New Year’s sparkling wine 2020 recommendations, because value and quality matter
Once again, the blog focuses on value and quality for New Year’s sparkling wine 2020. Consider these wines for toasting, dinners, or just because you’re in the mood for bubbly. Also handy: The blog’s annual wine gift guidelines and the sparkling wine primer.
• Dutcher Crossing Blanc de Blancs 2016 ($45, sample, 12%): California sparkler is top-notch and, given bubbly prices, a fair value. Look for crisp, green apple-y fruit, with some brioche in the background to remind you this is a high-class wine. Very tight bubbles. Highly recommended.
• Bouvet Brut NV ($12, purchased, 12%): This French sparkler from the Loire does not taste like Champagne. Does it taste like quality bubbly, with tight bubbles,a zingy mouth feel. and lemon apple fruit? Yep. Would that all sparkling wine at this price was this well made. Highly recommended. Imported by Kobrand
• Empire Estate Blanc de Blancs NV ($19, sample, 11.9%): Price may be a problem, but this New York riesling sparkler, made with the charmat method, is quality wine — soft bubbles, some green apple fruit, decent minerality, and a long finish.
• Casteller Cava NV ($12, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish bubbly is among the few remaining great cheap Spanish sparkling wines, which have been devastated by consolidation and premiumization. Apple and pear fruit, tight bubbles, and a marvelous wine all around. Highly recommended. Imported by Ole & Obrigado
• Torres Verdeo 2018 ($11, purchased, 13%): Ignore the silly marketing — this Spanish white is made with verdejo, but its name is Verdeo. It’s an astonishing cheap wine, an almost layered effort of something that is almost always one note. There is sort of peach fruit to balance the lemon. Highly recommended. Imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
• Prosper Maufoux Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc NV ($19, sample, 12%): Would that this French sparkling wine — from high-price Burgundy, no less — still cost around $15. But that’s the tariff for you. Still, it remains top-notch bubbly: Fresh, fruity (apples and lemons), tight bubbles, and nary a hint of brioche. Highly recommended. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.
• Naranjas Azules Rosado 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): This pink Spanish is quite traditional, almost orange in color, but also oh so crisp and clean and practically savory. But there’s also more modern amount of strawberry fruit. An odd and interesting and delicious wine. Highly recommended. Imported by PR Selections
• Château de Ribebon 2016 ($14, purchased, 13.5%): Modern-style red Bordeaux blend that’s mostly merlot with dark berry fruit, but tempered by a bit of earth, an almost pine forest aroma, and nicely done tannins. This is about as value-oriented as red Bordeaux gets these days. Imported by Knows Imports
Father’s Day wine 2020: Four wines to make Dad proud
Pandemic got you down? Worried about more wine tariffs? Tired of buying overpriced but not very good wine? Then check out the blog’s Father’s Day wine 2020, where we allow for all of that. Just keep the blog’s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.
Father’s Day wine 2020 suggestions:
• Pedroncelli Friends.red 2018 ($11, sample, 14.2%): This red blend from one of my favorite producers is what all inexpensive California wine should aspire to — soft but not sappy, fruity but not syrupy (dark berries?), balanced and enjoyable. There’s even a tannin wandering around the back. Highly recommended.
• Vinha do Cais da Ribeira Douro 2018 ($9, purchased, 12.5%): Rustic Portuguese white blend, mostly available at Total Wine, that has a touch of citrus and a little minerality. Be better at $7, but still a fair value. Imported by Middlesex Wine & Spirits
• Bodegas Olivares Rosado 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): Grenache-based Spanish pink that combines the grape’s red fruit with long acidity and even a touch of minerality. Much more interesting that it should be and highly recommended.
• Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé 2017 ($15, purchased, 12.5%): Bright, fresh, and fruity sparkling (lots of red fruit) from Bordeaux, and the bubbles are zippy, too.. Not particularly subtle, and you won’t find any brioche or biscuit. But why would you need to?
• 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
The De Chanceny Cremant Brut Rose is pink French bubbly just in time for Mother’s Day
The first time the Wine Curmudgeon tasted this French sparkling wine, it was apparently corked – flawed thanks to the chemical TCA, which muted the flavors and gave it the faint aroma of wet newspaper. Hardly pleasant at all.
The De Chanceny is made with caberent franc, a red grape, in the Loire region of France, using the same technique as much more expensive Champagne. It’s usually a value, about one-third the price of comparable Champagne, and that’s true here. Look for berry aromas, lots of ripe black cherry fruit mixed with some pleasant tartness, terrific, tight bubbles, and a crisp, clean finish. It’s not as luxurious or yeasty as Champagne, but it’s not supposed to be.
In this, it’s food wine – Mother’s Day brunch certainly, but also a bottle for mom to enjoy when all the celebrating is over and she’s on her own again.
The Jean Claude Mas Blanquette de Limoux isn’t Champagne, but it’s not supposed to be — so enjoy the difference
The world does not revolve around Champagne, as I make mention of each year around this time. Sparkling wine is made almost everywhere that wine is made, and there are a variety of interesting, fairly priced, and quality labels. So know that the Jean Claude Mas Blanquette de Limoux NV does not taste like Veuve Clicquot or Nicolas Feuillatte, but also know that it’s not supposed to.
The Jean Claude Mas Blanquette de Limoux ($15, purchased, 12%) is a cremant, which is what sparkling wine from France not made in the Champagne region is called. A cremant from Limoux is made the much the same way as Champagne (the second fermentation is in the bottle and not a steel tank, as with Italy’s Prosecco), but there are a couple of differences. Hence, the production is called methode ancestrale to differentiate it from Champagne’s methode champenoise.
First, cremant de Limoux is made with different grapes, primarly mauzac, which is local to the region. Next, the second fermentation is unaided, so that the bubble creation doesn’t get a boost from the addition of more yeast, as in Champagne. These differences make for subtle, yet interesting changes from the sparkling wine most of us drink.
The Jean Claude Mas Blanquette de Limoux, thanks to the mauzac, is a very traditional blanquette, with a yeasty, brioche kind of finish. But unlike so many Champagnes that finish in that style, it’s also quite fresh and light, with barely ripe apple fruit. In this, it’s almost a food wine – New Year’s brunches, for example. What you don’t want to do is use it for something like mimosas, which would cover up what makes the wine interesting.
The De Chanceny Cremant offers Mother ‘s Day quality at a more than fair price
Sparkling wine value has been pounded by premiumization, as more bubbly costs more money even though it’s not necessarily worth it. This has been a particular problem with French sparkling that isn’t Champagne. These wines, from Burgundy and the Loire in particular, are called cremant to distinguish them from Champagne, and they’re made with local grapes. But they’re made using the same methode champenoise technique and be quite well done.
These cremants used to cost as little as $15 and offer $20 or $25 worth of value. Today, many of them cost $25 but taste like they did when they were $10 less.
The De Chanceny Crémant ($15, purchased, 12.5%) is an exception. It’s professionally made sparkling wine, with chenin blanc lemon fruit and hint of softness that is common in cremant from the Loire. But there is also a bit of chardonnay and cabernet franc to offer structure and a little depth so it’s more than soft and sweetish. Hence, a dry wine with tight, poppy bubbles and just enough acidity to make it sparkle in the mouth.
This is Mother’s Day brunch wine at a more than fair price. Serve it chilled, and enjoy with scrambled eggs, quiche, or anything Mom likes.