If you’re like me, you sometimes want to toast the new year or another festive occasion with Champagne, and you don’t want to break the bank to do it. Luckily, there are some very good and inexpensive sparkling wines that are widely available. Champagne itself is protected by terroir, so only those wines from the French region of Champagne can bear that name. But with so many good sparkling wines available, there’s often no reason to splurge on Champagne. I tasted three sparkling wines, side-by-side, just to be sure.
First up was the Veuve Ambal, a Blanc de Blanc from the Burgundy region of France that is typically priced around $12-14 a bottle in the U.S. It had a very sharp nose and the taste to match, with a pleasant undertone of something almost ferment-y. It was very sparkly, fruity (I could especially taste grape), and bold. The aftertaste lingered nicely. Veuve Ambal commits, and I liked it a lot, though I wondered if it could get cloying if enjoyed throughout an event, versus as a celebratory toast.
Teixidor Brut is from Spain and sells for about $11-15 a bottle. I found its nose to be more subtle than that of the Veuve Ambal, and slightly perfume-y. It had a very light taste that resembled a Chablis and featured a hint of grapes. The Teixidor seemed a bit thin and watery. While not unpleasant, it didn’t have a lot of interest. It definitely improved with and agreed with a bit of cheese.
From New Mexico comes Gruet. I tried the Gruet Brut and was greeted with a crisp apple nose and a full, fruity, clean taste. It had wonderful bubbles and a great mouth feel. The taste got fuller and more complicated upon sipping, moving from apple to grape. Of the three sparkling wines, the Gruet most closely resembled classic Champagne — by a long shot. It’s a great, celebratory sparkling wine. Gruet Brut is typically priced about $14-16 a bottle.
Whether you toast the new year with one of these sparkling wines, another of the many other Champagnes or sparkling wines, or something else entirely, I hope the turning of the year portends health, happiness and wealth in whatever form you choose to measure.
Cheers! Happy 2011! Thank you for spending part of your last year with me.
Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman