TFTT Top Wines of 2012: Part 2 – Best New Year’s Eve Bargain Sparkling Wine & Champagne Values

29 12 2012
TFTT 2012 Top 3 Sparkling Values

Tales From the Trellis 2012 Top 3 Sparkling Wine Values

I am looking outside of my window and it is snowing once again! We are only 2 days from New Year’s Eve and that means Champagne or sparkling wine! If you read this blog you already know that I feel that every day is a good day for sparkling wine – since it pairs with almost everything, or if you want – nothing at all as an apéritif. Since sparkling is my favorite of all, I drink a lot of it all year-long (but yes, especially during the holidays and definitely on New Year’s Eve) and feel I have some experience to talk about what I feel are the best values for your money. I love champagne, but you really can’t get any real Champagne (sparkling wine specifically from the Champagne region of France) for under $25- so we look for cheap champagne alternates, and luckily – there are many from all over the world!

In my last post I talked about my top 3 Rosé best value Sparkling wines. This post is about non Rosé – which are typically less at the register. Today, after tasting many different sparkling wines and comparing notes – I am sharing “the best of the best” in terms of value, price and quality. These are my “go to” house wines and are such great values that you should try them and stock up to have on hand for your parties, events and gifts. They are less than $16 USD but some are around $11 USD when you find a sale or online coupon or buy in quantity (case discounts typically will get you 10, 15 or 20% off – check with your retailer).

Also, purely by coincidence, these three are the brothers of the Rosé sparkling wines I reviewed in my last post – which clearly also makes these producers extremely reliable and conscious of us, the consumer – by making high quality wines at great prices.

Charles De Fere Chardonnay Tradition

Charles De Fére Chardonnay Tradition

Top Value A) Price Range: Under $11-15 USD: Charles de Fére “Chardonnay Tradition” Blanc de Blanc

I have always been a huge fan of Charles De Fére. They make the best value priced, high quality sparkling wine in France – period. Their Blue label “Jean Louis” cuvée has always been my favorite in their lineup but that is only because I have never been able to find their  black Label “Chardonnay Tradition ” in any stores, anywhere. It is also extremely difficult to find online. I found it. Click here.

After a deep search, I was able to – with online discounts,  get this for about $11 USD a bottle. It medium straw in color with medium size bubbles, aggressively streaming up from the bottom of the flute. On the nose, it has apple, honey, white peach and a bit of mineral (stone). The mouthfeel (viscosity) is full-bodied, creamy and a bit like cream soda (similar to the Chandon etoile I reviewed in the last post below (and that is a good thing)! In the mouth it is tart apple, vanilla, and butter cookie – all smooth sailing to the finish, which is just acidic enough to keep you coming back. This is made from Chardonnay grapes – and only Chardonnay, so it is a blanc de blanc (white from white) and shows all the finesse of a quality one – at a bargain price. I can not believe that this is under $15 USD and at the price I bought it, I wish I would have bought more (cases)!  I have deemed this wine my Top Sparkling value of 2012. Click to link to their (Boisset Family Estates) website.

Raventos i Blanc Reserva 2009

Raventos i Blanc Reserva 2009

Top Value B) Price Range: $14-18 USD: Raventos  i Blanc Reserva 2009

Here is a cava from Spain (Catalonia – Penedès) that is of extremely high quality and at a low price. I have enjoyed many bottles of this after discovering it for $14 in-store. Note: This is extremely dry, bone dry – which I love but some will not. It has a dark straw color, with small bubbles streaming up from a single line at the bottom of the flute. On the nose, it has more mineral than fruit, stone and melon overall. The mouthfeel has a medium weight. This cava is crisp and bone dry and with deep, rich, complex flavors of more tart fruit like grapefruit and lime with high acidity and minerality. This cava is not typical (as is their rosé) in terms of the overall carbonation (high) which makes it feel more like a French sparkler and not a Spanish one.

This has a crisp, tangy, long finish.Yes, this is sparkling has a very different taste as the spanish grapes they use are probably something you are not used to (60% Macabeo, 20% Parellada and 20% Xarello). It is a perfect food wine, while the Charles De Fére Tradition is more for apéritif. This can cut through fat easily (nice with fried foods) as well as sushi/sashimi or fatty meats like prosciutto, salami, etc. I have awarded this my Top Sparkling Wine value for $13-$18 of 2012. Click to link to their website.

Chandon Blanc de Noir

Chandon Blanc de Noir

Top Value C) Price Range: $15-18 USD: Domaine Chandon “Blanc de Noir”

Here is an extremely versitle sparkling wine from California. This complex wine from Domain Chandon provides a different experience than the two listed above. This wine is a “Blanc de Noir”, which means literally – “white from black”. The winemaker used red grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) to produce what is a white sparkling wine (hint of pink). Remember, all juice is white, it is when they are put with the skins of red grapes that a red or pink color is imparted. This wine is served at white house receptions since 2008 and is always a highly rated value wine.

It has a deep honey, rose color with medium bubbles exploding up in a single line from the bottom of the flute. On the nose, it has strawberry, dark berry and spice . The mouthfeel has a medium weight, creamy, rich and complex (the use of the red grapes helps this). This has flavors of dusty berry, casis, a hint of gingerbread and cookie dough. When left to breathe- it has some dark plum flavor. This is crisp and rich, with nice acidity throughout and a great food partner. This is  my Top Sparkling value for $15-$18 of 2012. Click to link to their website.

