Category Archives: Sparkling wine

Wine of the week: Casteller Cava NV


casteller cavaSomehow, despite the Wine Curmudgeon’s passion for cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, and several reviews of the Casteller rose cava, I have neglected to review the Casteller brut. What better time time to rectify this than for Thanksgiving?

The Casteller cava ($10, purchased, 11.5%) does everything sparkling wine is supposed to do, regardless of price. It has tight bubbles that sparkle up from the bottom of the glass; a vague notion of the toast that is part of Champagne’s appeal; and crisp, fresh, sweet lemon fruit. In this, it’s not exactly soft like some Proseccos or sweet sparklers, but more fruit forward, and certainly not unpleasant.

And, for your $10, you can buy four bottles the Casteller cava instead of one bottle of very ordinary Champagne. Highly recommended, and almost certain to enter the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame in six weeks. Chill this and serve it with Thanksgiving dinner, on its own, or any time you feel like something bubbly. Which, as regular visitors here know, is any time at all.

Expensive wine 78: Raumland Marie-Luise Brut 2008


 Raumland Marie-LuiseGerman sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne style? How much wine geekier does it get? Not much, but the Raumland Marie-Luise is well worth the trouble to find and the price you will pay.

The amazing thing about the Raumland Marie-Luise ($40, sample, 12%) is not that it’s well made, but that it’s such a value, even at $40. I’ve tasted Champagne (before the boycott) at that price and even $20 more that wasn’t as pleasurable to drink — mass market plonk at high-end prices. The Raumland is made with pinot noir, astonishing in itself given the rarity and inconsistency of German pinot, but even more so given the wine’s subtlety and style. This is not an oaky, yeasty sparkling bomb, but a wine with fine, tight bubbles, hints of berry fruit, an almost spice-like aroma, and bone dry.

Highly recommended, though it may be difficult to find. If you can, serve it on its own (chilled, of course) or with seafood and chicken. We had it with a shrimp boil during the infamous wine samples dinner, and the Raumland was gone in minutes. This is also a fine gift for any open-minded sparkling wine drinker.

Celebrating without Champagne


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.

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