.

Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee ($45). Iron Horse is a reliable producer of

19 Crimes Snoop Cali Gold (Total Wine & More)

some of Sonoma County’s best sparkling wine.  Made mostly from pinot noir grapes, it has good weight and an expressive personality. Raspberry and cherry notes.

Scharffenberger Cellars Brut Excellence Rosé ($29). We always like the sparkling wine that comes from this Anderson Valley producer. Clean, refreshing strawberry flavors with a hint of lemon and lime.

19 Crimes Snoop Cali Gold ($20). 19 Crimes has a new rebel in its line-up – rap star Snoop Dogg, whose face graces the bottle. It’s not our cup of tea, so to speak, but if you like considerable sugar with your Dogg, this eclectic blend of white grapes will be a conversation piece.

Gruet Blanc de Blancs ($36). This sparkling wine from New Mexico continues to astound us for its champagne-like profile. Balanced, dry and delicate with grapefruit and apple flavors and almond aroma.

Wine picks

Chalk Hill Estate Founder’s Block Chardonnay 2020 (Chalk Hill Winery)

Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay 2021 ($14). One of the best buys in chardonnay, this wine draws from 10 clones of estate-grown chardonnay. The palate is creamy with Meyer lemon and vanilla. Aromas are of peach and spice.

Chalk Hill Estate Founder’s Block Chardonnay 2020 ($100). Most people don’t think about spending this kind of money on a chardonnay, but it can be as rewarding as an equally expensive cabernet sauvignon. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Chalk Hill is the first from an old block replanted in 2014. Very rich with apple and ripe pear flavors.

Laetitia Estate Chardonnay Arroyo Grande Valley 2021 ($22). This is a great value in chardonnay. We pitted it against more expensive wines and it excelled.  Generous mouthfeel, apple and tropical fruit notes with a good dollop of spice.

 

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr, MoreAboutWine, posted on SouthFloridaReporter.com

Republished with permission

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a weekly wine column for more than 30 years. Additional Wine reviews on MoreAboutWine

All photos are randomly selected and do not indicate any preferred wine. Listed prices are subject to change and do not include tax or shipping.

You can send questions to Tom Marquardt marq1948@gmail.com

Always drink responsibly!

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a wine column since 1985. They have traveled extensively to vineyards in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and the United States. Tom currently resides in Naples with his wife, Sue, where he conducts wine tastings. His web site is MoreAboutWine.com. Patrick is in the wine retail business in Annapolis, MD.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here