My New Everyday Bubbly; Kirkland Prosecco!

A friend of mine,  who adores sparkling wine, especially Prosecco,  IM’d me last week. The message said “Martin go get yourself 2 bottles of Costco brand prosecco…….it will blow your mind for the price….I was just shocked”.

He drinks a lot of Prosecco.  That’s high praise.

Since my wife and I were hosting a wine tasting a couple of days hence, I figured I’d give it a try.  Sparkling wines make a great aperitif, and go with just about anything.

I headed over to my local Costco.  The Kirkland Prosecco sells for $7.49!

The packaging immediately reminded me of another popular Prosecco that I’m quite fond of and have purchased many times…La Marca Prosecco which also sports a blue label. It sells at Costco for $10.99.  In fact, the two were sold side by side….

photo 1 (7)

When I looked at the back label, I noticed two things:

The first thing is that the fruit was sourced from the Friuli region, rather than the more typical Veneto region.

The second thing, I noticed is that it’s imported by Cameron Hughes (“CHW”).  I recalled CHW also, relatively recently, released a Prosecco.

photo 2 (9)

I started feeling all investigative journalist - ish, so I popped over to the CHW website and checked out their Prosecco.

Hmmmm…their Prosecco is also sourced from Friuil…

Could it be the same Prosecco sold by Cameron Hughes for $14 is packaged differently and sold at Costco for $7.49?

I don’t know, but here’s what I do know…This Prosecco is flat out delicious!

Here are my detailed tasting notes…Very pale straw color with apple, citrus, brioche and honey aromas. On the palate, light-bodied and between dry and off-dry with a prickly mousse and crisp refreshing apple, mandarin orange and honey flavors. This is my new house bubbly! 11.5% alcohol| Retail – $7.49

Rating: B+: Mind blown…This one is a charmer with an amazing QPR.  Will buy (much) more. You should too!

Pair with: Great an an aperitif, it’s also versatile at the table – Some of my favorite foods to pair with Prosecco include tamales, moderately spice Asian cuisine, fish ‘n chips, and fish tacos. Works wonderfully with a wide variety of finger foods like potato chips and popcorn too. In fact, try it with Sriracha Popcorn!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

T.G.I.F. Champagne And The Like…NV Mionetto Cartizze Prosecco

I drink more than my fair share of sparkling wine.  By my count, last year I enjoyed 50-60 bottles of sparkling wine.  Which type of sparkling wine I chose is driven by my mood, the food, and my budget.  I tend to like Cava, and Prosecco for my “weeknight” sparklers, while enjoying more expensive sparkling wines, and Champagne for special occasions, or on the weekends.

What I enjoy about Prosecco is that it tends to be a bit fruitier, less demanding (no significant contemplation needed), and lower in alcohol than Champagne and other sparkling wines.  That’s because its secondary fermentation takes place in a stainless steel pressurized tank, rather than individual bottles. Nor is Prosecco aged, which is what gives sparklers that undergo secondary fermentation in individual bottles their complexity (click here for a great explanation of how sparklers are produced).

For many years Prosecco was used to describe both the grape, and the region where the grape are grown.  In mid 2009, Italian wine regulations were revised to clearly state that Prosecco was no longer to be classified as a grape, but a region that was clearly delimited.  There are two such regions classified as a DOCG, the highest status for Italian wines.  Additionally, there are at least eight regions classified as DOC, the next to highest status for Italian Wines.  Nowadays, the grape is known as Glera.

This wine is produced from grapes grown in the Cartizze DOCG, a sub-zone of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene.  The hill of Cartizze is 107 hectares, which is divided amongst 140 small growers. Renowned throughout the region for the quality of its fruit, it one of the world’s most expensive bits of vineyard real estate. And it produces relatively minuscule amounts of fruit.  Of the approximately 150 million bottles of Prosecco produced annually, only about 1.4 million bottles originate from Cartizze.  It can certainly be considered to be the grand cru of Prosecco.

The producer, Mionetto is the importer of the best-selling brand of Prosecco in the US.  They have been making Prosecco since 1887!

