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I am not a lover of Champagne....my wife and I actually prefer Astis....however, one Champagne I have found that is actually quite good is Veuve-Clicquot Ponsardin Yellow Label. I find it to be a nice balance...not too dry...not too sweet with a nice flavor....and at an affordable price.
My wife and I have always enjoyed Perrier Jouet.
I don't recall if I have ever drank true champagne, from the designated region of France. I like Extra Dry, hate Brut, and can deal with Cold Duck and Spumante. My go to Extra Dry is Great Western. The best I have drank was Freixenet, which if memory serves is of Portuguese origin.
It's a Spanish cava, which, if you've never had real champagne, is probably the closest thing you've had. Great for mimosas. I'm guessing you had the yellow bottle, since the black is the brut and is drier.
There are some decent California sparkling wines (Piper Sonoma, Domain Chandon, etc.), but most have nothing to do with champagne other than stealing the name.
A good rule of thumb is that if it says "champagne" on the label and isn't from France it isn't anything like champagne.
Given the wines you've listed you will probably be a lot happier with a demi sec.
As an experiment, if you feel like celebrating a special event with actual champagne the Moet & Chandon White Star may be just the ticket. I like my champagne drier, but to each his own.
We went with the Taittinger Brut last night.
Beautiful light gold color, bubbles that never stopped and would break the surface in tiny tiny explosions.
Toasty fruit nose, dry but fruity taste.
I had a number of brands of cava over the holidays and last night, a certain amount of a premium Cordoniu (I think it had the name of a monarch in it). I found the best of it excellent. It was not really reminiscent of Champagne, but more like a very good California sparkler. At the low end it was kind of appley and rough (and I confess I do not like appley Champagnes including some well-known marques), at the high end it was dry, elegant, "chalky" like fine Champagne can be. The top-flight Cordoniu mentioned was superb.
I don't drink Champagne much but when I do it is usually Moet White Star. I have a friend that buys it buy the case so I just drink his. lol.
Twenty years ago I worked at a big liquor and wine store in Atlanta, and we, unfortunately, got what we took home at cost. I say unfortunately, because the way it worked was that we'd fill out tickets for what we took home, and come pay day the appropriate amount would be deducted. I wasn't making much money to begin with!
I think the only cavas we had were the Cordoniu (regular and deluxe) and the brut and extra dry Freixenet. The Cordoniu was what we drank. A lot. Cost back then was about $5 a bottle (retail was under $10). It was a buck more than the black bottle, but we thought it was worth it.
One new years eve a bunch of us chipped in about $40 each and bought one of every grand marque on the shelf. I readily admit that our ability to distinguish subtle differences vanished pretty quickly, but the Dom Ruinart, at about 60% of the price, was far better than the Dom Perignon. The Roederer was nice, but, since rap was young, it didn't have the name recognition yet.
My wife and I started drinking Martini and Rossi Asti Spumante when we were first married and enjoyed it for several years before venturing further into sparkling wines. We also enjoyed White Star, but now I find them both cloyingly sweet. Neither of us has the taste for sweet wines anymore, except for ports and other digestifs. We have tryed many of the high-end Champagnes; Belle Epoque, Dom Perignon, Crystal, etc. We find that for us, there are severe diminishing returns past say the $35 range. We now focus primarily on California Sparkling wines, most of which are owned in whole or part by famous Champagne houses. Roederer Estate, Mumm Napa and Chandon are a few of our favorites and I would encourage anyone visiting wine country to stop by all of them. Also the "J" winery produces some very nice sparklers. Our QPR favorite is Chateau St. Michelle from Washington State. Very nice wine at $11/bottle.
I'm a fan of Segura Viudas Cava, the one with the pewter accents on the bottle, mid-$20s last I checked, they also have some lower end bottlings, but I haven't got around to trying them yet. This is a damn good sparkler for the price.
I also like "J" and have a nice Rose I picked up when I visited the winery, but I wouldn't normally justify the price, but then how often do I actually drink sparklers?
Here's the spec, directly from the Cordoniu website, for the version of that wine I had. Interesting website, the first Cordoniu actually started the cava tradition in Spain it appears:
"Reina María Cristina. Technical record
VINEYARD REGION: D.O. CAVA
NAME: NON PLUS ULTRA CUVÉE REINA MARÍA CRISTINA BRUT
Codorníu Cavas are only made from grapes coming from our own vineyards or long-term suppliers with viticulture co-operation programmes. With more than 6000 hectares of vineyard supply Codorníu. During the harvest, we supervise and receive grapes every day to make our own base wines. This is the best guarantee for our quality.
ELABORATION AND FERMENTATION:
Once 60% of the must has been extracted and filtered, the first fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature of 16º-18ºC for around 10 days. At the end of this process the must becomes wine.
SECOND FERMENTATION AND AGEING:
The obtained wine will ferment a second time in the bottle, distinctive feature to the 'Traditional Method '. It takes place in the interior of the cellars at a constant temperature of 13º-16ºC. The minimum time as established in the Cava Regulatory Council is 9 months for the ageing of a Cava. In addition to the traditional blend of the Non Plus Ultra, this cava has a touch of Chardonnay , which gives it a more modern, balanced and sparkling style.
