7 years ago

How to pick the perfect Champagne

Looking for something bubbly to celebrate the new year? Bill Belkin, our Wines & Spirits category manager, has some great recommendations, no matter what your budget!

“Something that bubbles will diminish your holiday troubles…”

A wise man who loved Champagne must have said that! But alas, not everything that bubbles comes from that famous region in France, and hence cannot be called Champagne. A distinction without a difference?

Perhaps, but as we all struggle to make ends meet (too much month at the end of the money?) we must make decisions about bubbly beverages and perhaps the money issue is amongst the best ways to decide.

Champagne, given its careful blending, secondary fermentation in the bottle and unique terroir (the land, sun and other factors which greatly contribute to its unique flavor and aromatic character) – well, that’s
going to start in the $30 range. The price goes up and up from there.  There’s nothing better, end of sentence.

But all those French Champagne houses own land and wineries in Napa, Sonoma and even Mendocino counties. These wines made in the identical ways (method Champensoise) are excellent choices, too. Roederer Estate in Mendocino is perhaps at the pinnacle of these choices. However, Mumm Napa (G.H. Mumm), Domaine Carneros (Taittinger) and Domaine Chandon (Moet & Chandon) are superb, too. Add
Gloria Ferrer, Schramsberg and J to the mix and a super fun blind taste test becomes de riguer for the holidays.

For those who favor more austerity and less mousse in their bubbles, look to Spain for their Cava, a wonderfully economic choice. And don’t forget Cremant from France – but not the Champagne region – features creamier body, more tip of the tongue fruit and less numerous bubbles – an excellent value and a wonderful taste experience. Try one from the Loire Valley!

And last but certainly not least, there are two great choices from Italy. Their version of Champagne is called Franciacorta. From Lombardy, this método classic is a great sparkler; and of course there’s the “wine of the moment,” Prosecco from the Veneto region. Prosecco, just awarded DOC status (Italy’s second highest status after DOCG) is made wholly from the Glera grape. Although there are many Prosecco wannabes that contain other grapes (such as the Sacchetto Pinot Nero Rosato) which are just fine. These wines are all tank
fermented and the secondary process takes place in tank also. Less complex with smaller bubbles and lower alcohol, these wines cost under $12 in most cases.

So you see, there is really no excuse for sprucing up your holiday table and ringing in the New Year
without something that bubbles!  One more thing to consider: Traditional French-style labeling is used on most sparkling wines. Wine labeled brut – the most common type – is very dry. Extra dry is actually slightly sweeter. Sec is medium sweet, demi-sec is sweet and doux is very sweet. Demi-sec and doux are best served as dessert wines or on their own.

Our trained sales staff at any of our Wines & Spirits locations will be happy to recommend a sparkling wine that suits your taste and fits your bubble budget.