NV Mionetto Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry (Photo courtesy of Mionetto)

NV Mionetto Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry

Region: ItalyVenetoProsecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze

Variety –  Glera

Residual Sugar – 2.5%

11% a.b.v. Retails for about $25

Production method: Methodo Italiano (Bulk Charmat)

My tasting notes follow:

Very light straw color with pretty floral, stone fruit, and cracker aromas. On the palate, fresh, fruity ,and approaching medium bodied with moderately creamy mousse, and extra dry-ish with honey, clementine, and a touch of stone fruit flavors. Medium finish.

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This was very nice as an aperitif, and just as nice with food.  I enjoyed with spicy Cioppino. Pair with shellfish, or this sparkler has enough sweetness to pair with a light dessert like cream puffs, or fruit tart.

If you want to try upscale Prosecco, this one is a good place to start. This one was a gift from a friend in the wine business (Thanks John!).  I’m glad I tried it, but at $25 or so a bottle I can’t recommend – 89pts   (Click here to find this wine) 

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TGIF Bubbly; NV Terre di San Venanzio Fortunato Prosecco

My wife and I make it a point to drink sparkling wine on a weekly basis.  It’s typically Friday night…thus “T.G.I.F. Bubbly”  It’s a celebration of sort, to the end of the workweek.  She get’s to drink and enjoy the bubbly, while I get to drink, enjoy and blog about it!  This week’s sparkling wine is the NV Terre di San Venanzio Fortunato Prosecco

The Winery

Terre di San Venanzio Fortunato is a family owned winery located near the most prestigious ‘cru’ of Cartizze in Valdobbiadene. The winery is named after San Venanzio Fortunato,  a Latin poet born in Valdobbiadene in the sixth century, who was elected Bishop at Poitiers in France.

They produce limited quantities of Prosecco Superiore DOCG sparkling wines including Brut, Extra Dry, Millesimato, and their top of the line Superiore di Cartizze.  They also produce two non Prosecco Superiore DOCG sparkling wines – a Rose, and Prosecco Treviso.

The Wine

For many years Prosecco was used to describe both the grape, and the region where the grape are grown.  In mid 2009, Italian wine regulations were revised to clearly state that Prosecco was no longer to be classified as a grape, but a region that was clearly delimited.  There are two such regions classified as a DOCG, the highest status for Italian wines. This one is from one of those regions known as Conegliano Valdobbiadene.

Most Prosecco is made in the extra-dry (a.k.a. extra-brut) style, meaning they have higher levels of residual sugar resulting in a touch of sweetness, but this wine is made in the “Brut” style more familiar to most American palates.  The producer does several secondary fermentations per year to ensure freshness.

This wine is a direct buy at K&L Wine Merchants.

NV Terre di San Venanzio Fortunato Prosecco

NV Terre di San Venanzio Fortunato Prosecco

My tasting notes follow:

Very pale straw yellow color with lots of pin prick bubbles. Shows aromas of green apples, stone fruits, and white flowers. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, dry with a creamy mousse and apple, white peach flavors with a mineral undertone. Medium finish. Great QPR @$12

Rating:  B+ : I think I just found a new “house” Prosecco!

Pair with: We paired with a variety of sushi rolls, and it was a very good pairing! Since this is a Brut, rather than extra-dry style, I think it’s a more versatile food pairing partner.  Pair with appetizers/snack like popcorn, chips or ceviche, or light main course with fish, seafood, crustaceans, tamales, fish tacos or pasta primavera!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

Here’s an interesting aside – The producer recommends drinking this from a “Reidel goblet” rather than the typical flute!  Great idea!  I often drink bubbly from a regular wine glass…

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff!  Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

 

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Conte di Santa Chiara Prosecco

It’s Prosecco for my weekly bubbly tasting this week.  I picked this up on a whim from K&L Wine Merchants.  The price was certainly right at $8.99, and it had quite a few favorable staff reviews. And I’ve had good success with wines from K&L  that had at least 5 favorable staff reviews.  Here’s one of the reviews from the K&L Wine Blog:

“This is the perfect party Prosecco! I poured this at one of our local events. It was a hit! I kept the price to myself until they tried it. Every single person was shocked that something so good could be so affordable!! Bring some to your next party and watch it disappear.”

