The Decision to Spend More on Sparkling Wine


I love a good value when it comes to sparkling wine, but there are so many occasions that warrant higher price points. In fact, purpose is the single most important part of any sparkling wine purchase. Is it a romantic affair or a graduation? Is it Thanksgiving or a retirement party? Will you be present when the bottle is opened? Generally speaking the import of the occasion leads you to a price. But the truth of the matter is that the premium category does not exist just for special occasions and gifts.  Rather it can turn a boring occasion into a special one.  Once you’ve tasted these premium wines it won’t be hard to understand why they fetch higher prices. “Higher” in this case means over thirty dollars.  The care that goes into their genesis is evident.  No matter which method is used, the creation of sparkling wine is an inherently risky proposition with higher costs. Specialized workers must be hired to tend to caves filled with liquids under extreme pressure.  Special machinery must be used in some cases. Only the best grapes over several vintages, or within a single year, can be used. These producers get a high-five from me for the time, talent, and risk they put behind making premium sparkling wines.

I still hear so many people being apologetic about their wine choices. They shift responsibility to a pushy retailer, a flash sale, or they just buy something – anything—with a vaguely recognizable name. That’s not going to be necessary this year. Check out this list of premium selections that go beyond the same old sparkling wine labels. Nobody is going to say that you made a mistake when you pop open one of these beauties!
V Sattui Winery Prestige Cuvée Brut Napa 2011

The prestige of the Napa name extends to its sparkling wines as well. The region’s renowned terroir bubbles to the surface of every glass. Fresh lemon and pear aromas, a touch of oak spice and more citrus on the nose. Exquisite palate of lemon meringue, grapefruit and fresh melon, extremely clean and light on its feet but expressive and elegant. This over-delivers on flavor, mouthfeel and acidity, is well balanced and approachable. 91 pts. $33

La Valle Satèn Brut Franciacorta 2010

Highly-regarded in Italy, Franciacorta wines are made in the “metodo classico” – double fermentation in the bottle – with strict regulations and were the first in Italy to receive the highest designation of quality. Look for the word “Satèn” on the label as an indicator of quality, too. This La Valle is a perfect example. Satèn is a high-end silk produced in Italy’s Como province. Satèn style wines are silky largely because of their Chardonnay base. Only Chardonnay or Pinot Bianco grapes are permitted in Satèn-labeled wines. Here we find gorgeous fresh apple and white pepper aromas with a touch of honey glaze. Extraordinary and elegant with sweet spice and fresh nectarine and pink grapefruit, persimmon and orange pith towards the finish. Honeyed and herbal with well-developed fruit, excellent balance, and a warm toast throughout. $34

Schug Winery Rouge de Noirs Brut Carneros 2012

Deep ruby color, quite dark for a sparkling wine. Blackberry and black cherry aromas with fresh butter cream. This is tart, zesty and full bodied, with a zippy spiciness through the center playing against full fruit flavors of cranberry, cherry and black currant. Finishes with some earthiness and oak spice - a sparkling wine for red wine lovers. $35

Laurent-Perrier Demi-Sec Champagne NV

You will never disappoint anyone when you bring certified Champagne to the table. This selection by Laurent-Perrier delivers incredible value on the premium side of the line. Soft green apple and grapefruit aromas with baked pear and honeyed lemon peel. Certainly a touch of sweetness on the palate with fresh fruit delivery of pineapple, apple, and peach, creamy delicate mousse, and a candied finish. 90 pts. $44.99

Domaine Chandon Brut Mt. Veeder 2011

Assertive green apple and lemon aromas with dried apricot. Round and firm palate of tart green apple and bright citrus notes of lemon curd, tangerine and pink grapefruit. Tightly focused and very fresh, this doesn't pull any punches on refreshing acidity, but develops a creamy mousse on the palate and finishes with a smooth vanilla and lemon pith note and great length. $45

Bisol Superiore di Cartizze Prosecco DOCG NV

Prosecco has been battling imitators for decades. There are two key terms to look for on Prosecco labels: 1.) DOCG – meaning, the Italian government has guaranteed the origin of the wine.  2.) The word “Cartizze”. This is a small geographical area – around 107 acres – named for the Cartizze hill. This steep vineyard area is most superior for growing the Glera grapes used in Prosecco. The Cartizze area falls in the Conegliano Valdobiaddene region -- another great name to look for on bottles of premium Prosecco. Read more about Conegliano Valdobbiadene here. Light biscuit aromas with peach, grapefruit and lemon. This is full bodied and rich on the palate with a creamy mousse and flavors of tart lemon, creamy almond and peach, melting into chunky melon and smooth oak notes that linger for quite a long time before depositing a touch of sweetness and more nutty buttery brioche notes. $50

Domaine Montreaux Brut Napa NV

I gave this wine 95 points, which doesn’t happen very often. Enough said. Delectable cream and butter aromas with bright Meyer lemon, minerality and honeyed peach notes, with a touch of vanilla. Commanding and freshly zesty in the mouth, full acidity that slips into a tart lemon and grapefruit palate, smashed peach and melon, mixed spice, baked apple and a long dried apricot finish. 95 pts. $50

Frank Family Vineyards Blanc de Blancs Carneros 2012

Fresh and clear aromas of ripe apple, pear, and lemon zest. Tart and refreshing in the mouth, this has a zesty approach, bright acidity and very tart lemon and grapefruit notes. Turns a bit softer on the finish which tails off quickly, reinforcing the clarity, focus and citrus freshness here and leading into the next sip. $55

Grand Napa Vineyards Brut Cuvée Carneros 2010

Buttery brioche, fresh lemon, melon and tart citrus on the nose. Creamy mousse in the mouth, a nice bite of acidity and warm fruit notes of tart green apple, citrus pith, grapefruit and hard rind aged cheese. The finish is clean and has good length, more creaminess and a sticky resinous note alongside more citrus pith and a hint of peach. $75

Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rose Brut Champagne NV $99.99

Fresh cranberry and strawberry on the nose, a touch herbal with floral notes. Continues to be herbal and lightly earthy on the palate, with strawberry and cherry fruit coming through the mid palate, a lively acidity and finish of lemon zest. $99.99

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