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Category Archives: Sparkling wine

Celebrating without Champagne

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champagneEven before the Champagne business adopted Stormtrooper 101 as its business model, its product was too expensive for almost all of us who buy wine. A decent bottle costs at least $30, and it’s probably closer to $40 by the time you find something interesting. So what’s a wine drinker to do who wants to celebrate with sparkling wine, but doesn’t want to buy Champagne?

Consider these alternatives (and if you’re confused, check out the blog’s sparkling wine FAQ):

• Look elsewhere in France: Champagne isn’t the only part of the country that produces sparkling wine, and the values elsewhere can sometimes be astounding. These wines, called cremant, include Louis Bouillot Brut Rose ($18, purchased, 12%). The Bouillot is from Burgundy, where there is no question of quality, and it’s made with the same kinds of grapes as Champagne. Look for tight bubbles, a little caramel, and muted strawberry fruit. Highly recommended.

• Go domestic: Big Wine comes through here, with Domaine Ste. Michelle from Washington state (the same company that does table wine as Chateau Ste. Michelle). These sparklers are made in the Champagne style, so that the second fermentation is in the bottle, cost about $12, and are available in what seems like every grocery store in the country. If they aren’t complex wines, they usually deliver more than $12 worth of value.

• Spend a couple of dollars more for a better quality Prosecco: The surge in Prosecco’s popularity means a lot of ordinary wine is selling for $15, which can make it difficult to find value. Still, it’s out there, like the Valdo Prosecco Brut ($11, sample, 11%). It was much better than I expected, with more depth and character, a touch of yeast, and some sweet lemon fruit.

• Cava is your friend: Regular visitors know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, but it’s worth repeating — it may be the best wine value in the world. The Casa Pedro Domecq Cava Gran Campo Viejo Brut Reserva ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is a serious cava, with lots of apple fruit and lots of bubbles, and it will be gone before you know it.

Wine of the week: Juvé y Camps Cava Brut Rosé NV

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Juvé y CampsThe Wine Curmudgeon, faced with the prospect of never drinking Champagne again, is not flinching. The bully boys at the Champagne trade council, whose behavior in the Champagne Jayne case is inexcusable on both moral and free speech grounds, can take their wine and water my garden with it.

I am more than happy to drink cava, which is not only a better value but made by people who seem to understand that their product is not more important than Liberté, Égalité, and Fraternité. Hence my the wine of the week for The Holiday that Must Not be Named: the Juvé y Camps Cava Brut Rosé ($15, purchased, 12%).

Juvé y Camps is one of my favorite cava producers, offering a little more style than the $10 and $12 cavas that I like so well, and this rose does just that. Look for ripe, red juicy fruit (strawberry?), made more in the style of a French cremant (sparkling wine from France not from the Champagne region) than most cavas. So it’s a little rounder and richer, which gives the wine a more pleasant and creamier mouth feel.

Drink this chilled on its own or with something grilled or roasted, be it shrimp, chicken, or beef. It’s the kind of wine to serve with dinner, enjoy, and then smile at how much you enjoyed it.

And did I mention it’s not Champagne?

Wine of the week: JCB No. 21 Brut Cremant NV

wineofweek

 JCB No. 21The Wine Curmudgeon is not drinking Champagne for this New Year’s; the First Amendment is more important. But that doesn’t mean I can’t drink terrific French sparkling wine.

The JCB No. 21 ($15, sample, 12%) is a cremant, a sparkling wine from a part of France that isn’t Champagne. In this case, it’s Burgundy, which means it’s made with the same grapes, from a similar part of France in terms of terroir, as Champagne — and at one-third the price.

Look for a nutty aroma, lots of crisp green apple fruit mixed with something like peach, the tight, firm bubbles that I love, and even some minerality. All in all, a much better wine that it has a right to be, and perfect for this holiday. In fact, I tasted it last month at the memorial service for my friend Diane Teitelbaum, and it was a fitting wine for Diane — lots of quality at a very good price.

One note: Prices for the JCB No. 21 are all over the place, with some as high as $25. It’s not quite that good, but if you can find it around $15, it’s an excellent value.

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