NV Conte di Santa Chiara Prosecco

NV Conte di Santa Chiara Prosecco

Where it’s from: Italy

The grape(s) Glera

Production method: Methodo Italiano (Charmat Bulk)

Alcohol: 11% Retail: $9 

My tasting notes follow:

Very light straw color with a good amount of bubbles that persisted longer than most Proseccos with fruity stone fruit and flora aromas. On the palate it’s light bodied, with a surprisingly soft mousse. It’s crisp and dry while maintaining some nice fruit flavors of white peach, nuanced apricot, and apples. Short finish. Great QPR! – 86pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This one would make a very good aperitif, or to take along on a picnic!

I enjoyed this. It’s a nice value play.  I’d buy again if it was available.  When I checked at K&L it was wait listed!


Wine Of The Week: NV Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Rosé

My wine of the week for March 17-23 is the NV Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Rosé.  Franciacorta, refers both to the territory, located in the Lombardy region of Italy, and the sparkling wine produced from grapes grown within the boundaries of the territory.  Since 1995, Franciacorta has had DOCG status, the highest echelon of Italian wine classifications, applied solely to the sparkling wines produced in the region.  Here’s a quick rundown on the main regulations that come along with that DOCG status:

  • Franciacorta is the only region in Italy that requires sparkling wine be made by the traditional method (“metodo classico” in Italian)
  • Grapes are grown in strictly delimited vineyards from within 19 different communes
  • Permitted grapes are Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, and Pinot Bianco, with 85% planted Chardonnay, 10% to Pinot Nero, and 5% to Pinot Bianco
  • Non-vintage (NV) Franciacorta must aged at least 25 months after harvest, with at least 18 months in contact with the yeast in the bottle
  • Vintage Franciacorta must be aged at least 37 months after harvest, with a least 37 months in contact with yeast in the bottle
  • Franciacorta rosé must contain at least 15% Pinot Nero
  • Dosage levels(i.e., the level of sweetness) are exactly as they are in Champagne

You’re probably pretty familiar with the most popular kinds of Italian bubbly (a.k.a “spumante” in Italian), Prosecco, and Asti Spumante, which are often described as alternatives to Champagne. Think of Franciacorta as Italy’s answer to Champagne!  So while Prosecco and Asti are almost always produced using the less expensive Charmat bulk process, Franciacorta is produced using the same traditional method used in Champagne.

Here’s an interesting factoid.  The producer of this wine, Contadi Castaldi, is the only winery to have vineyards in all 19 communes permitted to grow grapes for production of Franciacorta.

My tasting notes follow:

Beautiful copper color with steady bead of pin-prick bubbles, and brioche, fruity, fresh red fruit aromas. On the palate, it displays a creamy mousse, and is approaching medium-bodied with fresh strawberry, raspberry flavors, and a hint of spice flavors. Medium finish.  65% Chardonnay, and 35% Pinot Nero

It’s always fun for me to try something new.  As I like to say, I’m very much still in the “promiscuous” phase of my oenophilic journey, and I’m glad I’ve had the pleasure of Franciacorta.  It’s got me thinking of an Italian mènage à trois…Prosecco as an aperitif, Franciacorta for the entrée, and Asti for dessert.  That my friends will be bubblelicious!

What Are The Most Food Friendly Wines?

It’s my pleasure to share this post of mine recently published by 12most.

12 Most Food-Friendly Wines

In my recent post entitled “12 Most Practical Wine and Food Pairing Guidelines”, one my recommendations for sensibly pairing food and wine is to get to know “food-friendly” wines. Food-friendly wines have three primary characteristics 1) Palate-cleansing acidity, 2) Lots of fruitiness with low tannins, and 3) Balanced components (i.e. fruit, acidity, and tannins).

Try these wines for those times you don’t want to put a lot of thought into what wine you’re having with weeknight meals, or more casual gatherings. There’s something here for everyone — Whites, Reds, Sparkling and Rosé. Keep in mind that each of the wines come in broad range of styles. Let your palate be your guide for the style you prefer.

Reds

1. Beaujolais

This wine, made from the Gamay grape is named for the region from which it hails. Think Beaujolais when you want a red that you’d normally have with a white wine. Many top crus go for around $20
Recommended Region(s): France – Cru Beaujolais (non-Nouveau)
Profile: Light-bodied with moderate to high acidity, and low tannins with aromatic red plum, cherry, raspberry, hints of black pepper aromas/flavors.

2. Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the most well-known food friendly red wine.
Recommended Region(s): France – Burgundy, California, Oregon, and New Zealand
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity with aromatic with floral, cherry, red currant, raspberry, and sometimes gamey aromas/flavors when young, aging to vegetal and mushroom when mature

3. Sangiovese (san-jo-veh-zeh)

Generally speaking, Italy makes a plethora of food friendly wines, especially reds. Sangiovese is the most planted red grape in Italy, and the most important grape used in the great wines of Tuscany. It is one of the wine world’s great gifts to the culinary world! It’s a natural for dishes containing tomatoes, or acidic tomato sauces
Recommended Region(s): Italy (Tuscany), California
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity with black cherry, spice, smoky, herbal savory aromas/flavors.

4. Zinfandel

Zinfandel can go far beyond burgers and BBQ. I’ve enjoyed with Mexican, and Pakistani dishes. The style of Zinfandel is crucial for matching it with food. Look for lighter “Beaujolais” style Zinfandel at around 14% a.b.v, and “Claret” style between 14% and 15% a.b.v. for maximum food pairing versatility. If prefer “bigger” Zinfandels, then opt for pairing with richer foods.
Recommended Region(s): California
Profile: Medium/Full bodied moderate to high acidity, and strawberry, raspberry, plum, blackberry, pepper, bramble, and spice aromas/flavors

5. Syrah

Syrah and Syrah based blends do a great job of striking a balance between finesse and power. It can be full-bodied and complex like Cabernet Sauvignon, but tend to be less tannic. Cool climate Syrah is especially food friendly. And many very good examples can be found for less than $20.
Recommended Region(s): France (Rhône), California, Washington, and Australia
Profile: Medium/full-bodied with moderate to high acidity, with blackcurrant, plum, blackberry, earthy, herbal, chocolate, and violet aromas/flavors

Whites

6. Riesling

Riesling is the most well-known white food friendly wine. Thanks to its food loving nature, it’s on the upswing. If you’re looking for one wine to serve with many dishes, Riesling is an excellent choice, especially if you’re not into red wine. Look for dry and off-dry styles
Recommended Region(s): Germany, France (Alsace) Washington, New York, California
Profile: Light-bodied with high to very high acidity, and Intensely aromatic with floral, green apples, light spice aromas/flavors when you ageing to petrol and honey when mature

7. Sauvignon Blanc

Stylistically, Sauvignon Blanc tends to be the opposite of Chardonnay. That’s because it tends not to see as much oak as Chardonnay and its acidity is more apparent. It’s very versatile food wine, especially with dishes emphasizing, or enhanced with fresh herbs. Try it with guacamole!
Recommended Region(s): France (Loire, and Bordeaux), U.S., New Zealand,
Profile: Light-bodied with high to very high acidity, and aromatic, grassy, herbaceous, tropical, citrus, and gooseberries aromas/flavors

8. Grüner Vetliner

Grüner Vetliner (GROO-ner FELT-leen-ner) is indigenous to Austria, where it accounts for about a third Austria grape production. It’s a favorite of many sommeliers because of its versatility with foods. Here in the US we often reach for red wine to accompany meat dishes, but in Austria, Grüner is served with game, beef, pork, poultry and veal. Looking for a wine for tough food matches like asparagus, and artichokes? Try Grüner. And it’s great with fried chicken!
Recommended Region(s): Austria
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity, with vanilla-dipped peach, grapefruit, and aromas/flavors with a distinctive spicy finish.

9. Chardonnay

This most popular wine has very good “foodability” if it is not overly oaked. In fact, more unoaked Chardonnay is being produced these days. While unoaked Chardonnay may be a bit more versatile food partner, oaked (used judiciously) Chardonnay typically makes a more full-bodied wine.
Recommended Region(s): France (Chablis, and Burgundy), California, Australia, Chile, and Argentina
Profile: Light/Medium-bodied with high to very high acidity, and floral, ripe apple, pineapple, butterscotch, lemon, vanilla, and custard aromas/flavors.

10. Sherry

Hear me out on this one. I’m not referring to your grandmother’s Cream Sherry. I’m referring to dry Sherry. And thanks to adventurous wine geeks, and passionate sherry lovers, this fortified wine is gaining in popularity because of its food friendly nature and exceptional quality/price ratio.
True Sherry, is only produced in Spain’s “Sherry Triangle”. It’s a singularly unique beverage because of its terroir, and the method by which it is produced. With its unique tangy, sometimes oxidative and saline flavors, it can be polarizing. It was a bit of an acquired taste for me, but I think it’s fabulous with food!

The principles of pairing Sherry with food are like other wines, according to weight and texture. For Fino and Manzanillo think appetizers, seafood, and sushi, and sashimi. Pair Amontillado, with its rich nuttiness, with stronger flavored foods (including spicy foods) like oily fishes and chicken dishes. Serve chilled.

Recommended Region: Spain

Profile: The main styles of Sherry are light-bodied, straw colored, dry Fino, and fuller bodied darker Oloroso. Between Fino and Oloroso in body, and dryness are Manzanillo, and Amontillado.  Typical aromas and flavors of Finos are yeasty, toasted almond, green apples, and slightly oxidative.  Oloroso tend to be more aromatic with fresh mixed nuts, dried fruit, and citrus peel.

11. Rosé

Rosés (in particular dry Rosé) combine the best of white and red wines, while maintaining their own unique charm. They possess the crisp acidity, delicacy and freshness of white wines, and the body, and flavors of red wines. Rosés are diverse bunch, produced from a wide range of grapes, in various styles ranging from simple quaffable wines to complex gems in a wide palette of colors. Don’t relegate these babies to warm weather months. Because of their versatility they’re wonderful year-round!
Recommended Region(s): France, Spain, Italy, and U.S.
Profile: Light/medium bodied with strawberry, melon, and cherry aroma/flavors

Sparkling

12. Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wines are very versatile and food friendly because of their innately high acidity levels, and their palate cleansing “scrubbing bubbles” effect. They can be served throughout the day, and throughout a meal too. The driest ones are excellent as an aperitif and with shellfish and caviar. Off-dry bubbly is suitable for brunch, lunch, salads, and many dinner entrees. The sweeter ones pair nicely with fruit- based desserts.
Recommended Region(s): France, US, Spain (Cava), Italy (Prosecco)

Profile: Light to medium-full bodied, and bone-dry Extra Brut to sweet “doux”.  Typical aromas and flavors are yeast, apple, citrus, stone fruit, and cherry depending on the blend of grape varieties used

With these 12 wines in your vinous arsenal, you’ll overcome many a gastronomic challenge! Are there any favorites of yours that I left out?

Featured image courtesy of jinhai via Creative Commons.

Sparkling Wine Smackdown…Ten Sparklers; One Winner!

The most recent meeting of the Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC”) was all about bubbly.  It also happened to be the 2nd anniversary of the PPWTC.  It was a great night of bubbly, food, and friends.   It’s been most is gratifying to experience the growth, and evolution of our wine club, and its members.

I want to give a special shout out to Jojo and Joy for co-hosting these last couple of years.  They are always fabulous hosts, and throw a great party…er wine tasting club meeting ;-) second to none!

As for the 10 sparklers, it was a diverse group dominated by California sparklers, but that also included 2 bottles from Champagne, a Prosecco from Italy, and even a sparkler from Bulgaria (which turned out to be pretty much undrinkable – I knew something was up I pulled the plastic cork)!

All Set Up And Ready For The Sparkler Smackdown (photo courtesy of Jojo Ong)

The ten sparklers we blind-tasted, in order, were:

  1. NV Domaine Chandon Brut Classic (Napa Valley>Yountville)
  2. NV Trader Joe’s Blanc de Blancs (California)
  3. NV Mumm Napa Cuvée Napa Brut (Napa Valley)
  4. NV Sarl Chopin Champagne Charles de Marques Brut (Champagne)
  5. NV La Marca Prosecco di Conegliano Tiffany Blue Label (Italy>Veneto>Prosecco>Conegliano)
  6. NV Nicolas Feuilatte Champagne (Champagne)
  7. NV Gloria Ferrer Brut (Sonoma County)
  8. 2007 Domaine Carneros Brut (Napa Valley>Carneros)
  9. NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige (Napa Valley)
  10. NV Christa Sparkling White Wine (Targovishte, Bulgaria)

PPWTC 2nd Anniversary Photo (photo courtesy of Jojo Ong)

The winner with an average score of 89.6 point is….