Above I have listed my top 3 value priced sparkling wines of 2012. Each is low-priced, high value, but very different in taste and region. The Charles de Fére is a creamy, easy to drink sparkling wine made from Chardonnay. The Raventos i Blanc Reserva is a cava made from 3 interesting grapes from spain and is very dry and complex. The Chandon Blanc de Noir is made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (and no Chardonnay) but deep, rich and smooth. I can’t pick one over the other, so they all win – and we all win because they bring such great value!

If you can’t find the Charles de Fere Chardonnay Tradition, try their other offering and you won’t go wrong.


Middle to Higher End (in price) but still a value

If you want to find a really excellent, higher-end sparkling wine for a special gift, New Year’s Eve, or Valentines day – try the J Cuvee 20 sparkling wine from California ($24). A step up from that in quality and price – try the Gosset Excellence for around $32 USD (best with food). One level up go with Veuve Clicquot Champagne, yellow label for around $42-46 USD. If you want to splurge, they Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame (2004 or 1998) is about $120-150 USD and I feel is equal to the Dom Perignon (2003) $140-170 USD. Of course, there is always Louis Roederer Cristal (2002, 2004 and 2005) for $200 USD and up…but those are really young and I would wait till time made them better (and go for the Clicquot in the interim). 

Click here to view my previous post on my top 3 sparkling Rosé bargains that are value-driven and great for New Year’s Eve too!

Thank you all for coming to my blog and hopefully getting something from it. Be safe this holiday season and always.

All the best from Tales from the Trellis!


Steve from the Trellis



10 responses

29 12 2012
Michael Rotondo

Steve – I agree on the Cliquot recommendations, and am generally a fan of their wines. One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that it’s hard to find much between the yellow label and Grande Dame (i.e. their vintage reserve, rich reserve, rose, etc.) which is a shame because they can be quite nice!

Hope you were able to catch the Raventos on CinderellaWine, since you are a fan!

29 12 2012

Michael, thanks so much for your reply! I too love Cliquot and true that the other offerings are not as easy to acquire as yellow label or GD, but worth seeking. For instance, the Demi-sec is excellent with dessert or as an aperitif – but not easy to find in store – so best to shop online! By the way, Gary’s Wine just put La Grande Dame on sale for $99 (the 2004)! I did not see the Raventos on Cinderellawine – but have been lucky to stock up at Bottle King locally. How much was it on CW? Steve

29 12 2012

Michael, thanks so much for your reply! I too love Clicquot and true that the other offerings are not as easy to acquire as yellow label or GD, but worth seeking. For instance, the Demi-sec is excellent with dessert or as an aperitif – but not easy to find in store – so best to shop online! By the way, Gary’s Wine just put La Grande Dame on sale for $99 (the 2004)! I did not see the Raventos on Cinderellawine – but have been lucky to stock up at Bottle King locally. How much was it on CW? Steve

30 12 2012
Michael Rotondo

Steve – the de Nit was $16.98 for the 2009 on CW, but I can’t remember the threshold for free shipping.

I have tasted through the Clicquot lineup a few times on cruises aboard the Queen Mary 2, where there is a dedicated Clicquot champagne bar. Of course, La Grande Dame was always served last and was top notch. That price is unheard of!

Again, enjoyed reading your thoughts and I’m going to make sure to include some quality bubbles in my NYE plans. 1995 Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque or Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs are on the chopping block!

30 12 2012

The Billecart-Salmon is excellent, but again, I have had the Laurent-Perrier Rosé this year a few times and I recommend it! More bang for the buck.
I am about to deliver a 2004 Belle Epoque to my brother for New Year’s and will see what he thinks!
Cheers and happy new year! Let me know what you end up drinking and your review!

30 12 2012
TFTT Top Wines of 2012: Part 1 – Best Bargain Sparkling Rosé Bubbly & Champagne Values « talesfromthetrellis

[…] Part 2 of  ”Tales From the Trellis Best of 2012″ my top bargain, value-driven sparkling… […]

30 12 2012

Michael, I also have a 98 Mumm Renee Lalou chilled – so hard to chose. The 2004 La Grande Dame was delivered last week and I think I may just have to lay it down to settle so that is out…so might be the Mumm for Ball drop!

14 01 2013
Michael Rotondo


Better late than never, thought I’d follow up on the NYE wine topic!

The ’95 Belle Epoque turned out to be a real treat with loads of apple, yeast, and creme brulee, good minerality and very slight bubbles.

But my passion is generally for reds, so we also opened:

2010 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Prephylloxera
2001 Chateau Musar
1997 Villa Cafaggio Cortaccio Toscana
2008 Larkmead Firebelle

Hope you had a great holiday and looking forward to reading more of your thoughts!


21 01 2013

Thanks for the update Michael! Which of the reds was your WOTN (wine of the night)? Glad the 95 PJBE held up and seems to be still kicking!
Steve from the Trellis

23 01 2013
Michael Rotondo

Hi Steve – hard to say, it was pretty much a toss-up between the Cortaccio and the Firebelle. Two very different wines, but both excelling in their respective styles. The Cortaccio was rustic, elegant…yet bold and decidedly Tuscan. The Firebelle is an unapologetically Californian right-bank blend with huge fruit but lots of complexity as well. Your highlights?

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