This will be my last post of 2015, so I thought I would give a few quick Champagne and sparkling wine recommendations for the upcoming holidays. As a reminder, it’s only Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France. Anything else is sparkling wine!
If you want the real McCoy, but you don’t drink a lot of Champagne and don’t know what to buy, I recommend Veuve Clicquot Brut—look for the yellow label. It’s rather fruit-forward as far as Champagne goes, but you still get some of the classic brioche flavor on the back-end. It’s made from predominantly Pinot Noir Grapes (50-55%), with the other half being a combination of Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes. Its average price in the U.S. is $59, but you can certainly find it for less. Total Wine sells it for $41.97, and wine.com has it for $54.99. If you’re in the DC area, Calvert Woodley often has it on sale for $42.99.
If you’re looking for higher levels of minerality in your Champagne, try Taittinger Brut Réserve (or Brut La Française, as it is more commonly found in the U.S.). It’s a 40% Chardonnay/60% Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier blend, and has peach, floral, and vanilla notes. Average U.S. price is $53, but Total Wine’s price is $38.99 and wine.com sells it for $49.99.
My favorite California sparkling producer is Gloria Ferrer. I’ve recommended their Blanc de Noirs before, and it remains one of my favorites, but the Royal Cuvée Brut is another delicious choice. It’s a vintage sparkler (meaning the grapes are all harvested from the same year) made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. The wine is aged for eight years, so the 2007 vintage is just now being released. You can also still find the 2006 vintage. It’s fruity and lightly minerally, with apple, pear, and cherry flavors. Total Wine carries it for $28.99, which is its average U.S. price. I don’t recommend buying it from wine.com unless you can find it on sale, because their regular price on it is high—$57.99. It pays to shop around!
If you’re looking for a really inexpensive option, I recommend Freixenet (Fresh-a-net) Cordon Negro Brut Cava, in the black bottle. It’s made from native Spanish grapes Macabeu, Xarel-lo, and Parellada and has flavors of pear, apple, and citrus. It’s excellent on its own, but it also makes great mimosas and champagne cocktails. With an average retail price of $11, it’s perfect for a party. Total Wine carries it for $7.97, and wine.com‘s price is $11.99.
I’m off to Austria for the holidays—I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Looking forward to writing more reviews and recommendations in 2016, including reports on my Austria trip. Cheers!