The List: RISING BUBBLES for the Holidays

You want to drink some bubbly. But you have a budget. Or maybe you’re on a generous budget. Or maybe the sky’s the limit. No matter; I’ve got you covered. I drink bubbly in all price ranges. At whatever price you need, here’s what I’d drink (which is also to say “have drunk”).

PERELADA Brut Reserva, Cava (Spain), NV

A blend of Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada together with Chardonnay. Fermented using Methode Champenoise and aged at least 18 months on the yeasts in the bottle before disgorging and another three months in the bottle before shipping, this has a truly “Brut” dosage of 0.8% sugar. Pale-gold- straw in color; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity. Thanks to its time on the yeast, this is cheap Cava that both smells and tastes better than its price. Toasty, yeasty earth with citrus and tree fruit along with some earthy red fruit. Good grip in the mouth, quite long. So much better than it has to be at this price point. Spec’s Score 90+

FRANÇOIS LABET Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne, NV

A 12% alcohol blend of 100% Pinot Noir all grown in Burgundy made sparkling using methode champenoise. Bronze-tinted-straw in color, fully sparkling; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity. Rich and toasty with clean mineral earth, good toasty yeast notes, and a fine mix of earthy red cherry fruit and enough ripe citrus to keep it balanced. Supple but lively feel. Satisfying. Opens up nicely in the glass. Big enough to serve with food. Great everyday bottle of bubbly at a value price. Yum! BS: 90+ (Did I mention it is French? From Burgundy?)

LAETITIA Cuvee Brut, Arroyo Grande (California), NV

A 12.5% alcohol, fully sparkling methode champenoise blend of 53% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, and 17% Pinot Blanc from the Arroyo Grande AVA aged 24 months on the yeasts (en tirage) after the bottle fermentation. Medium-pale-gold in color. Dry and fresh with only a hint of phenolic content. Offers lots of ripe lemon (and other citrus) and apple fruit with a richer toastiness and a subtle earthiness. Sits right on the aperitif / food fizz border. BearScore: 90+.

YARRABANK Sparkling Cuvee, Victoria (Australia), 2004

A 12.5% alcohol methode champenoise blend of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay along with 13% reserve wines aged in large oak, all from Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley aged 48 months en tirage before disgorgement and dosage to 0.34% sugar (very dry). Pale-gold-straw in color and fully sparkling; quite dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity and scant phenolics. Offers fresh lemony citrus and apple fruit with plenty of toast and enough mineral to keep it focused. The reserve wines supply some richness and more texture in the mouth. Refreshing and quite delicious. Could be mistaken for Champagne and pretty good Champagne at that. More in the aperitif style with real elegance. BearScore: 92+.

ABEL CHARLOT Brut, Champagne, NV
This fully sparkling, real deal, methode champenoise blend of 15% Chardonnay, 50% Meunier (formerly known as Pinot Meunier), and 35% Pinot Noir including 10% reserve wines (for richness and complexity) raises the bar for value in Champagne. Pale gold straw in color and fully sparkling, dry and fresh with a hint of phenolics. Toasty-biscuity bubbly offering citrus and tree fruit with subtle mineral earth. Classic Brut Champagne in a toastier style. Stunning Value. BearScore: 90+

JANSZ Brut, Tasmania, NV

A 12% alcohol, methode champenoise blend of 58% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, and 2% Pinot Meunier aged two years en tirage (on the yeasts) before disgorgement and finishing. Sensory Note: Pale green straw in color and fully sparkling with a nice bead. Plenty of fizz. The yeast-and-fruit nose was evident even as I was pouring the wine. In the glass, I found yeast and toast notes along with citrus and floral as well as a bit of red fruit. There is even a Champagne-like mineral component along with enough richness to make this work well with food. It is crisp and fresh with a fine balance and very long finish. Delicious. BearScore: 92+.

champagne-le-marniquet-brut-tradition-2MARNIQUET Brut Tradition, Champagne, NV

A 12% alcohol estate bottled (“Grower Champagne” or “Farmer Fizz”) blend of a shocking 50% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Noir. Straw in color, fully sparkling. Dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity. Toasty-yeasty-biscuity with lively lemony citrus and some red fruit with limestone mineral earth and a hint of spice. Really very long finish. Delicious, focused, fresh, alive-in-the-mouth. Really hit the spot. Yum. BearScore: 92.

