Champagnes and sparkling wines are especially popular during the winter Holidays. Families and friends toast their friendship and welcome the New Year with the bubbles that convey a sense of celebration and joy. To help guide your purchases of Champagne and sparkling wine, we provide our evaluations of some of the best we’ve tasted over the past year.
Ayala 2014 No. 14 Grand Cru Champagne (Aÿ) ($130) 94 A superb, lively Brut showing notes of toasty lees with a red cherry accent. Perfectly balanced, crisp and very flavorful with a cream-like texture. Finishes very, very long with fine, rich extract. Superb. Made of 5 Grands Crus: Chouilly, Cramant, Les Mesnil-sur-Oger in Chardonnays and Aÿ and Verzy in Pinot Noirs. A blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir; 6 years on the lees in bottle. RS 5.3 g/L
Louis Roederer 2015 Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($99) 95 A classic, elegant Blanc de Blancs from Roederer, superbly balanced with impressive varietal purity. Nuanced and refined, mouth filling palate with an incredibly long, rich finish. Sourced from La Côte vineyard in Avize; 33% fermented in oak. 8 g/L dosage.
Louis Roederer 2015 Philippe Starck Rosé Brut Nature Champagne ($135) 94 The 2015 vintage Roederer Brut Nature Rosé is crisp and lively with notes of zesty red currant and cherry. It’s mouth filling with complex, layered flavors and a very long, solidly dry finish. A blend of biodynamically grown 50% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay and 13% Meunier sourced from La Rivière vineyard in Cumières. 11% fermented in oak, 30% malo, 6 years on the lees before disgorgement.
Roland Champion 2015 Grand Eclat Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Champagne ($79) 93 Showing a light-yellow hue, the all Chardonnay Grand Eclat is dry and crisp, the perfect bubbly to accompany oysters on the half shell, as we did. Fine bubbles with outstanding depth and sense of refinement. Sourced from Chouilly and Enracines and aged 6 years sur lattes. Disgorged January 2022. Good value.
High quality sparkling wines are now made all around the world using the traditional method, or methode champenoise, and usually using the same grape varieties used in Champagne. They are often less expensive than Champagne, and the best ones are very, very good. We’ve listed our favorites tasted this year from Italy, South Africa, California, and Spain.
Colmant NV Brut Reserve Cap Classique Western Cape ($49) 92 Light creamy yellow. The Brut Reserve is an outstanding New World sparkler. Rich and leesy, it’s fresh and beautifully balanced with a creamy texture and rich long finish. 52% Pinot Noir and 48% Chardonnay with 20% reserve wines and a minimum of 30 months on the lees. A small portion of the base wine is oak aged. Excellent value.
Colmant NV Brut Rosé Cap Classique Western Cape ($49) 91 Copper salmon color. Incisive red berry scents with a hint of blood orange. Fruity but dry on a creamy palate with a fine mousse and lingering finish. A blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, 15% fermented in oak and 15% reserve wines, with a minimum of 24 months on the lees in bottle.
Contratto 2017 For England Blanc de Noirs Pas Dosé Alta Langa 92 The For England Blanc de Noirs Pas Dosé shows a fresh toasty nose of light red berries. Dry on the attack with a fine mousse. Well balanced and clean on the palate with good flavor and a crisp, dry finish with lingering toasted grain notes. A well-made, all Pinot Noir sparkler aged a minimum of 42 months sur lie before bottling.
Domaine Carneros 2016 Brut Late Disgorged Carneros (Napa Valley) ($58) 93 The Late Disgorged Brut has always been one of our favorite sparklers from Domaine Carneros. Very bright, fresh and crisp; superbly balanced, leesy and mouth filling with a dry, mineral like finish. Well done, and well priced. 57% Chardonnay, 43% Pinot Noir with 9 g/L dosage.
Domaine Carneros 2015 Le Rêve Carneros (Napa Valley) ($125) 95 Pale straw. One of California’s most refined sparkling wines. Richly aromatic showing toasty, leesy scents. Superbly balanced and fresh with a creamy texture and layered citrusy flavors of mandarin and lemon, ending long and dry. A gorgeous wine. All Chardonnay with 9 g/L dosage.
Raventós i Blanc 2019 De Nit Conca del Riu Anoia 92 The 2019 Extra Brut De Nit is a blend of 40% Xarel-lo, 39% Macabeo, 15% Parellada, and 6% Monastrell. It offers a lovely mousse and a light pink-orange color. It is bright and fresh on the nose and is both, slightly perfumy and yeasty. On the palate it reveals a creamy mouth feel, hints of dried cherries and a creamy finish. Aged on the lees for 18 months. Enjoy this beauty with a grand meal.
Raventós i Blanc 2014 Manuel Raventos Negra Conca del Riu Anoia 94 The magnificent 2014 Manuel Raventos Negra Brut Nature is a traditional blend of 60% Sumoll and 40% Xarel-lo. Aged 70 months on the lees, it offers a lovely fresh mousse and reveals aromas and flavors of brioche and orchard fruit. It is beautifully balanced and has a crisp dry finish. A superb wine.
Tanzanite NV Brut Rosé Breede River Valley South Africa ($38) 91 The Brut Rosé is a well-made South African sparkler sourced from Breede River Valley vineyards. Showing light scents of red berries on the nose, the palate is very fresh and crisp, exactly what one wants in a sparkling rosé. Finishes dry with an appealing mineral note. A blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay with a minimum of 24 months sur lie. Delicious and well-priced.
Torello NV Brut Sparkling Catalunya (Corpinnat) ($47) 92 Made from both Champagne and Catalunya varieties, this is an elegant and layered Brut. A bouquet with nuances of hazelnut and lemon cream leads to a creamy textured palate with flavors that mirror the nose. It has a beautiful, fine mouth feel and a lovely mousse. A blend of organically cultivated, hand harvested, 32% Chardonnay, 32% Xarel.lo, 22% Macabeo and 14% Parellada from estate vineyards. Métode Tradicional with more than 48 months on the lees in bottle. RS 4 g/L