Champagne and Sparkling

Veuve Cliquot Vineyards

Champagne and sparkling wines have always put more fun into everything, including music, art, food, and socializing. From a weekday dinner, to New Year’s Eve, these wines give you a party in a glass. I’ve taken a look at many types of sparkling wines from prosecco to brut, from pink to white, from all over the world – and they all have their distinct personalities and uses. While I could only taste a small percentage of the wines on the market, I tried to pick wines our national account reader base could obtain easily with consistent availability.

This tasting is meant as a “get to know the wines” format. While I do not give “grades” to wines in in the Mix, I do give ribbons for what I feel are exceptional wines in their class. A silver ribbon goes to the wines that I feel overachieve and deliver an added value to their category. A gold ribbon is given to the wine that is considered exceptional in all its dimensions; color, aroma and flavor, and represents an outstanding achievement. This wine receives the Editors Choice.

I drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty. ~ Madame Lilly Bollinger

Cheers! Mike Raven

Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label, NV EDITOR’S CHOICEVeuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label, NV, EDITOR’S CHOICE Reims, France Moet Hennessy
Reims, France
Moet Hennessy

Notes: In 1772, Philippe Clicquot-Muiron established the original enterprise, which in time became the house of Veuve Clicquot. His son, François Clicquot, married Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1798. Clicquot died in 1805, leaving his widow (veuve in French) in control of a company involved in banking and trading along with champagne production. Barbe Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin took over the family business at the age of 27, making her one of the first businesswomen of modern times. Under her guidance, the firm focused solely on the production of champagne. Among her many contributions to the craft, she, along with the help of her cellar-master Antoine de Müller, invented the riddling table in 1816.

COLOR: Light wheat straw
NOSE: Spicy with a light yeastiness; the mousse envelopes the glass with aromas of springtime flora.
FLAVOR: Fresh and lively, this perfectly weighted and elegant wine makes a party in your glass. The finish is long and flavorful awaiting the next tipple. An outstanding example of the fine art of champagne. The “Widow” rocks.


in the Mix - Veuve Cliquot Rose NV, Reims, France Moet Hennessy Veuve Clicqot Rosé NV
Reims, France
Moet Hennessy

COLOR: Salmon pink
NOSE: White peach, berries.
FLAVOR: Exuberant champagne, very active in the glass. Not as rosé-ish as most. Dignified flavors of mild berries. Elegant and satisfying. Well-made with great structure.


Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut NVDomaine Ste. Michelle Brut NV, Columbia Valley, Washington State, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Columbia Valley, Washington State
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Notes: This has the makings for a great house sparkling.
Affordable and well-made, it will satisfy the most discerning palettes.

COLOR: Pale gold
NOSE: Crisp and clean; fresh orchard.
FLAVOR: A nice apple and toast combo. A nicely-balanced wine from start to finish.


Rosa Regale 2009 Rosa Regale 2009  Piedmont, Italy Banfi Vintners
Piedmont, Italy
Banfi Vintners

Notes: A Brachetto d’Acqui with its unmistakable color and flavor. Low in alcohol at 7%. A versatile wine that works wonderfully with chocolate.

COLOR: Deep ruby red
NOSE: A bit of rhubarb and raspberry. Makes you want to bake a pie with it.
FLAVOR: It tastes like its aroma – rhubarb and raspberry. The low alcohol and sweetness makes it very soft on the palette, creating a little bit of weight to it. It worked nicely with dark chocolate, combining together for a cleansing treat.


Montenisa, Franciacorta Brut NV DOCGMontenisa, Franciacorta Brut NV DOCG  Italy, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Notes: “Franciacorta” describes a geographical area, a wine, and a production method.

COLOR: Slight wheat hue
NOSE: Fresh melon, a little green grass, and toasty.
FLAVOR: Clean and crisp with a mousse of white peach. Very lively in the mouth. A well-made sparkler, well done!