Total acidity.........6-7 gr/l.
Reducing sugars..............8-10 gr/l
Colour: Pale in colour with fine bubbles and persistent beading.
Aroma: Fresh, light aroma.
Flavour: Delicately rounded and well-balanced flavours. Perfect at all times for enthusiasts of Brut".
I love champagne. I had white star on NYE this year as well as Domaine Chandon Riche, which is their extra dry. I could tell the difference. Chandon was a little sweeter. Now in theory these are the same grapes, grown in different parts of the world. Chandon was founded be Moet & Chandon.
I am really in to Hiedsieck Monopole Blue Top right now. It is great, has nice balance, and not to expensive. I can normally get it at Binny's for $27 a bottle. Piper Hiedsieck is nice as well, and goes on sale every other month or so and can get it for $22.
Prosseco is probably my favorite sparkler. Nice and crisp and fruity. And normally cheaper then champagne.
Domaine St Michelle is my favorite value sparkler. Normally about $9 here, goes on sale a lot, and I can get it for $6. Every single bottle in their line is good. Blanc de Noirs and the Extra Dry are my favorites.
Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top is very good stuff, although I like the Premier Cru version (in the yellow bottle) even better.
I think the best QPR in all of sparkling wine is Roederer Estate. An excellent sparkler that rivals or betters many NV champagnes for about $20. I also find it to be one of the most consistent sparklers. 90-92 pts in my book.
I also quite like the value of Gloria Ferrer - you can often find vintage Gloria Ferrer (sometimes from '96 or '97) for $20 or less. And the 2000 vintage is supposed to be quite good as well. Gruet is also a very good value. I have not been impressed with the Domaine Ste. Michelle sparklers I've had, although I've not had many and the winery generally produced a lot of great values.
Another good value if you want true champagne is Henri Abele Brut. A nice, light apple-y (WS 90 pt) champagne for just over $20/bottle. For a slight step up in price to about $25, Paul Goerg is very good champagne. I think their Blanc de Blanc may be their best offering, but I've not been disappointed in any of their bottlings.
When you can find Charles Heidsieck at $30/bottle, it's a great value as well. I liked De Margerie as a nice, somewhat cheaper alternative to Veuve Clicquot when it was at $30/bottle, but it seems to have moved up to $35 now, which is enough to bump it off of my buy list.
At the extreme value end of things, Freixenet Cordon Negro and Cristalino present a very good value. I have recently found some discounted bottles of Freixenet Brut Nature 2000 for $8/bottle and they are an outstanding bargain.
My favorite Prosecco is Nino Franco Rustico, which I've found to be much better than Zardetto and other popular alternatives. Quite a good value when you can find it around $12ish.
My absolute favorite sparklers are heavier champagnes: Krug, Bollinger, and Roederer.
Year in, year out, I find the NV Veuve Cliquot my favorite. It just has the taste I like and is very consistent.
Gary, people say that the flavor profile of Veuve Clicquot has changed recently after it was acquired by Moet. Have you noticed this?
Dan, I haven't but I haven't had it for a couple of months and before that the stock might have been from the former ownership. I'll get some soon and report back. I recall the taste as "chalky", fruity but not in a citrus way (rather like fresh grape skins or other dark fruit); and with a skein of acid.
I have a bottle before me (not open yet but soon it will be) of Thompson Estate Sparkling Chardoanny Pinot Noir. It's from Margaret River in Australia. This wine is absolutely great, very close to Champagne in style: I doubt any except a true expert could tell it is not French and even then I wonder. It is the only wine I've ever had made outside the Champagne area (soon to be expanded somewhat) that tastes like Champagne to me. Part of it is the classic grapes mixture but of course some other producers do that too. It is aged (per label) for 12 months in French oak and then it sits on the lees for 18 months before riddling and disgorging. A fine wine indeed for about half the cost of Champagne.
Dan, I picked up a bottle of the NV today. I thought it was good with the full, yeasty nose and taste I recalled from earlier bottles. Also, it had no apple or lemony, citric-like taste which seemed consistent with its past. It had some sweetness and some dryness too (that "toasty" Champagne signature). So it had some of what I like that I recall from "the Widow" (Veuve in English) and had no element present that seemed different (although I am not really familiar with the Moet style).
However, it seemed to lack the grapey or blackberry-like fruitiness I recall from earlier years.
Maybe it is just the batch but it seemed less complex than in earlier years.
I saw a vintage-dated one (not sure if it is a true vintage because Veuve also has issued a vintage-style one, the one where the date is in a square on the front of the label). I think it was dated 2004. I'll get this one soon and compare it, that one should be young enough to avoid the mushroom-like taste I don't like but old enough to come from the pre-Moet Chandon era. True, it would by definition be a bit richer than the NV but I should be able to detect if they share a house style.
Interesting. Thanks for the report, Gary. It has been some time since I had Clicquot.
I had a fairly unremarkable bottle of A. Charbaut & Fils Brut last night. It had all the right notes, but was too subtle - like the knob had been turned down to 6 or 7. Strongest nose element was toast/biscuit, right when I opened the bottle. It runs in the $20-25 price range and is not a bad buy at that price, but also not my favorite.
