The Graham Beck Cap Classique Brut is a South African sparkler that specializes in quality and value
South Africa’s Graham Beck sparkling wines have long offered value and quality. But like many South African wines, availability has sometimes been a problem. That has especially been the case in the past couple of years, no doubt because premiumization made them seem too cheap and consolidation made it more difficult to get them on store shelves.
So it was with great joy that I scooped up the Graham Beck Cap Classique Brut ($15, purchased, 12%) when I found it on a store shelf. Sparkling wine at this price does not get much better, even if it’s one of my beloved cavas.
Look for tight bubbles, enough fruit so that it’s noticeable (green apples and lemon?), some minerality, and just enough creaminess for people who like that sort of thing in their sparkling wine. Even better, it doesn’t have any of the things that too many bubblies at this price pass off as acceptable – extra sweetness, a bitter finish, and big, sloppy bubbles.
Highly recommended, and especially with The Holiday that Must Not be Named taking place next week. A candidate for the 2022 Hall of Fame, and almost worth considering, despite the price, for the 2022 Cheap Wine of the Year.
The Adami Prosecco is Italian bubbly that shows how enjoyable Prosecco can be
Those of us who want more from Prosecco than a sweet, fizzy wine often have difficulty finding something that costs less than $15. Which is where the Adami Prosecco comes in.
The Adami Prosecco Brut Garbel NV ($13, purchased, 11%) combines all that makes this style of Italian sparkling wine popular while not dumbing it down. That means a quality bubbly with a bit of sweetness that is part of what’s going on and not its reason for being. In fact, I have three tasting notes for the Adami over the past decade, and each says mostly the same thing. That’s amazing consistency for a wine at this price.
Look for a fresh and rounded wine, with more apple and less tropical fruit than many similarly-priced Proseccos. It has also more and sturdier bubbles than many others, for a more enjoyable fizziness. Highly recommended, whether for New Years or just because it’s sparkling time.
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
Quality white Burgundy for less than $40? Meet the Michel Sarrazin et Fils Les Grognots
Regular visitors know that white Burgundy, France’s high-end version of chardonnay, is the Wine Curmudgeon’s guilty pleasure. But I get to drink even less of it these days, what with the Trump wine tariff and continually rising prices for all Burgundy. Which is why I was so excited to see the Michel Sarrazin et Fils Les Grognots.
The Big Guy bought a sale bottle of the Michel Sarrazin et Fils Les Grognots 2018 ($32, purchased, 13%) as a Thanksgiving gift, for which I was most grateful. It was all I had hoped for: top-notch white Burgundy, which includes o ak so delicately used that it’s difficult to describe. You know it’s there, but you don’t worry about where it is.
This is a more fresh and fruit-forward white Burgundy than others. Hence, it’s ready to drink now, but should also improve over the next three or four years, as the fruit moves to the background. Look for lemon zest, almost ripe pear fruit, some white pepper, and quite a stony finish.
Highly recommended; even at its normal price, this is what passes for bargain white Burgundy these days. This is holiday wine, perfect with roast turkey. Imported by North Berkeley Imports
• Joe Roberts’ “Wine Taster’s Guide” ($14.99, Rockridge Press) is neither pretentious nor expensive — which is why it’s on this list. Joe, who I’ve known almost since I started the blog, is passionate about the failings of post-modern wine writing, and especially that we buy wine we may not like because the process is so intimidating.
• The Benziger de Coelo Quintus Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 ($68, sample, 14.1%) is a gorgeous, structured — albeit not especially subtle — Sonoma Coast pinot noir. It’s full of dark fruit, maybe even some tea, and the soft tannins that used to be common in California pinot. Not quite sure how I got a sample, but very glad I did. Highly recommended.
• The Wine Curmudgeon has a drawer full of wine-stained tablecloths, mostly from dripping wine bottles. Hence, the marble wine coaster ($19.95), which not only would have saved many of my tablecloths but looks good, too.
• Ice wine is one of the great joys of the wine world, but is increasingly difficult to find and increasingly expensive. And it wasn’t easily available or cheap to begin with. So when a winemaker reader tipped me to the Kiona Vineyards Chenin Blanc Ice Wine 2018 ($50/375 ml bottle, sample, 9%), I asked for a sample — something I rarely do. And I was not disappointed. This is ice wine in all its glory — lusciously sweet, but balanced, with pineapple and tropical fruit and refreshing crispness. Highly recommended.
The 2017 is typical of the producer’s style: An earthiness that I like and that is almost Old World; restrained berry fruit, so not quite brambly but not California, either; and refined tannins. The latter are noticeable, but don’t get in the way and are not easy to do with pinot noir. Too many wines, even at this price, either forgo the tannins entirely or boost them so it seems like they sould be in cabernet sauvignon.
Highly recommended, and more than a fair value. This is on its way to being quite complex, and should be even more interesting in a couple of years. Yes, Thanksgiving wine, but a red wine for any occasion that calls for something well-made and a step up.