Tis the season for bubbles. Yes? But let’s face it, tis always the season for bubbles in my world. I created the world’s best weekly holiday- Champagne Sunday. So I get my bubbles in once a week. Guaranteed. At least. But, I digress.
Tis the season when most of the non-weekly Champagne drinkers of the world will go out and buy a bottle of Champagne to toast at New Years. And most of them will go and buy the same thing they always buy, or the thing that the clerk tells them they should buy, without giving it a second thought. And this thing will most likely be an overpriced, overrated, overproduced bottle of fine stuff. Not great stuff, but fine stuff. Just fine.
Now is the time in the post when I would like to specifically talk about Veuve Cliquot. Okie Doke?
There is nothing wrong with Veuve Clicquot Brut. Not a thing…except for the fact that it is the one bottle that most of America thinks is the best. I don’t know how or when exactly this started but here we are. You can find it at any grocery store with a wine section, at every wine store, Ina Garten stocks her fridge with the stuff, therefore it has to be good, right? Wrong. That is not how you know something is good. That is how you know something is available.
Veuve Clicquot is like the boneless, skinless chicken breast of Champagne. People buy it, robotically, passing by all the more flavorful, better and lesser expensive options. And they’ve forgotten why exactly they’re doing it.
If you like Veuve and are fine paying the price for it, then stop reading this now because I will not be of any service to you. But…if you’re interested in discovering something new and better and, let’s face it, cooler… then read on, my friends. But before I continue, can we get one thing straight right now? The Veuve in Veuve Clicquot is pronounced Vuv…rhyming with Love. It is NOT pronounced Voove…rhyming with Move. Please remember that now and forever.
If you’re buying actual Champagne, which means it was made in Champagne, France, expect to pay at least $35 for it. That’s where the pricing begins here in the states. (Veuve Clicquot Brut NV normally costs about $43.)
Here are some nice Champagne choices that are not Veuve…
*Piper Heidsieck Brut is a bottle that I’ve always loved, if only for sentimental reasons. It’s the first actual champagne that I purchased with my own money many years ago, so it’s pretty special to me. And delicious. It’ll run you around $48 and is pretty easy to find.
*Pommery Brut Royal is a good one, at around $50. It’s a very traditional and well respected Champagne house, and was the first ever to release a vintage brut in history.
*G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut is always nice, at $47. You can’t go wrong there.
*Montaudon Brut is great, and is only $35!!! Honestly, you guys, this one for the price is phenomenal.
All of those are great, classic choices that aren’t as massively popular as Veuve. They aren’t underground choices by any means, and are all easy to find, but they’re just a little more fun (in my opinion).
And I can’t write a Champagne post without speaking of this: One of my absolute favorite bottles of Rose Champagne is Billecart Salmon Brut Rose, which, unfortunately costs around $80.
It’s beautiful. It’s elegant. It’s just lovely. I can’t drink that every day, and frankly, no one should. That price is crazy!! And also, there seems to be a worldwide shortage of the stuff. No joke. (I hope I’m not to blame.) You just can’t find it anywhere now!! (However, they do make a Brut that’s $55 and fantastic, by the way.) But I happen to have a delicious Billecart Rose sub that, if the mood strikes, can get me through til the next time I can afford a bottle of my sweet, sweet Billecart…
*Laetitia Brut Rose, which is only around $30 is so so good. I haven’t been able to find it in awhile but if you run across a bottle, grab it!!
(Seriously. Grab it. I’ll totally pay you back.)
But…if you don’t wanna spend the $30+ for a bottle o bub, you don’t have to. You just won’t get actual champagne. And that’s totally fine!! There are plenty of good sparkling wines out there that can make you equally as happy and feel equally as festive. But just like with the Veuve, there are several mass produced bottles of inexpensive sparkling wine that I DO NOT recommend for the very same reason. The Cristalino Cava, which used to be fine, but now costs too much for what it is, is not a great choice. Korbel California Sparkling Wine is another overpriced bottle that just isn’t good enough. But…if you’re at a normal grocery store and can’t find anything but those and Freixenet Cava, another superbly mass produced bottle, then go for the Freixenet. It’s the best out of that bunch. I have a couple bottles in my kitchen right now actually. They’re great for mimosas and parties.
But here are my top picks for non-champagne bubblies that make me happy…
For California Sparkling wines…
*Chandon Brut. This one is readily available at most grocery stores, runs around $16 and is great for that price. This one makes an appearance on many a ‘Champagne’ Sunday in my house…
(Being a California sparkling wine, all of these use the same grapes as they do in Champagne, so the flavors are quite similar.)
*Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut. Another readily available bottle, great flavor, at $18.
*Mumm Napa Brut Prestige. Around $17, very nice, easy to find.
*Roederer Estate. At $23, it’s worth the couple dollars more than the others above. It’s delicious. (Louis Roederer is who makes Cristal. Anything they put out is nice, from this itty bottle all the way up to the big gun.)
*Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs. It’s $28 and even though it’s still a couple bucks more than the others above, is a very highly respectable California bubbly. And like the others, it’s quite easy to find, at least at most wine shops. (They make more expensive bottles that are harder to find, any of the J. Schram’s, for one, are incredible if you can swing it.)
I can give you a list of Proseccos and Cavas, (made in Italy and Spain, respectively)…I could. I can rattle off several good names with the blink of an eye and give them all the appropriate descriptors…The Berberana Cava, Segura Viudas Cava, the Riondo Prosecco, La Marca Prosecco, but I feel like we’ve all been there, done that. I will say that if you’re mimosa shopping, please don’t buy a prosecco. They are far too fruity for the OJ. And please, please, please don’t buy actual champagne. Goodness no. Good champagne should not be cut with anything, no way, no how. Pick an inexpensive Cava that you can find in any grocery store and you’ve got yourself a delicious mimosa. So since I’m not going into big detail on the best proseccos and cavas, what I really want to do is talk about Cremant de Bourgogne. It’s a far better quality imported Champagne substitute and just a little bit cooler of a choice. Cremant de Bourgogne is a French sparkling wine, made in Burgundy, so they are made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, among other grapes, just like Champagnes are. They’re an excellent French substitute for Champagne, if you really need your bottle o bub to come from France and look all fancy and stuff. (And you will most likely need to go to a wine store for this, as Cremant’s of any kind are generally not available in most grocery stores.)
Louis Bouillot makes several good ones- a brut, a rose, blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs, some vintage bottles, an extra dry (demi sec), but my favorite of theirs is probably the Perle Rare Brut Vintage. It’s about $25 and not their most expensive, but I happen to think it’s the most Champagne-like.
So, in summary let me break it down for you real quick-
*Don’t buy Veuve until you try something new and fun.
*Don’t waste the money on Korbel at the grocery store.
*Don’t make mimosas with Prosecco.
*Do buy me a bottle of Laetitia Rose if you see one.
*Do think of me when you toast to the New Year, because I will absolutely be doing the same to you.
So, there you have it, folks. Just a little insight into my big ole bubbly brain. And remember, just because something is the most popular, does not mean it’s the best. (Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you, high school.)
I hope you all have a happy and bubblicious New Year.
Cheers to you!!