SCHRAMSBERG Blanc de Blancs, North Coast, 2010

A 12.5% alcohol, 100% Chardonnay (60% Napa, 37% Sonoma, 2% Marin, 1% Mendocino) methode champenoise sparkler including small lots of malolactic and barrel-fermented wines, aged on the yeast lees (en tirage) two years prior to disgorgement. Straw in color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity. Fresh and fruit driven with good yeast. Lots of citrus and some riper tree fruit. Fine integration of yeast, mineral and fruit. Opens well in the mouth and with time in the glass. Becomes immensely satisfying as it warms and opens. Delicious and complex. BearScore: 93+.

CASTELNAU Brut Reserve, Champagne, NV

This fully sparkling, methode champenoise, blend of 40% Chardonnay, 40% Meunier (formerly known as Pinot Meunier), and 20% Pinot Noir, including 17% reserve wines (for richness and complexity) stuns with its depth and complexity. Pale gold straw in color, dry and in a fresh balance with just a hint of phenolic content. Richer toasty-biscuity bubbly offering citrus and tree fruit with red fruit essence and subtle mineral earth notes. Richer and more satisfying than expected or than its price would indicate. Food friendly. BearScore: 92+

ANDRE CLOUET Brut Grand Reserve Champagne, NV

A 100% Pinot Noir (Blanc de Noirs) all from Bouzy (a grand cru village in the Montagne de Riems) incorporating 25% reserve wines (for depth, richness, and complexity), aged 40 months on the yeasts, and dosed to a truly Brut .7 residual sugar. Richer style with earth and red fruit along with citrus and a bit of tree fruit. The toast and deeper complexity are there. Richer, more satisfying style. Delicious. BearScore: 93.

GOSSET Brut Excellence, Champagne, NV

Tech: 12% Alcohol. A blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay, and 19% Pinot Meunier sourced primarily from Grand and Premier Cru vineyards. Gosset bases this blend on three vintages and then adds 20% reserve wines (wines aged in a sort of solera with many vintages blended together). The wine spends over 2.5 years en tirage (resting on the lees before disgorging). Sensory: Medium straw in color with a hint of green highlights. Dry, light-to-medium-bodied with crisp acidity and scant phenolics. Focused, classy, classic, and delicious. Tart lemon-citrus fruit with some some subtle red fruit notes along with lots of toast and a lot of minerals. Fine style. Gets richer and more satisfying as it warms and flattens (which I like very much). Delicious. Bearscore: 92.

PERRIER JOUET Grand Brut, Champagne, NV

A base blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay with 15% reserve wines from previous vintages finished brut with a dosage of 11 grams per liter (1.1% residual sugar). Straw in color. Dry, medium-light-bodied with fresh acidity. Fresh and toasty with ripe citrus, a bit of red fruit essence, and some tree fruit, some biscuity character, and something of a floral note. As always, it seems to be better than I remembered it. Pretty in the mouth. Quite tasty. BearScore: 92.

SacyLOUIS SACY “Cuvee Inedite” Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut, Champagne, NV
A 12% alcohol 100% Chardonnay Champagne from the single Grand Cru village of Verzy (better known for Pinot Noir) in the Montagne de Reims. Before champenization, the base wines undergo full malo-lactic fermentation and after get 3 years aging en tirage. The result is a pale green-gold straw in color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-plus-bodied with fresh acidity and scant but present phenolics. This is a richer style all Chardonnay Champagne offering riper lemon and other citrus along with integrated mineral and toast. Normally, blanc de blancs is more in the aperitif range of Champagne but this one has the richness to go into the meal. Opens and evolves with time in the glass. BearScore: 93.

BONNAIRE Brut Variance Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, NV

A 100% Chardonnay Champagne with 70% of the grapes coming from Cramant (Grand Cru) and 30% from Bergères-Les-Vertus (Premier Cru), fermented and aged in oak barrels with full malo-lactic fermentation prior to methode champenoise. 68 months on the lees before disgorgement. Finished with a dosage to bring it to a dry brut level of 6 grams of sugar per liter. Sensory: Seems almost a combination of fine bubbly and fine White Burgundy. The fruit is more in the lemony citrus range (typical of Blanc de blancs) but the mineral and oak are there as well. The mineral is Champagne’s chalk (The Cote de Blanc is the heart of Champagne’s chalk) rather than the Cote d’Or’s limestone. The oak is not new but the character of the barrels is there as a complement. The whole is a delicious, fresh but satisfying Champagne with a unique appeal. Delicious. Due to its depth and richness, this is a blanc de blancs that transends aperitif status and can be used with food at the dinner table. Recommended serving temperature is 50-53°F. BearScore: 94+.

