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Just to clarify for those that are still confused, sparkling wine can only be called Champagne when it comes from the Champagne region of France. The 3 grapes that can be used to make Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. I know what you’re thinking…how can Pinot Noir be in Champagne when it doesn’t look red? Not to bore you with the full explanation, but it is only the skin of the grape that gives wine it’s color. So for Champagnes that appear all white, they may still have some Pinot Noir in there but the juice does not come in contact with the skins at all. For Rose Champagne they may have them soak together for a short amount of time giving it that pinkish hue (Seinfeld reference anyone?)
While Champagne is the most well known, and revered, of all sparkling wine it also tends to be the most expensive. So if you can roll like that, God bless ya! But there are plenty of value sparkling selections out there that are quite reasonable and damn tasty.
Each region has their own spin on sparkling…Spain has Cava, Italy has Prosecco, France has Cremants (outside of Champagne) and the US has their own bubbly contingency as well. Each region will use the grapes that thrive in that specific region giving these sparkling wines their own personality. Below are a handful of my favorites from the $10 to $100 range to help you ring in the New Year!
Korbel Brut or Brut Rose, CA
Both wines usually score in the high 80s and are super value options. They use a variety of different white grapes for the Brut and Pinot Noir & Gamay for the Rose. Both are no brainers under $15
La Marca Prosecco, Veneto
Nice apple and citrus flavors, dry with lots of mineral character.
Gloria Ferrer Brut, Sonoma
Like the Korbel, this tastes much better than the under $20 price tag. Delicate and creamy with clean apple fruit and hints of yeast. The Rose is killer too.
Domaine Carneros (Taitinger) Brut Rose “Cuvee de la Pampadour” , Napa Valley
Lots of floral and citrus notes surround the black cherry and fruit core. Really high end Champagne feel for half the price of most.
Piper-Heidsieck Brut Cuvee, Champagne
This is my go to Champagne as it suits my palate just right. On the dry side with a beautiful combo of apple, citrus and hints of that yeasty character…lovely for around $35-40.
Schramsberg J. Schram 2005, North Coast, CA
This is as close to a vintage Champagne as you can taste outside of that region…but you’re gonna pay for it. At around $100, this is a serious baller Sparkling selection that always fetches 95+ ratings. But if you prefer California fruit over the French stuff and want that premium Champagne experience, then this is your move!
Wishing you and yours a very Happy and Healthy 2013!!
Holy crap has it been hot! This summer has bought about heat wave after heat wave and it is just draining. Now I know what the Boca Raton Wine Guy feels like… if there is one. I always find chilled down sparkling wine to be the best option for beating the heat. I do enjoy Champagne, but who can afford to drink that all summer… not me. So below are a few bubbly options that you can enjoy on a consistent basis still have some money left over for your Con Ed bill.
If you are set on having your sparkling wine come from France, then go with a Cremant instead of Champagne. These sparklers are made in the same style as Champagne but come from different regions. The most popular is the Cremant d’Alsace and for a good reason. These wines offer tremendous value but still offer high quality in terms of production and taste. My favorite right now is the Pierre Sparr Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose. Made with 100% Pinot Noir grapes, it offers bright strawberry and floral aromas and has a wonderfully refreshing combination of acidity and some mild tannins. For under $15 you should be drinking this all summer long!
Prosecco is also a fantastic way to enjoy some chilled bubbles at very reasonable prices. They are made with the Glera grape variety in the Veneto region of Italy and have grown in popularity over the last decade or so. The good ones will maintain fresh fruit flavors and a crisp, clean finish while working in a semi sweet characteristic. No longer are these the sweet and fruity sparkling wines that were once similar to Asti Spumante. The pedigree on Prosecco has risen leading to its recent devoted following. The Mionetto Prosecco Brut is one of the more popular options out there, and very tasty. But my favorite is the La Marca Prosecco. Lots of fresh, clean apple and melon and minimal hints of sweetness… as I prefer sparkling wines on the drier side.
Some of the best value in sparkling wine can be found in those coming out of California. They mimic the Champagne style and are typically half the price. Lots of great names to choose from including Domaine Carneros (by Taittanger), Schramsberg, Mumm and even Korbel. However I tend to reach for the Gloria Ferrer selections. For around $15-20 they make a Blanc de Blanc (mainly Chardonnay) and a Blanc de Noirs (mainly Pinot Noir) that taste much more elegant and sophisticated than the price tag would lead you to believe. They also have some of the those biscuit and yeast flavors that Champagne is famous for, something you may not get in other value sparklers.
So save those fancy Champagnes for the big celebrations, there are plenty of sparkling wines you can drink everyday! Well, maybe not everyday but you get my drift. And because most of these value sparkling options are not really meant to age, the old adage for bubbly applies… chill it and kill it!
To follow up on my Father’s Day post, this week my wife gave birth to a healthy and beautiful baby girl and we couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s one of those surreal events that changes your life forever and is deserving of a proper bottle to celebrate the occasion. While it may seem like a trivial afterthought considering what a blessing it is just to have a healthy child enter the world, it’s those small yet meaningful celebrations that can stick with you for years to come. I still remember my epiphany wine (the bottle that first sparked my passion), the bottle I opened when I proposed to my wife (and she miraculously accepted), the over-sized bottle we had everyone sign at our wedding, the bottle we opened to celebrate my son’s birth and the bottle we served at his Baptism (coincidentally the same bottle from our wedding). So deciding what to open with my wife to celebrate this joyous occasion is not so trivial in my book.
Over the past day or two I have had some internal debate about the subject. My first instinct was to go with a high end Napa Cab that we acquired from one of our trips to wine country. While it would clearly be delicious and memorable, without the right meal it may be a bit overpowering. I’m not sure we are quite ready to fire up the grill and cook up some big boy steaks to pair with such a wine just yet. So I thought about a Pinot Noir from the same trip, something that may not need the meal alongside it to enjoy. But Pinot is not really my wife’s favorite and I want it to be as enjoyable for her as it is for me.
So this led me to the somewhat obvious answer… bubbles! I was thinking it really should be a Champagne for an event such as this, but at the end of the day I know my wife prefers the California sparklers which tend to be a little less yeasty. And then it dawned on me…we picked up a couple of bottles of Domaine Carneros (owned by famed French Champagne producer Taittinger) Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour on our last trip to Napa. While at the vineyard we sipped it on their outdoor veranda on a beautiful day overlooking the Carneros vineyards with two of our closest friends and of course our son running and playing around the garden. Yeah, that was a pretty good day. The idea of bringing back some of those memories and starting some new ones with that particular bottle sounds pretty good to me! Oh, and of course… it’s pink
The purpose of saving those special bottles, and opening the right ones at the right time, is all about creating long lasting and meaningful memories. I am sure I’m not the only one that associates certain wines with monumental events that are relived when that same bottle is opened at a future time. Wine can encompass so much nostalgia and emotion which is one of the main reasons people (including myself) are so passionate about it. It’s not just about drinking, it’s about embracing and celebrating life with those that are closest to you.
So the next time you are in the midst of an occasion that is deserving of opening a special bottle, take some time to think about what you select. After all, it may be something you hold with you for many years to come.