Planning a New Year's party and don't know which bubbly to serve? Join the club. Sparkling wines vary widely in quality and price around the Rogue Valley. So, it's not uncommon to feel a little intimidated.
You can pay as little as $4 a bottle for a mass-produced California label or more than $100 for an exceptional French import. But ask the experts and they'll tell you that quality need not be expensive. You can find good values in the $7 to $19 range.
There are a few possibilities under $20. One is LongSword Accolade Sparkling Chardonnay from the Applegate Valley. Another is Foris Brut from Cave Junction, also made with chardonnay. Both usually retail for about $20 but can sometimes be found on sale for less. And if some is still available, check out Cuckoo’s Nest Fizze Early Muscat, made by Bryan Wilson who has since become the winemaker at Foris. It sells for about $14. Northwest-Wine.com called it “wonderfully aromatic, delightfully fizzy and deliciously sweet.”
Planning a big party? If you buy a case of sparkling wine or champagne from a wine shop, the price per bottle may drop by several dollars.
Here are some other relative bargains spotted around the Rogue Valley recently:
- Wolf Blass Brut Barossa Valley from Australia, about $12. It earned 85 points from the Wine Spectator. Tasting notes speak of "creamy, light flavors of pear and citrus."
- Gloria Ferrier Blanc d'Noir, a California sparkler for about $19. It earned 91 points from the Wine Enthusiast, while the Wine News wrote of its "full, rich flavors of apple, banana and pecan."
- Mumm Napa Brut Prestige of California, made primarily of pinot noir and chardonnay from 50 different Napa Valley vineyards, officially $20 but often found for less. Mumm Napa also makes a Brut Rosé but it's $24.
- Scharffenberger Brut Mendocino County. Another from California often on sale for about $16. This one got 91 points from the Wine Enthusiast and is described as "clean and refreshing."
So, check out one or more of these suggestions and get ready for a New Year's celebration that's festive, out of the ordinary, yet relatively affordable.
Segura Viudas Brut Cava Reserva from Spain, is "great for its clean, delicate yet rich flavor," says Andy Phillips, manager of the wine bar at Ashland's Winchester Inn. And you can often find it for as little as $7, definitely a "best buy."
Just a little more expensive is Paringa Sparkling Shiraz South Australia, usually found in the $10-$13 range. "Fruity and delicious," says Jason Gregg, Harry & David Country Village wine specialist in Medford.
Gregg also has praise for two Italian sparkling wines, Lunetta Prosecco Brut ($10) "light, crisp and refreshing," and Marlunghe Fior d'Arancio ($12 to 15). Made from the orange muscat grape, the latter is "sweet, frothy, not cloying, and fresh and clean on the finish," he says. "This is a real treat."
Another choice priced around $12 is Bernard Delmas Blanquette de Limoux from Southern France. "Lean and direct with straw, honey and toasted almond notes with solid structure," says Phillips.
Other recommendations from the Winchester Wine Bar manager include Graham Beck Brut from Western Cape, South Africa ($17) for its "light yeasty aromas, good fruit with rich creamy complexity"; Domaine Meriwether Brut Cuvee Discovery from Oregon's Willamette Valley ($17) "big fruit, lively acids and creamy texture"; and Simonnet-Febvre Brut Cremant de Bourgogne from Burgundy, France ($17.75) which he describes as a "perfect oyster wine."
Jansz Brut from Tasmania ($18 to $20) gets a heads-up from Gregg, "crisp, clean, lots of lemon citrus and nice creaminess," as well as Avinyo Brut Reserva Cava from Spain ($18 to $20), "wonderful toasty complexity on a fresh mousse-like texture."
In general, look for these sparkling wines at a wine shop or a membership discount store. You may notice that most don't have a specific year of release. That's because the grapes come from more than one year, so they're called "non-vintage."