My Experiences in Tasting and Purchasing Holiday Sparkling Wines

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Nick Antonaccio
Nick Antonaccio

I’ve penned several columns on the subject of sparkling wines. At this time of year, with the holidays looming and visions of tiny bubbles in a fluted glass dancing in my head, I become immersed in the joys of indulging in sparkling wines from around the world.

For my palate, sparkling wines are one of the most versatile wines produced around the globe. Their acidity and crispness highlight the acidity or the creaminess of many foods; the effervescence cuts through the fattiest of foods.

What brings this subject to the forefront this week are three occasions in which sparkling wines were the focus. Allow me to regale you with these experiences. Not to be braggadocios (although it may seem as such) but rather to provide insights into the vast array and diversity of bubbly wines.

The premise for each of my three experiences was quite disparate. My first was a sampling at a holiday tasting luncheon sponsored by the Wine Media Guild, of which I am a member. The second was a tasting I provided to a monthly wine group, of which I am a member. The third was perhaps the most rewarding – selecting a sampling of sparklers from various countries and regions for a holiday gift to friends.

Once a year, at the year-end holidays, members of the Wine Media Guild meet to share good cheer over a sampling of sparkling wines. This year’s theme was rosé Champagne. Twenty-two of them to be precise. Fifteen, each of which was produced from multiple vintages, and an additional seven, each produced from a specific year’s harvest.

The rosé Champagnes I tasted varied significantly in style and price. Several were soft and readily quaffable. Others were a bit more austere, while a few displayed perfectly balanced fruit and acidity. Most of these are readily available at wine shops that focus on Champagnes. Here are a few of my favorites.

In the under $60 price range, I enjoyed the roundness and lack of sweetness in the Ayala Rosé Brut Majeure NV, Duval-Leroy Premier Cru Brut Rosé NV, Phillipe Gonet Brut Rosé NV and the Moet & Chandon Extra Brut Rosé 2009 (the standout in the sea of pink and salmon colored wines).

Care to splurge? In the $75 and higher price range, I enjoyed the complexity, balance and rich mouth-feel of Bollinger Brut Rosé NV, Charles Heidsieck Brut Rosé Reserve NV, Taittinger Comtes Brut Rosé 2006 and Pol Roger Brut Rosé 2008 (my overall favorite).

My next exhilarating experience was at my home for a group tasting of 12 wines, including several Champagnes from the Gosset winery, which has been producing highly praised wines since 1584. With my nine fellow wine group members I sampled the Blanc de Blanc NV and the 2002 Celebris Extra Brut. Each was quite approachable; the 2002 Celebris was silky, bright and minerally, but expensive. A more reasonably priced offering is the Brut Excellence NV, which in my opinion may be the best Champagne value on the market today.

My third experience was a shopping trip to purchase a gift for two friends of a representative sampling of sparkling wines from around the world. My budget was no greater than $30 per bottle. I visited Westchester Wine Warehouse in White Plains for my purchase. Ken, the affable and very knowledgeable store manager, guided me to this diverse collection/

France: Moutard Grande Cuvee NV ($30), Maison Foucher Cremant de Loire Brut Cuvee NV ($16), Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose NV ($19).

United States: Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc, 2014 ($30).

Spain: Recaredo “Relats de Recaredo” Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava, 2012 ($30).

Australia: Paringa Sparkling Shiraz 2015 ($16).

I’m hoping my friends share these wines with me. If they do, I’ll attempt to report my tasting notes in a future column.

I encourage you to visit your local wine shop that has a passion for presenting fine sparkling wines to its customers. Then begin to experiment. In this day of highly affordable price-quality ratio wines, you won’t be disappointed.

Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 20 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at or on Twitter @sharingwine.


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