As a penny-pinching German, I don't drink expensive Champagne or domestic sparkling wine like it's water, but a couple of times a year (New Year's, wedding anniversary), I overcome my thrifty tendencies and blow big bucks on a great bottle. When I'm spending serious money on wine, I want to know my $30 or $60 or $100 is going to be worth it and not a major disappointment.
Normally our Wine Steals column focuses on $15-and-under everyday wines that are amazing for the price, but in honor of special occasions, here are five sparkling wines that I personally love and am willing to shell out for because, as Charles Dickens said, "Champagne is one of the elegant extras in life."
After the jump, five splurgeworthy sparklers plus a poll: How much are you willing to spend on special-occasion wine?
Schramsberg J. Schram ($100): Schramsberg winery in the Napa Valley was founded in 1862 by a German immigrant named Jacob Schram. Now run by the Davies family, Schramsberg produces a line of world-class sparkling wines. The J. Schram is paradoxically rich, buttery and toasty while light and bright on the palate, and it regularly gets high scores from the critics. My husband and I had the 1999 vintage for our seventh anniversary in 2007, and it was every bit as amazing as our years together.
Also from Schramsberg, the Blanc de Blancs ($36) and Blanc de Noirs ($38) are less expensive options, but both exceptionally well-made wines. The Blanc de Blancs is made exclusively from Chardonnay and is vibrant and toasty, while the Blanc de Noirs, from Pinot Noir, is zesty and bright. They're both terrific with a sushi takeout date-night on the couch.
A lovely and good-value French bottle is Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV Champagne ($54), fruity and floral with light undertones of yeasty bread. My husband and I toasted nine years together with this Champagne in August. It was a heartbreakingly good match with Northshore Brasserie's Chicken Pot-au-Feu in Champagne vinegar-butter-shallot sauce. (Side note: the Champenois are awash in unsold inventory thanks to the recession and are scrambling to make Champagne a daily drink instead of a splurge and by cutting harvest yields by 32 percent this year, letting the rest rot on the vine. Sad.)
From Spain, Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad ($23) is a steal, earning great scores from the critics for its complex brioche and green apple flavors. But what I really love about this wine is its hand-blown glass bottle and pewter base, which makes it a stunning gift.
Finally, for our vegan Slashfoodies, the Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour ($35) is a California wine made by a French Champagne house Domaine Taittinger. Made from certified organic grapes and animal-free products (most wines are "fined," or clarified, with animal products like egg white or isinglass; Domaine Carneros uses a clay-based vegan product), the Brut Rosé is robust, full-bodied and best enjoyed with salmon, cheeses or berry-based desserts.
Do you have a go-to special occasion bubbly? Share in the comments, and take our poll: How much money are you willing to fork over for special-occasion wine?
|Up to $20.||7 (15.6%)|
|Up to $50.||13 (28.9%)|
|Up to $100.||11 (24.4%)|
|$100 to $200.||11 (24.4%)|
|Every day is a special occasion!||2 (4.4%)|
|Other (please leave a comment).||1 (2.2%)|