André or Yellowtail? Are There Any Winners in the Cheap "Champagne" War?
At Fork in the Road, we recognize that being cheap can be just as important as being classy, if not more so. In keeping with this thrifty spirit, we decided to taste-test two low-end sparkling wines right in time for New Year's Eve -- André's California Champagne, the $6.99 staple for those of us who have nobody to impress, and Yellowtail's $10.99 version, which happens to be the next-cheapest option at the two competing liquor stores I visited. (Note: Prices vary.)
Both come in cork-free, resealable containers (of course) and can be easily procured at most booze emporiums and some bodegas. They tend to be less expensive than Korbel, which can hit $17 a bottle. In terms of price, they contend with Verdi's Sparkletinis, which is a good thing, considering the "sparkling Italian fun that keeps the party going" tastes like a mix of antifreeze and Axe body spray.
And how do they taste?
Yellowtail's offering features a peculiar metallic flavor: This bizarre air felt so intense, in fact, that I began wondering whether I was supposed to celebrate accidental self-poisoning with each sip rather than the new opportunities of 2012. Though dry at first, a syrupy tone suddenly emerges, overwhelming the palate with a heavy, sugary rush. A sour aftertaste then follows. Imagine from-concentrate white grape juice that lacks high-fructose corn syrup and white grapes, and you've got the right idea.
André, on the other hand, has a drier crispiness that makes it almost palatable. Sure, it's sweet -- and, as with all such drinks, it will leave you with a slamming headache and hungered fatigue the next day. Though far cheaper than Yellowtail, it could pass for something served earnestly in the first-class section of a shady airline. Again, though, André suffers from the same weird acridness that mars Yellowtail's approach.
Of course, you don't have to suffer through Yellowtail or André even if you want to save money. A nice bottle of cava, champagne's Catalan sister, can be found around the city for around $12 a bottle or less. One suggestion: Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut, which is dry but boasts pleasant, fruity tones.