NV La Marca Prosecco di Conegliano Tiffany Blue Label

No surprise here for me.  Prosecco is fruity and easy, and this one is very good!  Around $12. Here’s a tasting note from the La Marca website:

This sparkling wine is pale, golden straw in color. Bubbles are full textured and
persistent. On the nose the wine brings fresh citrus with hints of honey and white floral
notes. The flavor is fresh and clean, with ripe citrus, lemon, green apple, and touches of
grapefruit, minerality, and some toast. The finish is light, refreshing, and crisp

It’s widely available…pick up a bottle and give it a try! Cheers!

Everything You Need To Know To Enjoy Sparkling Holidays!

More than any other time of year, the holiday season is the time for bubbly.   The challenge is the terminology around sparkling wine can be confusing.  For example, and bubbly labeled “Extra Dry” is actually sweeter than one labeled “Brut”, which is the standard for dryness in sparkling wine.  And since retailers are heavily promoting bubbly during the holidays, the myriad of choices can be overwhelming.  How do you know which one to pick?  I’ve been tasting sparkling wines from around the world and blogging about it in my “TGIF Champagne…and the like” on weekly basis for the last 10 months.  That’s a lot of bubbly! I’ve learned a lot about bubbly along the way. Here’s a quick primer to help you navigate the sparkling wine landscape before you head out to the store this holiday season.

Català: Bombolles de xampany rosat

Image via Wikipedia

Types of sparkling wines:

Champagne – Sparkling wines are produced all around the world, but due to a legal treaty, the term “champagne” is reserved exclusively for sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of France (although thanks to being grandfathered in to a trade agreement between France and the US, Korbel refers to their sparkling wines as “California Champagne”) Champagne is widely regarded as the best sparkling wine.  Most champagne producers have an entry-level champagne that falls in the $35-$45 range.

Cava – Sparkling wine produced in Spain using the traditional method.  Typically made from grapes indigenous to Spain.  Good to very good Cava can be found in the $10-$20 range.

Prosecco – Sparkling wine produced in Italy typically using the Bulk Charmat method.  Asti is another Italian sparkler produced in the Asti region of Italy.  Good to very good Prosecco can be found in the $10-20 range

Cremant – Sparkling wine produced in France outside of the Champagne region using the traditional method.  This is where you’ll find more budget-friendly bubbly from France.  Look for Crémant from Loire, Rhone, and Burgundy for good value.

Methods of producing sparkling wines

All sparkling wines begin life as still wines.  Then they go through a secondary fermentation.  Unlike still wines, which go through one fermentation, sparkling wines go through two fermentations.

When a wine undergoes secondary fermentation in tanks or vessels, that is known as the Bulk Charmat method (a.k.a. Metodo Italiano).  When a wine undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle, it is known as the Traditional Method.  The Bulk Charmat method is a less expensive method of producing sparkling wines.  However, the wine produced using the traditional method can be more complex with smaller, longer lasting bubbles.

Styles of sparkling wines:

Non-vintage (“NV”)Most sparkling wine is a blend of wine from multiple vintages. Most of the base for the blend will be from a single vintage with typically anywhere from 10-15 % being from older vintages.  If a producer determines the grape harvest from a particular year is exceptional, then they may produce a “vintage” sparkler using grapes harvested in that year only.  Most sparkling wine producers produce a non-vintage bubbly because blending enable production of a consistent taste from year to year.

Blanc de NoirsSparkling wine produced exclusively from black grapes, such as Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier.

Blanc de BlancsSparkling wine produced exclusively from Chardonnay grapes.  If someone on your list is a fan of Chardonnay look for this style.

Rosé – A sparkling wine produced by either leaving the clear juice from black grapes to soak in the own skins for a brief period of time, or by adding the juice adding a small amount of red wine to the blend thereby producing a pink bubbly.  Rosés tend to be the most food friendly (and expensive) style of sparkling wine, though you can find some good ones for less than $20. Rose bubbly makes a great gift, and is a perennial top seller during the holidays because if its attractive hues hint at cranberris, holly berries and other seasonal ingredients.

