You’ll always be my Valentine, but these bubbles are for anytime

12 02 2010
Valentine's Toast

Valentine's Toast © Tales From the Trellis, 2010

Where do I even begin. I love sparkling wine. It is my favorite. Bar none. Sparkling wine can be Cava, Prosecco, Crémant, Sekt and of course the grandaddy of them all…Champagne. Since I had no real frame of reference for sparkling wine (my father was not a big fan) my love affair with it began later in my wine drinking lifetime. I would say it was around winter of 1990, I had that big OMG moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.

My family and I were at our friend Tony’s home for Christmas Eve dinner. Tony was a real aficionado when it came to bubbles. He was a collector and avid drinker of many types and styles. At the time, Mumm’s Cordon Rouge was my comfort zone– until this magical night. Tony was kind enough to open up a few bottles of what I recall was Domaine Carneros (Taittinger via Napa Valley). We all seemed to enjoy it and we started to polish off his remaining case quickly. Tony came back out with another offering, I think this time we were hitting his reserve of Mumm’s René Lalou (vintage 1986?) – in a fantastic bottle with an unforgettable shape. I believe we moved into Dom Perignon after that – but it all got a bit fuzzy and don’t think I made it through dinner. But again, I digress.

All bubbly wine is sparking but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Many of you already know this, but only sparkling wine that comes from area in France called Champagne – can legally be called Champagne (they are very strict about enforcing this and have gone after people who have broken this rule). In recent years, there were some changes made to expand the area so that more of the wine could be deemed Champagne. Great for the growers and wine makers there! Of course in France, where it seems they carve rules (and tradition) in stone, this brought controversy.

Champagne is really special, but it is not the only option for sparkling wines (just tends to be the most expensive). Other regions within France, and other parts of the world, make really impressive wine at great everyday (ok- at least once a week) prices. Spain makes Cava, Italy has Prosecco, France makes Crémant  in other regions and in the same style (and principle grapes) as Champagne, California makes quality sparklers, as does Oregon. And yes, you can actually find a quality value sparkling wine in New Mexico from a producer named  Gruet, (it’s true, and good). So many regions are making sparkling wine (too many to get to in this post).

Let’s get to the wine! As I said earlier, I love to drink sparkling wine all the time. Summertime with a nice flute, the best! I love it with everything and it is one of the most food friendly wines of all. Many people only seem to buy sparkling wine on Valentines Day and New Years Eve. There is a misconception that it is pricy and only for special occasions. I am of the belief that every day we are alive is a special day. I am also of the belief that good everyday drinking sparkling wine is in reach for everyone.

Ok, so what if I told you that you can find decent everyday “house” champagne for the price you would pay for that bottle you just bought last night. Yes you can. Below are a few of my personal favorite “value priced” sparklers under $17 USD that bring a lot to the table in terms of quality/price ratio. Real values and well made. Can not go wrong here. Great as an apéritif, and I will have a piece on other heavier styles in the future that can be paired with main courses.

Llopart Rose Brut Riserva Cava (Spain). It’s is dark, a very dark rose that looks like it will be sweet, but people let me tell you that it is dry as a bone and amazing! It is creamier and more effervescent than most cava I have experienced. I tasted strawberry, raspberry, vanilla and a bit of minerality. Very floral nose. This newer edition seems a bit stronger overall in terms of body and flavors than the previous. In NYC, you can find it by the glass (where I found and fell in love with it) at Tom Colicchio’s CraftBar. Try it with the sausage stuffed grape leaves- heaven!

Veuve de Vernay (France) is a “blanc de blanc” which means it is pure chardonnay (as opposed to a typical french blend that includes Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier). This one is very dry, with nice fruit and a good finish. For the price ($8-12 USD)  you can also buy in large quantities for  a party or other celebrations – without breaking the bank. We enjoyed this at hour holiday party at work.

Charles de Fere Jean Louis Brut (France). I feel this one is a step above the Vernay in terms of sophistication. Lighter in style with pear notes, apple and  toast. Hints of peach. Really nice and this is my “house sparkling wine” of the moment. ($8-12 USD)

Argyle Brut (Oregon) Great spices (the Pinot Noir does this) and toast (chardonnay) with a lot going on and a crisp and long finish. ($16-24 USD)

Gloria Ferrer (Sonoma) Brut. Real quality, small bubbles and smooth. Creamy pear and a hint of nut and finished with toasty crispness. ($14-18 USD)

Riondo Prosecco (Italy) is blow-away for the price. Around $10 USD and a must try. Find this! Vanilla and a bit of lemon character. Amazing mouthfeel and fairly sophisticated for Prosecco. Robert Parker says 90 points and I say YES PLEASE. Don’t walk, run to get this.

In closing, I hope you will enjoy some of these sparkling wines – paired with nice oysters, chocolate, spring rolls, tempura, salmon, fried anything (the acidity cuts the grease/fat)..well, you get where I am going with this. Make sparking wine your anytime choice. No, these probably wont change your life-like a better quality and higher priced option can, but they can make it more fun for less!

For those of us that like it a bit sweeter, you can buy some Veuve de Lalande Rose (available for $9.99 USD in Stew Leonard’s Wines across the USA). This is a touch sweeter (off-dry) and you can taste strawberry and dark fruits within. It does finish dry but short. If you want, you can also add splash of Creme de Cassis, orange juice, peach or pear nectar to your flute filled with any of the above value sparkling wines. Remember never use those wide-mouth margarita looking glasses. The flute will hold the bubbles while the wide mouth will kill them with all that exposure to the air.

Have a happy Valentines Day! Let us all know what you will (or have had) on Valentines day and how you liked it! If you need help locating these, email me and let me know.


Steve from the Trellis

Tales From the Trellis



4 responses

12 02 2010

A big thank you to Tony S, out there somewhere. You changed my perception of Champagne and sparkling wine forever. For that I am eternally grateful. Happy V-Day! I am planning a nice dinner out at my Favorite BYO – exciting! Be safe. Steve

24 03 2010

Love reading your site, always learn something interesting stuff.
Emily R. from

2 01 2011
New Year’s Sparkling Celebration Taste-Off Part 1: Prosecco! « talesfromthetrellis

[…] I have mentioned in the Valentine’s Day post earlier this year, my favorite wine is sparkling, so this day is always special when it comes to my […]

27 12 2012
TFTT Top Wines of 2012: Part 1 – Best Sparkling Rosé Bubbly & Champagne Values « talesfromthetrellis

[…] values within reach (price and actual availability in your local wine shop). I have explained the various types of sparkling wines made all over the world right here in this blog in the past 2 years since we started writing about […]

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