The Val D’Oca Prosecco offers surprising quality and value for a New Year’s sparkling wine
Most Prosecco that costs less than $15 tastes mostly the same – a little sweet, not very sparkling, and kind of blah. There’s nothing really wrong with these version of the Italian sparkling wine, but it’s not something that you look forward to drinking. Enter the Val D’Oca Prosecco.
The Val D’Oca Prosecco ($12, purchased, 11%) has most of the things that the others don’t. Yes, it’s a little sweet, but the sweetness is balanced by a touch of citrus (lime?). Meanwhile, the bubbles are surprisingly tight and bubbly for a Prosecco, and the finish is actually clean and almost crisp. Again, that’s not common for a Proseocco at this price.
Finally, it’s also quite food friendly, whether to pair with something like grilled shrimp with with fried appetizers like frito misto. In this, it’s too well made to use for mimosas.
Rather, it’s exactly the kind of wine to toast the New Year with when you don’t want to spend $40. Highly recommended, and this comes from someone who doesn’t usually say that about Prosecco.
• La Granja 360 Cava Brut NV ($7, purchased, 11.5%): This Trader Joe’s Spanish bubbly, pleasant and sweetish, tastes more like Italian Prosecco than cava. But if you don’t mind the style (common for Trader Joe’s sparkling wines), than you’ll appreciate the soft fruit (less tart green apple and more red delicious) and a much softer mouth feel. But the bubbles are tight, and you can do a lot worse at this price. Imported by Evaki
• Da Luca Prosecco NV ($10, sample, 11%): Acceptable, fairly priced Italian sparkling wine. It’s not especially sweet, which surprised me, but it’s still soft, though the bubbles are tight and the lemon fruit holds the wine together. Imported by Accolade Wines North America
• Dellara Cava Brut NV ($6, sample, 12%): This Aldi Spanish sparkler is a step up from similarly priced supermarket wines like Freixenet. Look for tart lemon and green apple fruit, decent bubbles, and some minerality. Imported by Mack & Schuhle
• De Chanceny Crémant de Loire Brut NV ($17, sample, 12.5%): Professionally made bubbly from France’s Loire, with the telltale chenin blanc lemon fruit and hint of softness. Tight, poppy bubbles and just enough acidity. Imported by Signature Imports
Do you get the idea this producer knows a thing or two about great cheap wine?
The Alain Brumont rose ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is pink wine from France’s Gascony, and we all know how much the Wine Curmudgeon likes Gascon wine. Even more impressive, the Brumont is made with tannat, syrah, and merlot. If anyone had told me a wine made with those three grapes could be so fresh, they would have gotten one of my looks.
But the Brumont is fresh and interesting. It’s more fruity than most Provencal and Spanish roses (cherry, strawberry?) and more New World in style, thanks to those three red grapes. But it’s not heavy, it’s not overdone, and it’s cloying. Somehow, it’s clean and brisk, as rose should be.
Highly recommended, and just the thing for Christmas dinner for people who aren’t sure what to drink, who may not like wine, and for everyone who wants something different.
• Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc CNW 2017 ($15, sample, 12.5%): This California white is exceptional, but I have no idea how much it costs — prices range from $10 to $17. It’s just not well-made and varietally correct chenin (crisp, with lime and tropical fruit, but it’s a wonderful food wine. If you can find it for $15 or less, buy several.
• Juvé y Camps Brut Rose NV ($18, sample, 12.5%): This pink Spanish sparkler is a perennial favorite — always professional and enjoyable. This version is more cava-like (even though it’s made from pinot noir), so more tart red fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Winebow
• Bonny Doon Clos de Gilroy 2018 ($16, purchased, 14%): This California red from Randall Grahm isn’t as grenache-y as past vintages — so less jammy fruit and more spice. It’s different and interesting, and a fine food wine. Plus, probably still a touch young.
The Charles Joguet Chinon Cuvée Terroir demonstrates that French red wine is more than cabernet sauvigon and merlot
Red wine from Franc’s Loire is made with cabernet franc, which explains why most of us have never tasted red wine from France’s Loire. Which is too bad, given the quality of the Charles Joguet Chinon.
The Charles Joguet Chinon Cuvée Terroir ($25, purchased, 13%) is from Chinon in the Loire — not quite coastal, but close enough. That means a cooler climate and less fruity wine, though the Joguet doesn’t taste like that on first impression. But that’s what makes it such an interesting wine — it is fruity (black cherry?) at first. But that gives way to something more Chinon-like: that graphite, almost pencil lead quality that defines Old World cabernet franc, plus a sort of pine forest something or other.
Highly recommended. This is holiday food wine at an incomparable price, whether prime rib, roast salmon, or a vegetarian mushroom dish.
• The Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir 2018 ($29) is the current vintage of one of the best wines I have tasted in almost three decades of doing this. It’s a California wine made with the gamay grape in a region far, far off the tourist track. There usually isn’t much of it, so when I saw it on wine.com, it moved to the top of the holiday wish list. Highly recommended, and marvel at how this wine reflects the berry fruit of the gamay, as well as its terroir.
• Italy’s white wines are too often overlooked, and especially those made with the arneis grape. The Vetti Roero Arneis 2018 ($22) is one such example — almost nutty, with wonderful floral aromas and the soft, citrusy flavors. Drink it on its own, or with holiday seafood or poultry. Highly recommended.
• The Repour Wine Saver ($9 for a 4-pack) is a single-use stopper that preserves leftover wine one bottle at a time. In this, I was surprised at how well it works, and it’s not as expensive as more complicated systems like the VacuVin.
• Wine-Opoly ($21), because why shouldn’t we try to take over the wine world just like Big Wine? No dog or iron playing pieces in this wine-centric version of Monopolyl rather, they are wine bottles.
We’re buying big and red and pricey for holiday wine trends 2019
The wine we’re buying for the holidays this years seems to have little in common with what we bought in 2018. Call it the holiday wine trends 2019 conundrum.
The retailers I talked to three parts of the country said we’re buying big and red and pricey. A Boston retailer reports that his customers are also much less adventurous, opting for the tried and true – and even bourbon and rye whiskey – instead of taking a chance on high priced wine they may not know much about.
Who would have expected that after a year like 2019 and especially after we were apparently looking for different and less expensive in 2018?
“I’m actually kind of surprised that we’re selling so much expensive wine,” says Dan Fredman, who oversees the upscale Biagio Wine & Spirits in Dallas’ Victory Park neighborhood. He is selling lots and lots of Napa Valley caberent sauvignon, as well as Champagne and sparkling wine costing as much as $150.
That’s also the case for the wine shop at Lake Geneva Country Meats, a small grocer in a tourist region in southern Wisconsin. Nick Vorpagel, a long-time friend of the blog, reports that his customers are buying a $16 or $18 California cabernet instead of a $12 bottle, and that paying $15-$20 a bottle seems much more common than a year ago. In fact, his average bottle price increased seven percent this year.
The reason? Premiumization, of course.
“Wine has become so much more expensive that people don’t want to take chances,” says Fredman. “What’s the point of buying or trying something different that costs more, when you can get what you know someone will like?”