Prestige Cuvée – In Champagne, a producer’s top of the line sparkler.  

Sweetness of Sparkling Wine:

The amount of residual sugar in sparkling wine determines its sweetness.  There are well-established guidelines for this.  Starting from the driest (least amount of sugar) they are:

Brut nature, or sans dosage  – no sugar added

Extra brut  – very dry

Brut – Dry; the most popular style and probably the most food friendly

Extra DryOff dry; meaning sweeter than Brut, but not as sweet as “Sec”.  These make very good aperitifs

Demi-sec – Sweet; pair with desserts or fruit

For specific suggestions of sparkling wines to try, check out these posts:

Top 10 Sparkling Wines Under $20

And the winner is…

Top 10 Sparkling Wines Under $20 Redux

Since February, I’ve been enjoying sparkling wines from around the world on a weekly basis, and blogging about it in my “T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like… series.  One of the things I’ve learned, is that there are plenty of sparklers that offer great bang for the buck.  I’ve found some very good to excellent sparklers for less than $20, including, to my surprise a few Rosé sparklers, which are among the food friendliest of wines.  My top 10 list follows:
  1. NV Taltarni Brut Tache -  (Australia)  Lovely pale salmon color with floral, stone fruit (peaches/apricots), and fresh-baked scone aromas. On the palate, approaching medium-bodied, with a creamy mousse with watermelon, red berry, and a bit of hazelnut flavors. Dry with a light fruitiness, good acidity, and a clean medium long finish.
  2. Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose - (California) Delicate pink color with strawberry and bread dough aromas.  On the palate, moderately creamy mousse, good acidity, focused, fruity, yet dry, and lively, with strawberries, raspberries and a touch of citrus, and spice flavors. Medium finish.
  3. 2008 Raventos i Blanc L’Heure Blanc Brut Reserva - (Spain)  Very light straw yellow color with plenty of tiny bubbles, and yeast, green apple aromas. On the palate, a wonderful creamy mousse uncommon at this price point, dry, and approaching medium-bodied with apple, and a hint on citrus flavors. Medium finish
  4. NV Graham Beck Brut Rose - (South Africa) Watermelon pink color with a hint of silver with aromas of yeast, and raspberries.  On the palate, a creamy mousse, fruity, yet dry, with crisp acidity and raspberries, cherries flavors, with a slight mineral overtone, and a hint of citrus on the back palate.  Short-medium finish. Great QPR!
  5. NV Gruet Blanc de Noirs - (New Mexico)  Salmon color with an abundance of dispersed tiny bubbles with brioche and apple aromas. On the palate approaching medium bodied with a moderately aggressive mousse, balanced with pear, sweet baking spice, vanilla, and nuanced citrus flavors. Short finish .
  6. 2008 Antech “Cuvée Eugénie” Crémant de Limoux - (France) Light straw color with brioche, Fuji apple, and floral aromas.  On the palate, crisp with zippy acidity, a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet green apple, pear, and toast flavors.  Medium finish.
  7. NV Jean Louis Denois Brut Tradition - (France)  Light straw color with bread dough, and apples aromas.  On the palate creamy, dry, and crisp, with good acidity with pear, apple, hazelnuts flavors along with a touch of minerals. Medium finish. Very good QPR.
  8. NV Segura Viudas Brut Reserva - (Spain) Light straw color with fine bead of bubbles with bread dough and lemon-lime citrus aromas.  On the palate, light bodied, with moderately creamy mousse with green apple, and tart citrus flavors. Short finish. This one is “everyday” sparkler for me.  It’s a great value at $9/bottle!
  9. Mionetto Brut Prosecco Treviso -  (Italy) Very light – the color of clarified butter, with sweet bread,wet stone and citrus aromas. On the palate, closer to off-dry than dry for me, fairly well-balanced, with sweet lemon-lime, fuji apple, and slight vanilla flavors.  It grew on me more and more with each sip. Medium finish.
  10. 2008 Korbel Natural - (California) Pale golden-yellow color with yeast ,red fruit, and apple aromas.  On the palate light bodied, crisp, between dry and off-dry.  Straight-forward with cherry, apple, minerals, and a touch of honey flavors.  Short-medium finish.
Click here to find these wines.