Moët & Chandon  Grand Vintage Brut 2003 Epernay, France Moët Hennessy USAShe keeps her Moet et Chandon
In her pretty cabinet
“Let them eat cake,” she says,
Just like Marie Antoinette

– Queen

Moët & Chandon
Grand Vintage Brut 2003

Epernay, France
Moët Hennessy USA

Notes: Pinot Meunier 43%, Pinot Noir 29%, Chardonnay 28%

COLOR: Light golden
NOSE: A nice spicy, yeasty character
FLAVOR: Fresh, feminine, with just the right amount of fruit and liveliness. A wonderful wine that will elegantly accompany a wide array of foods.


Moët & Chandon Grand Moët & Chandon Grand  Vintage Brut Rose 2003 Epernay, France Moët Hennessy USA
Vintage Brut Rose 2003
Epernay, France
Moët Hennessy USA

Notes: Pinot Meunier 30%, Pinot Noir 48% (19% of it red wine), Chardonnay 22%

COLOR: Reddish pink
NOSE: Elegant and bold; apples with a hint of strawberry
FLAVOR: Full-bodied; not as candied as a lot of roses. This wine is a bit more masculine to me, giving me a darker fruit flavor, plums maybe. The pinot noir shows through nicely.


Korbel Brut Rose NV California Brown-FormanKorbel Brut Rose NV

Notes: Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc, and Gamay

COLOR: Light pink
NOSE: Cherry, strawberry, and melon.
FLAVOR: An earthy, medium-bodied wine with bold flavors of berries and a yeasty side to it. More masculine than I thought it would be. This would make a great food wine from chicken to chocolate.


Juvé y Camps Brut Rose Pinot Noir NVJuvé y Camps Brut Rose Pinot Noir NV  Penedes, Spain  Winebow
Penedes, Spain

Notes: Cava

COLOR: Dark pink
NOSE: Soft peppery strawberry nose.
FLAVOR: This dry bubbly pinot noir has a crisp acidity with delightful fruit flavors. Best with food.


Juvé y Camps Reserva de la Familia, Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2005, Btl. No. 44684 Penedes, Spain WinebowJuvé y Camps Reserva de la Familia, Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2005, Btl. No. 44684
Penedes, Spain

Notes: This cava is produced from the free run juice of Macabeo, Xarel.lo and Parellada grapes harvested on the estate’s properties.

COLOR: Slightly golden hue
NOSE: Very light; I checked the temperature, which was fine. Within reach was white peach and green melon, but all in all, the nose is soft and hard to find.
FLAVOR: Crisp and fresh. Almost too clean, it lacks any sideways flavors and seems one dimensional, but not a bad dimension. I was looking for a bit more flavor and complexity.


Korbel Natural NVKorbel Natural NV Russian River Valley, California Brown-Forman
Russian River Valley, California

Notes: 65% Pinot Noir and 35%
Chardonnay. This would make a quality upscale house sparkling wine if you are looking for a mid-priced versatile, classy product.

COLOR: Golden auburn wheat
NOSE: Rich with fresh grass, apricot.
FLAVOR: Fresh fruit forward flavor. Smells and tastes like Russian River fruit with apples and pear flavors in a rich tasting package. A well-made wine that will stand up next to big food, and a bargain at the price.

Nicholas Feuillatte Palms d’Or 1998 Chouilly, France Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Nicholas Feuillatte Palms d’Or 1998
Chouilly, France
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates


Notes: Nicholas Feuillatte’s Tete Cuvee. 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir

COLOR: Light gold
NOSE: Caramel, green apple with a nice toast that increases as it sits.
FLAVOR: Matches the nose with intense caramel apple; creamy on the onset with
the bubbles showing in mid-palette. It finishes crisp and balanced.


Nicholas Feuillatte Rose Brut NVNicholas Feuillatte Rose Brut NV Chouilly, France Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Chouilly, France
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Notes: 60% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Meunier

COLOR: Salmon
NOSE: Strawberry, Bosc pear with a little green apple.
FLAVOR: Medium fruit and acidity with red berries. Pleasantly structured. A little cassis noted.