Okay thanks and on my way home from work tonight I picked up a Veuve with a vintage date. It is, in fact, a vintage wine as the label inspection confirmed. Some years ago VC issued a dated but non-vintage wine that was very good, I am not sure in what respect it differed from a true vintage although I know it did. That version is no longer available here so I got the vintage proper. They had three different years: 1989, 1993 and 2002, with just a few dollars difference amongst them. I got the 2002 because I assumed that would be closest to NV pre-Moet VC. We'll chill it down and report soon on whether it is different from the current NV.
Wow. On Friday I knew basically nothing about Champagne besides the fact that I liked to drink some every once and a while at parties/events. I myself have never purchased a bottle. I had seen this and the Dusty Champagne thread and had briefly looked through them, but you guys could have been speaking a foreign language as far as I knew.
Fast forward to today. I spent a big chunk of time this weekend reading all about it, and am now very interested in not just Champagne but even more so into sparkling wines in general. I look forward to trying out various Proseccos, Cavas, and California sparkling wines.
Despite having had very few actual Champagnes, I found myself aligning myself with the Veuve Clicquot brand when reading up this weekend. While I of course know that you can't judge a wine or spirit by its label or marketing, it is still very interesting for me to see that internal instinct kick in when learning about something new. Marketing is such a powerful thing.
In any case, I digress... Which brings me to a couple of questions for you all.
It appears that while a big part of the price of a bottle of Champagne is going to pay for the marketing you still can't ignore them when diving into the world of sparkling wines. It also appears that while maybe not as good, the NV Champagnes offer a far better value proposition versus the vintage Champagnes. Correct?
Over the next year I think my budget could afford purchasing some different NV Champagnes to see which I like. My question is this though: If I find that I like a certain NV from a particular house and decided to splurge on a Prestige Cuvee bottle from the same house, would I like it? In other words, is there any correlation between a Champagne house's NV, Vintage, and Prestige Cuvee bottlings? And is it *really* worth it?
I have to admit that I *really* would love to purchase a bottle of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Brut, despite the fact I have no idea if I would like it or not! The yellow label and cool looking bottle is all I need to tell me its good right?!?! haha :)
I am not the one to answer your specific Q as I do not drink much champagne...however...from my limited experience with expensive vintage champagne vs some NV I failed to appreciate a significant difference. I am sure others will disagree....and I am sure I could find an expensive champagne that would blow me away...so far I have not.
There have been several publicised blind tastings and often the cheaper champagne wins.
A quick Google search: http://www.independent.co.uk/living/food_and_drink/news/article134670.ece
Look for a local liquor / wine store champagne tasting night as another option.
I still have some Veuve NV left from the other night (closed well to preserve some CO2) and will test it tonight against the Veuve 2002 Vintage.
Also, see this article - look at the tasting comments for some of the much more expensive champagnes....looks like a risky $150-250 gamble.
Okay, we've got The Widow 2002 (Vintage) in the flute. It's good, but not that different from the current NV. There is a bit more age on it than the NV - that slightly "degraded" taste from some years in the bottle, but not overly so - but in the end both wines seem quite similar.
There are several good sparkling wines from the US and abroad. We like the Santa Margherita Prosecco (Italy).
From California, Schramsberg (served at the White House) and Domaine Carneros (owned by Tattinger) are two of our favotites. DC has one called La Reve that I really like.
There's also S. Anderson, but it's going away as the vineyard was bought out and will no longer make sparkling wine and Mumm DVX; while some Mumm's are available, the DVX is only available in Napa at the winery or if you're in their club. From Oregon, there's Argyle. The current Wine Spectator has a big article on US sparklers.
One champagne that I really like and is lesser known is Lanson Black Label Brut (NV). Of course, you can't go wrong with Veuve.
Yes, you should definitely start with NV rather than vintage champagnes. They are a much better value. Try anything with Hiedsieck in the name. Try Paul Goerg. Try Henri Abele if you can find it. They are all good values. Starting out, look for bottles priced under $30 and preferably in the $20-25 range. But it would really be easier on your budget to start with non-champagne sparklers from CA, Spain, and elsewhere.
For non-champagne sparkling wine, I strongly recommend Roederer Estate, as well as Gruet and Gloria Ferrer. Freixenet is a very affordable and widely available cava. There are many other good cavas on the market - I tend to find most of them to be quite drinkable and consistent, although not as complex as champagne. I think quality varies more in prosecco. I prefer Nino Franco prosecco, but there are several respected brands you should try.
Yes, generally vintage champagnes will be similar in style to the NV champagne. Champagne houses do tend to have a house style that is apparent in all (or at least most) champagnes they produce. So if you like a NV champagne by a particular house, it's likely that you'll also enjoy their vintage bottlings. As to whether the price difference is "worth it," it's hard to say. Try one some time and see what you think.
And eventually you should give grower champagnes a shot. But that's for another day...
Thanks for all the info guys! All very interesting. I'll have to report back in a year or so after having had a few. I don't want to rush things too much, I don't want to let this get too much in the way of my bourbon schedule. :)
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