Champagne is the best known sparkling wine, but there are loads of other options that, while less famous, can offer more value. Consider French Cremant (sparklers from regions other than Champagne), Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco and good old sparkling wine from the USA. My Wine Tribe recently decided to dive in and explore the world of sparkling wine via a blind tasting.
A Sparkling International Lineup
- Gramona Gran Reserva 2011 Cava (Spain): $21. Made from Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Chardonnay grapes, this cava comes from a family-owned winery in the Penedes region of Spain that values tradition (the grapes are hand harvested) and sustainability (no chemicals plus lots of composting in the vineyard).
- Bisol Crede 2014 Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. (Italy): $25. Made with Glera, Pinot Bianco and Verdiso grapes, this Prosecco gets rave reviews from the likes of Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.
- Francios Chidaine Brut Nature Cremant NV (France): $30. This one comes from Chenin Blanc grapes that are farmed in a biodynamic, sustainable way.
- Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc Brut 2013 (California): $39. It’s Chardonnay all the way for this sparkler from the venerable Napa Valley wine family.
We had a few surprises in this tasting, but, as usual, people stayed true to their tribes. Not sure what tribe you’re in? Take our handy quiz and find the sparkling wine that’s best for you based on your palate.
Winners in Sparkling Wine, by Tribe
A lot of TLC goes into Gramona Gran Reserva, which was a hit with the Complex Tribe. Tasters loved its “lush, full mouthfeel” and “nice bubbles with hints of apricot, almond and pear.” They also appreciated the touch of sweetness, “like a brioche bun.” Though some of the other tribes found it a bit too heavy when paired with food, it’s a lovely wine on its own—and the quality-to-price ratio is unparalleled.
The Bisol Prosecco was the favorite of both the Balanced and Developed Tribes. Tasters liked the floral aromas, the fruity tastes (green apples, lime and not quite ripe pear), the lightness on the palate and the bubbly effervescence. This one easily paired with all kinds of food and was also just fine on its own. If you’re in the Balanced or Developed Tribes this is a sure bet, and I’m willing to wager it would be a hit with Accessible Tribe members as well.
Wines Still Sparkle, if Not as Brightly
The Francois Chidaine Brut Cremant surprised many of us: It was not a winner. While a few tasters liked the overt sweetness, most of our tasters didn’t. They found it to be almost raisiny, with a heavy dose of honey and a bit dusty tasting. On its own this Cremant was tough to drink, but it did mellow out a bit with food. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it, regardless of your tribe.
And finally we had the Shramsberg Blanc de Blanc. This was my personal favorite, but no one else in my tribe (Developed) was really digging it. It is bright and citrusy, with a bit too much grapefruit for most of our tasters. I think of it as zesty and I do like grapefruit, so perhaps that has something to do with my love for this wine, although at $39 a bottle it was a bit of a financial stretch.
The Bottom Line
The big winners of the night were the Gramona Cava Gran Reserva from Spain for the Complex Tribe and the Italian Bisol Prosecco for everyone else. Lucky for us, they’re both on the affordable side, yet another reason to drink more bubbles now, instead of saving sparkling wines for New Years Eve. Cheers!