JEAN LAURENT Blanc de Noirs Brut, Champagne, NV

A 12% alcohol, 100% Pinot Noir blended from three vintages with an additional three years on the yeasts (en tirage) after the bottle fermentation. Medium-pale-gold in color and fully sparkling. This is a more developed cuvee than the last I had but it is still fresh, juicy, flavorful, ripe, and fruit-and-yeast oriented with notes of yeast and chalky mineral. The fruit leans to red fruit (more strawberry than other) with some lemon drop citrus. It is long, focused, rich, and lively in the mouth with good weight and a nice mousse. Solid and delicious with a fine rich feel. Finishes clean and dry. Fine food fizz. BearScore: 92+.

LANCELOT ROYER Cuvee des Chevaliers Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, Champagne, NV

100% Chardonnay all from chalky Grand Cru estate vineyards in Cramant in the Cote de Blancs. 25+% reserve wines, 48 months en triage in a damp chalk cellar. Straw in color, bright and clear and fully sparkling; dry, medium-bodied with crisp acidity. Nicely developed, ripe mixed citrus with a hint of tree fruit accented with chalky “children’s vitamins” chalky mineral terroir; long clean, finish. This is a toasty, yeasty, focused, rich Champagne offering citrus and spice and yeast. Classic Chardonnay bubbles with fine bottle development. Satisfying. Long and alive in the mouth. Delicious. BearScore: 95+.

CASTELNAU Brut Vintage, Champagne, 2002

A unique methode champenoise blend of 50% Chardonnay (Cote des Blancs), 10% Pinot Noir (Montagne de Reims), 40% Meunier (Valle de la Marne) from the outstanding 2002 vintage. Medium gold straw color and fully sparkling. Dry, medium weight with a hint of phenolic content. Developed but still lively with rounded citrus and tree fruit to go with biscuity yeast and toast notes and chalky mineral earth. Complex with a strong Chardonnay character. BearScore: 93+

DELAMOTTE Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, NV

A 12% alcohol, 100% Chardonnay Cote de Blancs (from the area around les Mesnil) Champagne made from base wines fermented in stainless steel tanks including the 10% of reserve wines that are utilized. It develops on the lees for 5 years prior to disgorgement, while the legal minimum is 15 months. Finished truly brut with a minimal dosage. Straw in color and fully sparkling. Dry, medium-light-bodied with crisp acidity and scant phenolics. Fine, focused, supple. Citrus and mineral with yeast and real power. Lovely; elegant but engaging Champagne. Catches you with its elegance and vividity. Great tension. Vibrant in the mouth but ultimately satisfying. Perfect aperitif. BearScore: 94+

TAITTINGER Brut Millesime, Champagne, 2005

A 12% alcohol, methode champenoise, all grand cru blend of 50% Chardonnay from the Cotes des Blancs and 50% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims aged 5 years en tirage (on the yeasts). Golden-straw in color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant phenolics. Supple, rich, toasty earthy, ripe vintage Champagne offering developed ripe citrus and earthier red fruits with lots of toasty yeast character balanced and focused by its mineral-earth component. Complex, rich, and delicious; complete. Develops beautifully as it warms in the glass. BearScore: 94+.

BARONS de ROTHSCHILD Brut, Champagne, NV

A 12.5% alcohol blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay is from the Cotes du Blancs and the Pinot is from Verzenay, Ay, Mareuilsur- Ay and Bouzy. 40%of the cuvee is reserve wines (all grand and premier cru) 3 years on the lees. Sensory: Pale gold straw in color; dry, medium light-bodied with fresh acidity and a hint of phenolics (which is not at all uncommon for richer Champagne cuvees. Richer and riper than the Blanc de Blancs with a fine toasty feel. Mix of red fruit and more citrus with a bit of bitter at the end. Big enough to be food friendly. Will stand up to aging and could be improved in the short term with a gentel decanting. BearScore: 93.

