It’s December and you know what that means, don’t you? It’s bubbly time!
Marketers tell us that the majority of sparkling wines are bought and consumed between November and January. That’s a shame, since I firmly believe that sparkling wine should be consumed year long, particularly on Monday nights when paying bills. But that’s another topic for another column.
Given that this is the time of year when the majority of you are heading out to the store to pick up your once-a-year-bottle-of-bubbly, I made it my mission to try out several readily available, under-$30 bottles of sparkling wine (ok, my husband Keith and some friends helped). Hey, it’s a rough job but someone has to do it!
Pay attention not only to the report on the wine, but to where and when we tasted them. You’ll notice not a single bottle opened to celebrate a wedding, graduation, or New Year.
(All wines were purchased at Farm Fresh in Williamsburg, but we lost the receipt so all prices are estimates based on online prices.)
Roederer Estate, Anderson Valley Brut, estate bottled. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. We started our tasting on a Wednesday night before I headed out for my monthly book club (don’t worry, I only had one glass). A barely-there pale straw color filled with bubbles garnered this California sparkler a nine on the Gordon family bubblemeter. This is a wine for anything. Dry, nutty, with a hint of toasted bread, it would work fabulously with just about any food you can think of, even spicy Chinese food. About $24.
Casalnova Prosecco. 100 percent Prosecco. We adore Prosecco, the Italian version of Champagne. When Keith picked this one up at the store the wine manager told him it was a “get lucky wine.” Well, I don’t know about that, but we certainly enjoyed it. We didn’t find it as enticing as the Roederer when we tasted it as a before-dinner aperitif with our friend Linda. My notes call it “light and simple.” However, when we tasted it again the following night it seemed more flavorful, with a slight lemony taste. Only a three on the bubblemeter, however. About $18.
Brut Cuvée Sparkling Wine Taittinger Domaine Carneros. This wine hails from the California winery of famed French champagne maker Taittinger. Full disclosure: We drank it while on a sunset cruise with close friends so, undoubtedly, the setting contributed to our love of the wine. Still, Domaine Carneros is considered one of the top sparkling wine producers in the country, so you can’t go wrong. The one we sipped (from plastic cups, no less) was a classic Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend with a lovely nuttiness on the palate. Keith gave it an eight or nine on the bubblemeter. About $26.
Graham Beck Brut Rosé nonvintage. We popped the cork on this beautiful pale pink South African wine the Wednesday before Thanksgiving with friends at our “rivah” house in Mathews. A classic mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the color comes from leaving the skins of the Pinot Noir in contact with the juice. To me, this was the fruitiest of the wines, with raspberry and strawberry notes reminiscent of a May afternoon. About $15.
Hardy’s Sparkling Shiraz. If you like your sparkling wine red, this Australian sparkler is the one for you. Rich and fruity, bordering on the edge of sweet but never quite falling into it, this wine provided the perfect opening for a Thanksgiving celebration with friends. You’ll get blackcurrents, cherries and, yes, a hint of chocolate. About $18.