Best Bubbles of 2014! Sparkling Wine and Champagne Recommendations
As we approach New Year’s Eve on Wednesday evening, we always post our favorite sparklers and Champagnes just before the big night so readers can pick up some bubbles just in time for their celebrations. We certainly hope you can try a few of these and ring in the New Year on a positive note!
This year’s winner comes from a favorite winery of the Tasting Panel. The 2010 Schramsberg “Blanc de Noir” for $40 received 92 points from the Panel. It is made from 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay. With 9,875 cases you should easily be able to find it. It opens with a musty faint peach bouquet with hints of yeast and lychee. The panel found it to be medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. They really loved its mineral infused green apple flavors with notes of ginger ale. They also detected hints of strawberry and cherry as well. The finish is dry and its acidity and flavors linger and stick around for a very long time. The panel suggested pairing this terrific bubbly with shrimp scampi.
Next up we have seven 91 pointers to share with you. Staying with the same producer, the 2011 Schramsberg “Blanc de Blanc” for $38 is only slightly behind our top finisher. This offering is 100% Chardonnay and even easier to find as 24,898 cases of this wine were made. This popular beauty opens with very tiny bubbles and a yeasty bread dough like bouquet with hints of toast and apple. On the palate, this wine is light bodied, slightly acidic and crisp. We described its flavor profile as a mineral infused apple and pear blend with hints of stone fruit, toast and salty caramel. The finish was dry and its flavors faded away nicely. The panel suggested pairing the very nice sparkler with baked scrod with Ritz crackers or oysters.
The non-vintage Perrier Jouet “Grand Brut” for $45 is consistently one of my personal favorites. It displays a stream of fine bubbles and a gentle strawberry and pear bouquet. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, balanced and very easy to drink. I love its mild mineral infused green apple flavors with hints of light lemon and bread dough. It finishes dry and its tasty flavors drift away nicely. This Champagne would be a perfect New Year’s Eve offering and I plan to serve it!
Our next two 91 point Champagne’s are non-vintage offerings from Gosset. We will start with the “Excellence Brut” for $47. This sparkler is consistently very good. Nicolay found it to offer up golden delicious apple aromas that jump out of the glass along with notes of brioche and hints of caramelized peaches and honey. It is a medium bodied Champagne that displays passion fruit, papaya, and mangoes. There is a lot of acidity that keeps the “Excellence” in check and balanced. The finish is all golden delicious apples, and it lingers for quite some time. It can be enjoyed young or drunk in 5+ years. Nicolay recommended pairing it with lobster dipped in butter. The second Gosset is the “Grande Reserve Brut” for $68. It opens with a nose of tropical fruits, lemon zest, toast, hints of butter and caramel. It drinks like a well-aged sparkling Chablis. It delivers lemon zest flavors along with lilac honey, brioche, starfruit and pineapples. It finishes long and persistent. Drink now.
Our last two 91 pointers are from Besserat de Bellefon. We will start with the non-vintage “Cuvee des Moines Brut Rose” for $65. The nose reminded Nicolay of a strawberry cobbler. In the mouth, it is tart strawberries and lemon mousse, intermingled with chalk and limestone. The acidity knocks you off your feet, but it leaves your palate refreshed and craving more. The finish doesn’t just linger, it endures. Persisting for quite some time. This is one of Besserat best efforts yet. Nicolay says you can enjoy on its own or with steak tartare. Our last 91 pointer is the 2002 Besserat de Bellefon “Cuvee des Moines Brut Millesime” Champagne for $70. This blend of 54% Chardonnay, 31% Pinot Meunier and 15% Pinot Noir was enjoyed by all that tried it. It is a traditional-styled Champagne that opens with a toasted nuts and candied fruit like bouquet with hints of brett. On the palate, the panel found it to be medium bodied and displaying ample acidity. They described its flavors as toasty caramelized pear with hints of tangerine. It finishes dry and its flavors linger for quite a while. The panel suggested serving this classic Champagne with Thai food.
We will kick off our 90 pointers with a sparkler that is really finding its stride this season. It really impressed the panel and was also the favorite pouring at a very large corporate Christmas party that I recently attended. Everyone was drinking this crowd pleaser over the still wine offerings. So what is this wine? It is the non-vintage Mumm Napa “Brut Prestige.” For $22 and with 173,000 cases made, this should be a serious consideration for your holiday parties. It is faint yellow colored with very small bubbles. It opens with a woodsy faint gala apple bouquet with a hint of peach. The panel really enjoyed its lemon verbena flavors with hints of minerality, stone fruit and grapefruit. They felt this sparkler would be a perfect wedding option, as a second glass is a must! They would pair it with quiche Lorraine tart appetizers.
