Tag Archives: sparkling wine

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.

Ask the WC 8: Restaurant wine, storing wine, sparkling wine


wine advice Because the customers always have wine questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular wine advice feature. Ask me a wine-related question by clicking here.

I agree with you about restaurant wine prices. Even though I want wine with my meal, I rarely order it when I eat out. First, the cost of a glass of wine in a restaurant is two-thirds of the price of a bottle in a store. Second, with few exceptions, wine lists offer very little, if any, local wine, and the wines they do offer are unimaginative grocery store wines. Why don’t restaurants listen to consumers, or their consultants? The consultants tell them this, don’t they?
Frustrated in Texas

Dear Frustrated:
Ironically, I had a similar conversation with an executive at a major U.S. wine company the other day. You’d think, he said, since almost every restaurant that lowers prices sells more wine, that everyone would lower prices. Instead, he said, restaurants seem to be focused on revenue, where they don’t care if they sell less wine because they think higher prices will make up the difference in sales. This approach didn’t make much sense to either of us, but what do we know?

Dear Curmudgeon:
With all the screwcaps and synthetic corks these days, is it still necessary to store wine with the neck tilting down? And is there a period of time where traditionally corked wine can be stored standing up?
A standup wine drinker

Dear Standup:
Wines with cork closures are stored on their sides to prevent the cork from drying out. Since a screwcap or synthetic won’t dry out, you can store it anyway you want (as long as you keep the wine away from light, heat, and vibrations). Having said that, and to answer the second part of your question, most wine can be stored standing up, regardless of closure, since you’re probably going to drink it long before it matters how it was stored. One of my favorite wine statistics: as much as 90 percent of the wine that is bought is consumed with 24 hours, making storage irrelevant.

Hey Curmudge:
Enlightened wine drinkers know that white wines are at their best when poured at a few degrees above refrigerator temp. Ergo, shouldn’t the same apply to sparkling wines and Champagnes? So when people get the juice as cold as possible and then make an effort to keep things that way by shuttling the opened bottle back and forth to fridge or ice bucket, is that not counterproductive?
Love those bubbles

Dear Bubbles:
You asked something I have never thought about, figuring white wine was white wine. However, most of the sources I consulted said bubbly should be a little cooler than non-sparkling white wine — mid-40s F vs. low- to mid-50s F. No one quite knew why (I’m assuming it has something to do with the bubbles), but this gives me an opportunity for a class project in the fall when I teach at El Centro. We can do a temperature tasting.

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 7: Winespeak, availability, Bordeaux
Ask the WC 6: Box wine, wine closeouts, open wine
Ask the WC 5: Getting drunk, restaurant wine, wine reviews

Fourth of July wine 2015


Fourth of July wineWhat do many of us do when we celebrate a birthday? Drink wine, of course, whether it’s for a toast or for a birthday dinner. So why not do the same thing when the United States celebrates its birthday?

Best yet, the Fourth of July is a terrific porch wine holiday, a concept that doesn’t get enough attention in our rush to drink as much heavy, over-oaked, and too much alcohol wine because our wine betters tell us we’re supposed to.

So consider these wines as a starting point for your July 4 celebration (and all with a July 4 connection):

Listel Grain de Gris Rose 2014 ($12, purchased, 12.5%): This very pale rose, from Camargue in Van Gogh country in the south of France, is unlike almost any French rose I’ve ever had. There’s freshness and lots of soft strawberry fruit, but it’s not crisp or tart. Having said that, it’s still fun to drink, and the bottle is gone before you realize it. And, of course, we wouldn’t have won the Revolutionary War without French money, troops, and ships.

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige NV ($20, purchased, 12.5%): Tried and true California sparkler with firm bubbles and apple and citrus fruit — and is widely available. Price isn’t bad, either, given how ridiculous most Champagne prices are.

Pedroncelli Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($14, sample, 13.4%): This California white is only going to get better with age, and it’s well done now — aromatic grassiness and some citrus, plus clean, crisp, and a solid finish.

Baron Amarillo Rioja Reserva 2010 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): This Spanish tempranillo — Spain being another important U.S. ally in 1776 — has lots of oak and cherry fruit in some sort of balance, though not as subtle as more expensive reservas. Still, better than most of the world’s $10 wine, and just what you want for a July 4 barbecue.

More Fourth of July wine:
Fourth of July wine 2014

Fourth of July wine 2013
Fourth of July wine 2012
Wine of the week: Josep Masachs Ressò 2013

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