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December 13, 2012

Pop the Cork on the Holidays with Sparkling Wines at a Great Value

With the New Year upon us, ditch the Champagne for these beautiful blondes…and a few redhead rosés

  • By Katie Kelly Bell for her Forbes "Adventures in Taste" blog, reprinted with permission from Forbes magazine

Champagne is so obvious…Why not surprise your guests with an effervescent sparkling wine instead?  The same sublime bubbles but considerably less bucks. And in our nearly over-the-cliff economy, that may be a godsend. Read below for the best picks, taste and value-wise, in Champagne-alternative bubbly.

Sparkling wine made in the methode traditionelle style is made exactly the same way as Champagne, with secondary fermentation occurring in the bottle. It’s a fabulous alternative to Champagne. However, the French are quick to note a few differences: no sparkling wine has the magical combination of chalky French soil, chalk caves for aging and of course hundreds of years of experience.

All true, but it remains a fact that there are some amazing sparkling wines out there…and they tend to be less expensive than Champagne, which is always a plus.  It’s a thirsty world and demand for the bubbles grows each year. According to, sparkling wine and Champagne sales on their site alone grew roughly 21% over this past year. We should all be glad that winemakers across the globe are willing to take on the arduous task of making sparkling wine. I encourage you to make festive bubbles a part of your week all year long; why save all the pleasure for just the major celebrations in life?  It’s also important to note that bubbles go well with an astonishing array of foods, so when in doubt, go with fizz. Here’s my short list on a few sparklers that taste as good as the real thing.


Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut, NV, $40

This is a classic blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Elegant and delightful all around with a nose of apple and ginger. It possesses the twin virtues of being racy and rich at the same time.


Thibaut Janisson, Brut, NV, Virginia (yes, Virginia), $37 -$40

Crisp, vibrant, an absolute joy of a wine to drink…possibly because you keep saying, “This is from Virginia!” It’s not easy to find, but if you see a bottle, grab it. 100% Chardonnay from the Monticello Appellation.


Gruet Rosé, NV, New Mexico, (yes, New Mexico) $15

Lovely in the glass with a floral nose plump with strawberries, the crisper style is perfect for getting the party started.



CJR Reginato ‘Celestina’ Rosé of Malbec, NV, Argentina, $20

This limited production boutique bubbly is hand-crafted from Malbec grapes and one of Argentina’s best values in sparkling wine. Light mousse texture with some warm rounder notes, great for toasting and enjoying with a meal.


Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley, NV, $22-$25

Made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Pretty in the glass with some orange peel and strawberry notes, clean and refreshing, delightfully fun.


Ferrari Perlé, $33

Crafted from 100% Chardonnay this Italian sparkler’s finesse and elegance calls to mind the shapely curves of a Ferrari (though there's no relation between this Italian wine grower and the famed Italian car-makers). The nose combines fresh-cut apple laced with lemon zest and rounder toasty baked bread notes.


Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour Brut Rosé$36

A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Wild strawberries dominate the nose complimented by a hint of peach and a nice spicy kick. Just plain fun to drink.


Szigeti Brut, Austria$22

This bubbly hails from Austria, made from the Gruner-Veltliner grape, which tends to be very lean and crisp. There is a bit of residual sugar in this wine but it still has a refreshing crispness, with ripe apple notes popping out of the glass. Rather like biting into a ripe Pink Lady apple, perfect with cheese slathered in a fruit compote.