Another good value offering that was awarded 90 points was the non-vintage J Vineyard “Cuvee 20” for $28. This blend of 54% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir, and 2% Pinot Meunier is very good and will certainly be a crowd pleaser at your holiday parties. It didn’t last long at one of ours. It opens with a bread dough bouquet with hints of lemon meringue. We found it to be light bodied, acidic, crisp and pleasant. It displays tasty mineral infused pear flavors with hints of lemon and apple. The finish is dry and its flavors linger for quite some time. We found this sparkler to be very versatile and it would pair well with many foods. That said spring rolls would be our top pairing.
Schramsberg returns to the recommended list with its non-vintage “Mirabelle Brut Rose” for $28. This blend of 53% Chardonnay and 47% Pinot Noir was one of Nicolay’s top good value selections for the year. It opens with aromas of candied blood oranges, with hints of red currant, raspberries, and pomegranate. He noted that the palate closely resembled the nose with the blood orange, pomegranate, and raspberry notes coming through with strength alongside ruby red grapefruit, and a caramelized brown sugar finish. The acidity was well balanced leaving your palate refreshed and wanting more. He suggested pairing it with a honey-ginger salmon.
Our next two 90 pointers are a pair from J Vineyards. The first is the non-vintage “Brut Rose” for $38. This blend of 66% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay and 1% Pinot Meunier was very popular with the panel and will be a crowd pleaser at your upcoming holiday parties. It opens with a yeasty and faint strawberry like bouquet hints of rose and almond. It is light bodied, slightly acidic and savory with strawberry and bread dough flavors. The panel also detected notes of nicely integrated minerality and hints of tangerine and grapefruit. It finishes dry and its flavors and acidity linger for a very long time. The panel suggested pairing this very nice sparkler with fresh Norwegian sliced salmon. Our next J Vineyards sparkler is the non-vintage “Cuvee XB” for $40. This “Extra Brut” sparkler displays lots of very fine small bubbles. It opens with a faint pear bouquet with a hint of lemon and toasted bread. We found it to be medium bodied, semi-sweet and savory. The flavor profile is a mineral infused lemon and apple blend with notes of stone fruit. It finishes dry and its flavors fade away nicely.
Our next 90 pointer is the non-vintage Piper Heidsieck “Brut” Champagne for $40. This Champagne is light bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. The flavor profile is a tasty mineral infused lime with hints of white pepper, grapefruit, and green apple. The finish is dry and its flavors and acidity linger for quite some time. The panel suggested pairing this very good Champagne with bacon wrapped scallops or honey baked brie.
Nicolas Feuillatte Non-Vintage “Brut Reserve” Champagne (France) $40 (90)
The nose is a bouquet of flowers that sits atop a fruit basket; bananas, apples, pears, oranges, lilacs, and toast. On the palate, the bubbles take over at first and then quickly give way to peaches, nectarines, and hints of jackfruit. The toast and yeast notes of this wine linger for quite some time.
Gloria Ferrer 2008 “Brut Rose” (Carneros, CA) $42 (90)
The effects of aging a wine can be clearly seen in this splendid Rose. It has notes of fresh rose petals, dried blood orange rinds, and papaya on the nose. It displays raspberries, strawberries, red currant, and cherries. This has been one of the better rose offerings from Gloria Ferrer. Well done! Pairs well with a fruit salad or salmon.
Besserat de Bellefon Non-Vintage “Cuvee des Moines Blanc de Blanc” Champagne (France) $55 (90)
This traditional-styled Champagne with small bubbles was well received by the panel. It is light bodied and slightly acidic. The panel enjoyed its tart green apple flavors with notes of bread dough, lime, minerals and hints of clementine. The panel suggested serving it with sushi.
Mumm Napa 2006 “DVX” (Napa, CA) $60 (90)
This sparkler is medium bodied, displays crisp acidity and is mouthwatering. The flavor profile is Squirt soda with nicely integrated minerality and notes of ginger. It finishes dry and its flavors go on for quite a while. We would pair it with Emeril’s crab cakes or a seafood casserole.