Nicolas Feuillatte Brut NV Chouilly, France Ste. Michelle Wine EstatesNicolas Feuillatte Brut NV
Chouilly, France
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Notes: 40% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Meunier

COLOR: Light gold
NOSE: Nice aromas of pear, white peach, and almonds. A nice fresh bread yeastiness in it also.
FLAVOR: Nicely-balanced fruit with crisp acidity. A nice all-around, well-made brut champagne.


Korbel Brut

Notes: Made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc, French Colombard and Chardonnay. Fermented in the bottle.

COLOR: Light golden
NOSE: Clean with a nice yeastiness, hints of pear and white fruit.
FLAVOR: A tad on the sweet side with good fruit and spice. Youthful and lively in the glass. It’s easy to see why its popularity reaches far and wide.

Perrier Jouët Fleur de Champagne Rosé 2002 BEST IN CLASS ROSÉ Epernay, France Pernod-RicardPerrier Jouët Fleur de Champagne Rosé 2002
Epernay, France


Notes: The Belle Epoque Rosé is made by the addition of
red wine rather than the saignée method.

COLOR: Light salmon-pink
NOSE: Baked bread, white peach with red berries, and fresh grass.
FLAVOR: Entry is light, then an explosion of berry flavors. A feminine and
elegant wine that is full of exotic flavors.


Mumm Napa Brut Prestige NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige NV Napa Valley, California Pernod-Ricard USA
Napa Valley, California
Pernod-Ricard US

Notes: Method Traditionnelle

COLOR: Light straw
NOSE: Light bread, white peach, and pleasant citrus notes.
FLAVOR: Medium-bodied, pleasant yeast and summer berries. Creamy, soft and drinkable; a great value.

Perrier Jouët Grand Brut NV Epernay, France  Pernod-RicardPerrier Jouët Grand Brut NV
Epernay, France


Notes: 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay COLOR: Light gold NOSE: Crisp and clean fruit with a light yeast. FLAVOR: Clean melon and citrus flavors. Balanced nicely; a well put-together champagne.

Mumm Cordon Rouge NVMumm Cordon Rouge NV Reims, France Pernod-Ricard
Reims, France


Notes: 45% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay COLOR: Light straw NOSE: White peach and a touch of baked bread. FLAVOR: White peach and almonds are prominent along with gentle acidity. The finish is long and balanced.


Pommery  Wintertime Blanc de Noir NV Reims, France Vranken Pommery AmericaPommery Wintertime Blanc de Noir NV
Reims, France
Vranken Pommery Amer

Notes: A seasonal wine created by Cellar Master Thierry Gasco to be followed by spring, summer, and fall wines. This winter version is 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier.

COLOR: Light golden wheat
NOSE: Subdued berries with a flowery bouquet.
FLAVOR: A beautiful masculine wine that is very lively. Nicely-balanced wine with pleasant yeast, acidity, and creaminess.


Martini & Rossi Prosecco NVMartini & Rossi Prosecco NV Veneto, Italy Bacardi
Veneto, Italy

Notes: Prosecco grapes from the Veneto

COLOR: Golden wheat straw
NOSE: Apricot, almonds, honey, and peach.
FLAVOR: Rich and creamy, with good fruit and balance and a little nuttiness.


Pommery Brut Royal NV Reims, France Vranken Pommery AmericaPommery Brut Royal NV
Reims, France
Vranken Pommery America

Notes: Credited with the first “brut” champagne in 1874; 35% Chardonnay and equal parts of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier

COLOR: Golden
NOSE: Fresh light bread and almonds.
FLAVOR: Crisp and clean with good acidity. A little bit of roasted nut in it.

Martini & Rossi Asti DOCG NVMartini & Rossi Asti DOCG NV Torino, Italy Bacardi
Torino, Italy


Notes: Made with Moscato grapes from Piedmont.

COLOR: Light golden straw
NOSE: Tropical fruit, mango.
FLAVOR: Creamy tropical sweetness with nice acidity for balance. A very nice Asti.