Taste Test: Great Sparkling Wines, Under $15
New Year's Eve 2008: We need a drink and we have no money, agreed? So last night I procured six bottles of cheap sparkling wines from Astor Wines (399 Lafayette Street) which is having a big sale right now on sparkling wines. So I was able to get these sparklers even cheaper than is usual, but I didn't include any that would normally sell for over $15.
Our intrepid team of neighbor-testers came over--they've cheerfully munched their way through taste testings of supermarket meat and Indian snack mix.
We tasted the wines blind, not knowing which was which. ( A pretty label distracts me. I also like shiny things.) Our criteria was simple: which wine would you most like to have a few glasses of on New Year's Eve? We kept it as simple as that because we were comparing a motley crew of sparkling wines from France and the US, Cava from Spain and Prosecco from Italy. We weren't trying to go all Wine Spectator on you, we were simply looking for the sparkler that was the most balanced and tasty.
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, Spain: $7.99 (sale price: $6.99)
Delacroix Blanc de Blancs Brut, France: $9.99 (sale price: $7.99)
Mia Prosecco, Italy: $9.99 (sale price: $4.99)
Chandon Brut Classic, CA: $14.99 (sale price: $12.99)
Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, Washington state: $9.99 (sale price: $8.49)
Gruet Brut, New Mexico: $12.99 (sale price:$10.99)
The winners and losers after the jump.
Gruet Brut (left) is made in New Mexico by a French wine-making family (Gilbert Gruet is formerly of Gruet et Fils Champagne house in Bethon, France). The Gruet family settled in that unlikely southwestern state, where they make sparkling wine by the Champane method.
We liked this one because of its crisp, grapefruity flavor. It's assertive, flavorful, yeasty and dry (not sweet at all). We thought it's tart-yeasty balance would go as well with food as on its own. One taster liked the "small, pretty bubbles," too.
The Segura Viudas Cava is actually the only bottle we finished last night, so that's saying something. It's light golden in color, it's a bit sweet, mild and soft with less acidity than the Gruet.
It "tastes expensive," thought one taster. "This one I would have four glasses of," said another. There was the slightest sour-edged aftertaste that some tasters didn't mind and others didn't love.
Then there were three wines that fell in the middle, which we agreed that we'd drink if it was given to us, but we wouldn't buy again. (Although one taster really loved the Prosecco.)
Mia Prosecco: A little flat, (it was the only one with a screw cap) with a watered-down, muted flavor. However, one taster loved this; to his taste it was easily sippable and delicious. Also, since it's on sale right now for $4.99 it gets the best value award.
Domaine Ste. Michelle: This entry from Washington state comes from a well-regarded wine maker. It was more carbonated than the others; "it looks festive," said one taster. The wheaty colored wine smells of green apples and yeast, but we didn't like the rough, bitter, alcohol-y flavor.
Chandon Brut, CA: "Tastes like a hangover," said one taster. "You guys are harsh!" said another. We all agreed we'd drink one glass of this, but wouldn't ever go back for another. "It tastes like cheap sparkling wine," noted one taster. It's harsh, bitter and heavy, with a one-note flavor of sour apples.
And now, let's send this last one to sparkling wine infamy.
Delacroix Blanc de Blancs, France: Honestly, this is disgusting. We all literally gagged, and unanimously decided that it tastes like diet strawberry soda. "Like it's flavored with Nutrasweet," "Tab Champagne," "for housewives from the seventies." Don't ever buy this wine. Seriously.