The New Year is right around the corner, and as such, everyone scrambles for advice on sparkling wines. A fundamental problem with giving advice here is that it takes some time and practice to really appreciate good Champagne, and good wine doesn't need to be sprayed over a crowd or hastily gulped before a kiss that you'll regret in the morning.
As I see it, there are three tiers.
Tier I: You are a Champagne aficionado but can also appreciate the occasional oddball like a Crémant de Limoux. Check out Samantha Sans Dosage or Fredric's annual 12 Days of Christmas review of sparklers. They know a lot more about the subject than I do, but more importantly get to taste a lot more in this category. (And if you're in Memphis, stop by Joe's in Midtown and ask for Michael. Tell him I sent you.) I rarely receive samples of sparkling wine, and most weeks it's all I can do to keep up with the still wine that shows up at the house.
Tier II: You want something drinkable, that might even work well with food, but is not expensive. This is where I'm going with the details below.
Tier III: You merely need something that is fizzy, contains alcohol, and may or may not be based on grapes. There are plenty of options around $4/bottle that can be purchased by the truckload, and the unscrupulous can make do with a box of Chardonnay, some sugar, and club soda.
I think both of the wines reviewed here fit nicely within Tier II. First up is an entry from California...
NV Barefoot Bubbly
Brut Cuvée Champagne
$10, 11.5% abv.
Lots of crisp lemony aromas, with an undertone of lime peel. Tart, with firm acidity and big bubbles. Great in mimosas. This one is going to be easy to find anywhere, and while I didn't enjoy it as much straight, I liked it as a cocktail ingredient. If you're going to make mimosas, make sure to use orange juice without pulp in it. Otherwise you get a mess. And if you decide to incorporate elements like gin or liqueurs, keep an eye on your guests.
Of the two, I really preferred this entry from Italy, but then again, I absolutely love Prosecco.
NV Villa Sandi il Fresco Prosecco
$13, 11% abv.
Valdobbiadene region in northeast Italy
Very lemony, dry, crisp but not tart, toasty aftertaste. Smaller bubbles than the above, and better overall balance. This one was great with lunch food like sandwiches and salads--I've always been happiest with things like Prosecco and Cava that are such wonderful pairs for casual food.
In addition to the above, here are over 30 posts about sparkling wine that I've written over the years, most of which are in the under $20 category.
Note: These wines were received as samples.