Valentine’s is here and many of you are probably headed to the wine aisle in search of some lovely bubbly! There is so much to say about Champagne & Sparkling Wine so instead of crowding your mind right before a holiday, I thought it better to help you pick a good Champagne that suits your mood, occasion, and budget. Don’t get too excited though, you know I can’t resist and will soon be writing a blog post about the intricacies of Champagne and Sparkling Wine to help you understand it better.
What to drink??!!! Yippee! My favorite Champagnes / Sparkling wines are organized by category and what you are looking for in a bubbly.
The Safe Bet = Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label NV – because it is a crowd pleaser! Everyone has at least a good impression about this Champagne and the brand has done a great job establishing itself. The big champagne houses have “libraries” of past vintages to ensure that the flavor of their wines is consistent year after year. Play it safe and you won’t be steered wrong. Around $55 a bottle.
Well-Established & A Little Special = Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut – now this is a special champagne that is unique and just lovely. While a bit more expensive than other Non-Vintage (NV) champagnes, it offers a unique bouquet and flavor without the price of a Vintage champagne. It’s $70 price tag is well worth it and you will taste not only the typical yeasty biscuit, green apple, and pear notes so dear to champagne but also developing notes of honey and hints of white blossom.
Rosé at a Good Price = R.H. Coutier, Brut Rosé NV – at around $40 a bottle this Rosé Champagne will dazzle you!! It is such pretty bottle and the color a deep salmon. The wine is grown in Ambonnay which is 1 of 17 Grand Cru villages in Champagne, France. It is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a touch more Chardonnay, but the gorgeous color comes from the Pinot Noir. You may need to order this beauty online, but you can get it through several well-known wine stores including Astor Wines in NYC that has a great online ordering platform.
High End Fashion = Ruppert-Leroy, Martin Fontaine, Brut Nature NV – The words “Brut Nature” indicates that the wine has no dosage whatsoever and that sugar levels are between 0-3 grams / litre. The “dosage” is a mixture of wine and cane sugar that is added after disgorgement to balance the acidity and helps with flavor development. There is a trend towards lower dosage levels and the austere Brut Nature style is in fashion. Most of the Brut Nature producers are “grower producers,” which is an increasing but small percentage of Champagne producers which is traditionally controlled by enormous Champagne Houses. If you would like to read more about this fashion trend of Brut Nature Champagne and the Grower Producer movement in Champagne, click here to read “Champagnes That Leave the Sweetness Behind” by Eric Asimov.
This is a “Blanc de Blancs” which literally translate to “white of whites” in English and is made from 100% Chardonnay (the trio of famed Champagne grapes is Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier with Chardonnay being the only white). In their youth Blanc de Blancs can be light bodied with high acidity and restrained citrus and green apple fruits but can develop butteriness with bottle aging. Blanc de Blancs is a personal style favorite of mine because I really love the delicacy. This particular producer, Ruppert-Leroy has three vineyards sites and “Martin Fontaine” is one of the single vineyards. This is a BONE DRY champagne that pairs well with oysters. Like most things fashionable, it is not cheap and costs $80 a bottle.
America’s Pride & Joy = Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs 2010 – this Vintage sparkling wine is made from 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay and a darling at $38. Given that its driven by a black grape variety, the wine feels more full bodied (especially compared to the Blanc de Blancs style). This wine is filled with red apple, red cherry, peach, and biscuit. Schramsberg is my favorite American sparkling wine house and is based in Calistoga, CA. They use the traditional champagne method that gives those lovely biscuit notes because the second fermentation occurs inside the bottle (as they do in Champagne). They are especially well-known for their Blanc de Noirs, but honestly all of their stuff is just delicious.
Closest Thing Next to France = Roderer Estate Anderson Valley Brut – this is my go-to sparkling wine for 2 reasons: (1) the price is only $20!!! (2) It tastes like Champagne!! It is beautifully balanced and perhaps a bit more “tropical” than Champagne but the biscuit notes are really there. I could go on and on and on about why you should buy this sparkling wine, so I will stop here. Just do it!
Happy Valentine’s!! Swirl, sip, sigh
“Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut” by Takashi Yamaoku is licensed under CC by 2.0.
“Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs” by Lauren Shipley is licensed under CC by 2.0.
“Veuve Clicquot Brute” by Adam Barhan is licensed under CC by 2.0.
Images of Roderer Estate Brut, Ruppert-Leroy Brut Nature, and RH Courtier Rose are personal images.