Our 89 pointers are where you will find some additional very good offerings.
We start with a unique sparkler from Germany. The non-vintage Fitz “Sekt Extra Trocken” Riesling for $17 is quite unique. Nicolay said if he had not known this was a Riesling he would be dumbfounded. It drinks like a trocken spatlese, with bubbles, which is what most Champagne producers wished they could achieve regularly. The palate is as inviting with flavors of peaches, sun dried apricots, almonds and prominent minerality. Pair with honey-glazed ham.
Our next two 89 pointers come from Gloria Ferrer. Their non-vintage “Blanc de Blancs” for $22 is a high quality offering at a very good price. It displays flavors of bread dough, nectarines, hints of lemon custard, and clementines. Its medium bubbles break up what could be a heavy wine, making it extremely refreshing and enjoyable. Pair with bay oysters or shrimp scampi. The second Gloria Ferrer offering is the non-vintage “Blanc de Noirs” for $22. This sparkler is predominantly made from Pinot Noir. On the nose, this reminded Nicolay of a breakfast he once had; toast with strawberry jam, with a side of sliced figs. It drinks a bit lighter than that with hints of raspberries, strawberries, rose petals and pink grapefruit. The finish on the Blanc de Noirs is a bit richer than that of the Blanc de Blancs, but it is every bit as enjoyable.
Schramsberg Non-Vintage “Mirabelle Brut” (California) $26 (89)
The Mirabelle’s bouquet is reminiscent of Schramsberg’s higher end wines. Labeled as Brut, this drinks just under Extra Dry. It showcases lots of body typical of a sparkler from California. It exhibits ginger, ripe nectarines, strawberries and rhubarb flavors. Pair with a fruit tart.
Weltevrede 2009 “Philip Jonker The Ring Blanc de Blancs Brut” (S. Africa) $28 (89)
This sparkler’s bubbles are immense and take some time to give way, but once they do “The Ring” drinks beautifully. Medium to full bodied with flavors of toast, minerality, caramelized apples, ripe peaches, papaya and apricots. Finish is shorter than desired, but still enjoyable.
Our first two 88 pointers are very good deals and should be seriously considered if on a budget. The non-vintage Villa Rosa “Moscato d’Asti” for $11 is made from 100% Moscato. It opens with a very fragrant and inviting tangerine and pear bouquet. It is light bodied, slightly effervescent, fruit forward and pleasantly sweet. It displays tasty pear flavors with notes of ripe orange throughout. I also detected hints of apricot. Serve slightly chilled as an opener at your holiday parties with mini-spring rolls. The Mas Fi non-vintage “Brut Cava” for $11 opens with a bouquet of flowers; from lilac to roses, and everything in between. It displays pronounced Granny Smith apple flavors with hints white peaches and cashew. The bubbles are larger and rounder than the Brut Nature. That should be expected as this is supposed to be a crowd pleaser.
La Marca Non-Vintage “Prosecco” (Veneto, Italy) $17 (88)
This sparkler displays a few streaming bubbles and opens with lemon and strawberry bouquet. It is a medium bodied and slightly acidic. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused pilsner beer with notes of almond and pear. I would pair this Prosecco with bacon wrapped scallops.
Yorkville Cellars 2013 “Malbec Rennie Vineyard Brut Rose” (California) $36 (88)
Cherries, raspberries, strawberries, and pomegranate makeup the nose of the unique offering. The palate is more floral than it is fruity and is lighter than what I had expected. A very unique experience. Try this organic sparkler for something different.
Santa Julia Non-Vintage “Brut Rose” (Mendoza, Argentina) $13 (87)
The nose is a very fragrant strawberry infused mist. There are hints of cherry and strawberries, but the main flavor here is cranberry. The flavor and tartness is reminiscent of cranberry juice. The Santa Julia Brut Rose is well made and easy drinking. Meant to be drunk young.
Barefoot Non-Vintage “Bubbly Prosecco” (Italy) $12 (86)
The Barefoot Prosecco is the most impressive of all the wines from the Barefoot Bubbly lineup. The palate is very inviting displaying notes of ripe starfruit, Meyer lemons, and white grapefruit. The mid-palate is refreshing with plenty of acidity. The finish lingers for a little bit.
We hope you enjoy these Sparklers and Champagnes as much as we did. Be sure to share your favorites with the group. Post a comment and tell us about your favorite! Happy New Year! Cheers – Ken
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