In addition to the sparklers noted above, there are a handful of sparklers I heartily recommend that didn’t make the list because they retail for more than $20.  However, because they are widely distributed, they frequently go on sale. When they do – grab a bottle and see for yourself!

(Listed in order of preference)

Top 10 Sparkling Wines Under $20

Over the last 30 or so weeks I’ve enjoyed sparkling wines from around the world on a weekly basis, and blogged about it in my “T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like… series.  One of the things I’ve learned, is that there are plenty of sparklers that offer great bang for the buck.  I’ve found some very good to excellent sparklers for less than $20, including, to my surprise a few Rosé sparklers, which are among the food friendliest of wines.  My top 10 list follows
  1. NV Taltarni Brut Tache -  (Australia)  Lovely pale salmon color with floral, stone fruit (peaches/apricots), and fresh-baked scone aromas. On the palate, approaching medium-bodied, with a creamy mousse with watermelon, red berry, and a bit of hazelnut flavors. Dry with a light fruitiness, good acidity, and a clean medium long finish.
  2. Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose - (California) Delicate pink color with strawberry and bread dough aromas.  On the palate, moderately creamy mousse, good acidity, focused, fruity, yet dry, and lively, with strawberries, raspberries and a touch of citrus, and spice flavors. Medium finish.
  3. 2008 Raventos i Blanc L’Heure Blanc Brut Reserva - (Spain)  Very light straw yellow color with plenty of tiny bubbles, and yeast, green apple aromas. On the palate, a wonderful creamy mousse uncommon at this price point, dry, and approaching medium-bodied with apple, and a hint on citrus flavors. Medium finish
  4. NV Graham Beck Brut Rose - (South Africa) Watermelon pink color with a hint of silver with aromas of yeast, and raspberries.  On the palate, a creamy mousse, fruity, yet dry, with crisp acidity and raspberries, cherries flavors, with a slight mineral overtone, and a hint of citrus on the back palate.  Short-medium finish. Great QPR!
  5. NV Gruet Blanc de Noirs - (New Mexico)  Salmon color with an abundance of dispersed tiny bubbles with brioche and apple aromas. On the palate approaching medium bodied with a moderately aggressive mousse, balanced with pear, sweet baking spice, vanilla, and nuanced citrus flavors. Short finish .
  6. 2008 Antech “Cuvée Eugénie” Crémant de Limoux - (France) Light straw color with brioche, Fuji apple, and floral aromas.  On the palate, crisp with zippy acidity, a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet green apple, pear, and toast flavors.  Medium finish.
  7. NV Jean Louis Denois Brut Tradition - (France)  Light straw color with bread dough, and apples aromas.  On the palate creamy, dry, and crisp, with good acidity with pear, apple, hazelnuts flavors along with a touch of minerals. Medium finish. Very good QPR.
  8. NV Segura Viudas Brut Reserva - (Spain) Light straw color with fine bead of bubbles with bread dough and lemon-lime citrus aromas.  On the palate, light bodied, with moderately creamy mousse with green apple, and tart citrus flavors. Short finish. This one is “everyday” sparkler for me.  It’s a great value at $9/bottle!
  9. Mionetto Brut Prosecco Treviso -  (Italy) Very light – the color of clarified butter, with sweet bread,wet stone and citrus aromas. On the palate, closer to off-dry than dry for me, fairly well-balanced, with sweet lemon-lime, fuji apple, and slight vanilla flavors.  It grew on me more and more with each sip. Medium finish.
  10. 2008 Korbel Natural - (California) Pale golden-yellow color with yeast ,red fruit, and apple aromas.  On the palate light bodied, crisp, between dry and off-dry.  Straight-forward with cherry, apple, minerals, and a touch of honey flavors.  Short-medium finish.
Click here to search for these wines online

In addition to the sparklers noted above, there are a handful of sparklers I heartily recommend that didn’t make the list because they retail for more than $20.  However, because they are widely distributed, they frequently go on sale. When they do – grab a bottle and see for yourself!

(Listed in order of preference)