By 2006 we had tried many of the common sparkling wine and Champagnes on the market, tried them with food, without food, with cheese, with "bad food" combinations, and much more. This year we went for a free-for-all, with nine different varieties from all regions of the world, with our favorite cheeses and dish combinations that work well with Champagne. This means we included cheddar, brie, shrimp, sushi, scallops, ladyfingers, strawberries and raspberries. Not everybody chose favorites, but I indicate where one was chosen.
Jacob's Creek Brut Cuvee- $7.99
This Australian sparkler is less than 1/5th the price of some of the other sparklers we served, and really is quite nice. It's 80% chardonnay and 20% pinot noir, with lots of bubbles and an initial sweetness that becomes more tart as the flavor settles. A great value for the price, especially considering many of the cheapo sparklers that we've tried in the past and really disliked.
Jacob's Creek Sparkling Rose- $7.99
Also from Australia, this has a lovely rose color and is perfect for any romantic occasion. Again, like its white compatriot above, it's 80% chardonnay and 20% pinot noir - the color difference comes from them letting the wine sit on the skins of the pinot noir grape for a little while. This is like a bubbly white zinfandel, and is a sparkly that even a non wine drinker will probably love.
This is the Californian offering from the classic French house Moet & Chandon. The flavor is light, gentle, with a hint of biscuit flavor. Others found it too tart, though, like 'refinishing furniture'. It all depends on your taste buds :)
Sofia2005 - $12.99
This is 100% chardonnay grapes, and is the one wine that none of us really enjoyed. There were comments such as "very odd", "a little like ginger ale", and "mulled wine Champagne". Coming from California, this does have hints of spicy nutmeg flavors, and certainly there will be an audience out there who enjoys these flavors. It just wasn't in this crowd.
Franco Lucien Albrecht- $12.99
This rose sparkling wine is from France, but not from the Champagne region. Therefore it can't be called a Champagne. It is a paler red than the Jacob's Creek, and also smoother. This was the favorite of one of the members of our group.
Roederer is the Californian version of Louis Roederer, a famous French Champagne house. We found this grapefruity with a smooth, pleasant finish. We tried this last in the set, so unfortunately (I suppose) we had already tried the Louis Roederer, which several of us found to be our favorite. We had hoped this could be a cheaper alternative, but the flavor just wasn't as lovely as the twice-the-price French version.
Perrier Jouet Champagne- $25
We actually got this in a $30 set with 2 'free' Champagne flutes, which we promptly gave away to one of the visitors. We have way too much glassware. It had a yeasty, non fruity flavor with a fair amount of bubbles. While some wine drinkers might feel this is the "most authentic" Champagne flavor of the bunch here, it was not chosen as the favorite of any of the tasters. We did find it went well with the fried scallops :)
Louis Roederer Brut Premiere- $32.99
The French Champagne house, and you can see why they have such a good reputation. Smooth, citrussy, lemonny, a hint of yeast, delicious. Two of the tasters chose this as their favorite.
Veuve Cliquot Rose- $45
The color here is an elegant, very light peach color. The flavor is also light and gentle. This isn't a "white zinfandel" by any stretch of the imagination! This was gentle, floral flavors, a hint of rose, strawberry, raspberry. This was enjoyed by all and the favorite of the eldest member of our tasting group.
As you can see, there was no clear consensus here of any sparkling wine being the "best". It varied greatly depending on our taste buds and likes. Several tasters didn't have one 'best', but liked different sparklers for different reasons. The best way to find out for yourself which you enjoy is to have your own tasting, and to see! When you go to restaurants, get a glass to go with your salad or chicken dish. Champagne really does go wonderfully with food, and shouldn't be put off for only once a year. It's a wine. Enjoy it!
The Basics of Champagne
Methode Champenoise - How Champagne is Made
Champagne Pairings and Reviews
Champagne History and Information