Taste Test: Sparkling Wines
We sampled 11 value sparklers, discovering some new favorites and a few that fell flat.
Value sparkling wines can make or break a New Year’s party. Photograph by Kyle Gustafson.
Conventional wine-world wisdom has it that the best way to discover new bottles is to head to a good vino emporium and ask the pros. With New Year’s Eve upon us, the Best Bites Blog imbibing panel put this approach to the test, soliciting staffers at some of our favorite local beverage boutiques for 11 effervescents between $9 and $23, then taste-testing the recommendations. Read on for the results.
NV Domaine du Vissoux Crémant de Bourgogne Brut ($22.99)
Balanced, and delicately bubbled, but with little to brag about in the way of finish, this sparkling wine struck our tasters as perfectly adequate, if not inspiring. “It would be fantastic in a mimosa” was one panelist’s verbal shrug.
2008 Domaine Albert Mann Crémant d’Alsace ($21.99)
Sippers found few flaws with this white blend from Alsace—a sophisticated wine, particularly at this price point. It was our third favorite of the group.
NV Hubert Clavelin Crémant du Jura Comte Chardonnay Tête de Cuvée Brut ($19.99)
Talk about faint praise. Upon tasting this bubbly from the cool climate of Jura in eastern France, one of our tasters described it as a “better version of Freixenet.”
NV Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley ($19.99)
The tasting table universally approved of Roederer’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend—at just under $20, it’s punching way above its weight class with lots of lovely itty-bitty bubbles, pear and tart apple notes on the palate, and a crisp, lingering finish.
NV Domaine des Aubuisières Vouvray Brut Méthode Traditionnelle ($18.99)
The panel’s favorite wine of the bunch, this Chenin Blanc was lauded for its beautiful bubbles, overall balance, and fresh finish.
San Giovanni Prosecco Superiore Brut ($17.99)
Tasters noticed some yeast on the nose and wheat on the palate. While not the best of the three Proseccos, it was deemed a more-than-passable party wine.
NV Chandon Extra Dry Riche Champagne ($13.99)
“Completely manufactured-tasting” was the consensus on this offering from Chandon in the Napa Valley. None of our tasters fell for the stone fruit notes or the sweet finish. “It’s terrible,” said one sipper, and no one disagreed.
NV Zardetto Prosecco Brut ($12.99)
A crisp Prosecco that’s fruity on the palate and brimming with bubbles, this lively Italian wine impressed the panel; it would be equally welcome at a New Year’s Eve shindig or a Wednesday evening wind-down at home. Zardetto certainly delivers a lot of bang for your bubbly buck.
NV Flare Espumoso De Moscatel Sparkling Wine ($11.99)
This honey-noted, vivacious Spanish wine, made in the style of an Italian Moscato, pleased those tasters who were generally fond of sweeter sparklers, but could be tricky at a party. “People will think it’s cheap because it’s not brut,” pointed out one sipper. Still, Moscato fans should keep it in mind next time they need something to pair with the cheese or dessert course.
NV Torre Alta Prosecco Veneto ($11.99)
“Cheap-tasting,” “acrid,” and “bitter” were among the insults hurled at this budget bubbly. Tell us how you really feel, tasters.
NV Cristalino Cava Brut ($8.99)
The most inexpensive bottle of the bunch showed some minerality on the nose and is crisp and refreshing on the palate. It’s no mind-blower but would do well at rollicking events where the wine moves fast.
Whatever bottle you pop this year, be sure to save a stash for midnight, and have a very happy New Year’s Eve.