DEMOISELLE “La Parisienne” Brut 1er cru, Champagne, 2000

A 12% alcohol Champagne blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir exclusively from premier cru vineyards, aged 60 months on the yeast (en tirage). Straw in color with hint of gold and fully sparkling; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity, light phenolics and a very long finish. Satisfying, integrated, developed, delicious. Ripe developed citrus with stone fruit. Slowly evolves in the glass to show fine chalky minerality and hints of darker earth. Rich and satisfying. BearScore: 94+.

BARONS de ROTHSCHILD Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru, Champagne, NV

A 12.5% alcohol fully sparkling 100% Chardonnay all from crus in the Cote de Blancs (Avize, Cramant, Mesnil-Sur-Oger, Oger and Vertus) utilizing 40% reserve wines. Aged on the lees 36 months with at least an additional 9 moths on the yeast after disgorgement. Pale-gold-straw in color; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity. Classic Chardonnay Champagne with lots of freshness. Elegant mostly citrus fruit but with real complexity and depth (from the high proportion of reserve wines). Fine elegant texture. Really holds the interest. A sort of Blanc de Blancs version of Krug’s Grand Cuvee. BearScore: 95+

JP MARNIQUET Brut Prestige Vintage, Champagne, 1989

An estate-bottled, vintage blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir grown in the Vallee de la Marne and aged en tirage (on the lees of the bottle fermentation) until it was recently disgorged. It is un-dosed so the flavors and richness and balance all come from the vintage and those long years of cold, slow development in Marniquet’s cave. So how does it taste? Amazing. This is rich, developed, complete, complex Champagne with great length and purity. It is hard to describe the flavors. The first taste is like the last sip of one of the best bottles you have ever tasted and it builds from there. Toasty, rich, elegant but with an ever-changing mix of both fresh and dried fruit. The chalk-mineral-earth of Champagne is present but fully integrated. This is a wine you want to spend some time getting to know. Drink it from wine glasses rather than Champagne flutes. Sip it with richer foods or indulge in it in lieu of dessert. Lovely in the mouth. BearScore: 100

BOLLINGER La Grande Annee Brut, Champagne, 2004

A 12% alcohol, fully sparkling blend of 66% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay from 16 sites (88% grand cru and 12% premier cru). Barrel fermented in small oak casks and aged sur-lie in cask before the methode champenoise was applied to the cuvee. Aged en tirage until it was disgorged in November of 2012 and given a .7% sugar dossage (quite dry). Yellow straw in color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-full-bodied with fresh acidity and scant phenolics. This is lovely, rich luxury Champagne that is still developing with a supple feel in the mouth. Offers a fine mix of layered red fruit and citrus integrating with the toasty-yeast and nutty oak component and mineral terroir. Complete and delicious but with lots of positive evolution still to come. Beautiful in the glass and in the mouth. Give this some extra time in the glass; it’s one of those. BearScore: 97.

DOM RUINART Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, 2004

A 12% alcohol, 100% Grand Cru, 100% Chardonnay (Blanc de Blancs) blend from the Côte des Blancs (69%) and the Montagne de Reims (31%). Gold-straw in color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant phenolics. Fine, and quite elegant, but somehow juicy with citrus and tree fruit. Lovely feel and great flavors with fully integrated chalk-mineral and toasty yeast notes. Complete. Refreshing and delicious even as it satisfies. BearScore: 97.

PERRIER JOUET Belle Epoque Brut, Champagne, 2006

A 12.5% alcohol blend of 50% Chardonnay (from Cramant, Avize and Chouilly), 45% Pinot Noir (from Mailly, Verzy and Aÿ), and 5% Pinot Meunier (from Dizy). Grapes are pressed in the village of Cramant in traditional wooden presses. The clear juice is transported to Épernay for fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with full malolactic fermentation. After bottling and the second fermentation, the wine spends six years on the lees (en tirage). Light-gold-straw in color and fully-sparkling; dry, medium-full-bodied with fresh acidity. Rich, toasty, deep, with lots of development but still elegant. Big mouthful of Champagne with ripe citrus and some tree fruit. More richness than expected. Lots of mouth feel. The floral, mineral, and toast notes are all in. Really delicious; great food Champagne. Soul satisfying. BearScore: 96.

See? A little something for everyone.

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