Photographs by Jared Charney
This year, we all could use a boost, and there’s nothing like some bubbly to provide a temporary one. Welcoming the arrival of 2021 certainly merits a major toast (or two) with something special, like champagne! Valentine’s Day and winter weddings deserve plenty of sparklers, all in the name of love. So what’s the best fizz to fill your flute? To help you choose, several North Shore wine experts gave us their top three picks.
Wine & Store Manager, Andover Classic Wines, Andover, andoverclassicwines.com
Champagne Laherte Frères Ultratradition Brut NV, 750ml, $44.99
This sparkler’s lovely fruit, fine bubbles, and great balance make it a perfect choice for any celebration. It’s one of the greatest values in Champagne and embodies every quality that has earned the region its legendary status.
Col de’ Salici Prosecco 2018, 750ml, $21.99
This beautiful Italian sparkler from the famous Valdobbiadene Prosecco region is a definite step up from the ordinary. Its lush aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel will delight every sense. Even the bottle is elegant!
Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut NV, 750ml, $89.99
The pretty raspberry color parallels this wine’s aromas of red currants, strawberries, and roses. Sound wonderful? It is! Nothing is more festive than sparkling brut rosé, especially when it comes from one of the greatest houses in Champagne.
Wine Director, Lighthouse Wine & Spirits, Beverly, lighthousewines.com
Brut Champagne Le Drappier Carte d’Or 2002, 750ml, $99.99
Primarily composed of Pinot Noir and made following organic and natural principles, this champagne has white peach on the nose and notes of toasted brioche and orange zest. It’s rich, complex, and divine.
Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne La Grande Dame Rosé 2006, 750ml, $229.99
This highly coveted champagne comes from one of the leading producers in Champagne (the house created the first vintage champagne, invented riddling, and created the first rosé champagne through blending). It’s brimming with delicate flavors of toast, raspberries, and minerality and pairs beautifully with smoked salmon and caviar.
Louis Roederer Brut Champagne Cristal, 2008, 750ml, $229.99
This highly rated 2008 champagne is the first vintage in Cristal’s history to undergo a full 10 years of aging. It is one of my favorite bubblies, and for good reason. It’s fresh, packed with notes of vanilla brioche, citrus and peach, and has an elegant mousse. It strikes wonder on the palette.
Owner, Savour Wine & Cheese, Gloucester, savourwineandcheese.com
Chateau du Breuil Crémant de Loire 2016, $21.99 (France)
This remarkable sparkler includes equal parts organically farmed Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay grapes grown in Savennières, France’s most geologically complex wine region. Biodynamically produced, it shines with a dusty apple Chenin taste over a backbone of flint and slate. It is dry, crisp, and clean and has a good structure and a fine, delicate mousse. Like many sparkling wines, this one is memorable with sushi and fried foods.
AR Lenoble Chouilly Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne 2016, $54.99 (France)
Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes from the Grand Cru village of Chouilly, this blanc de blancs champagne is a great find! Wines of this caliber often cost hundreds of dollars per bottle. It is crisp and steely, but with complex notes of vanilla, toast, nutmeg, and even a bit of coffee. The fruit reveals Mirabelle plum and golden delicious apple with the chalky minerality characteristic of champagne. From a classic vintage, 2016, it ages very well and makes a great holiday gift. It pairs particularly well with chilled shrimp and lobster.
Antica Fratta Franciacorta Essence Rosé 2013, $36.99 (Italy)
This rare aged rosé of Franciacorta stands out for its soft pink hue, persistently creamy mousse, and seamless pairing with charcuterie and cheeses. Made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay in the traditional champagne method, it has ripe cranberry and dark cherry fruit notes with a hint of “red-hot” candy. It’s dry but fruit-forward and the perfect wine for celebrations of love.
Wine ConneXtion, North Andover, wineconnextion.com
Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad Brut Cava, $19.99 (Spain)
Cava is often overlooked in the sparkling wine world, and this one—the highest marque from Segura Viudas—over-delivers for the price. It pairs well with appetizers and seafood dishes and has flavors of baked bread with hints of honey and florals.
Mumm Napa Brut Prestige or Brut Rosé, $16.99 (California)
I typically lean toward rosé sparkling wines, but I know some customers prefer regular brut because they think pink sparklers will be sweeter, which is not always the case. Thus, I am suggesting both wines, which are dry and made in the méthode champenoise. The regular brut prestige has notes of citrus, stone fruit, creamy vanilla, and hints of toasted ginger. It has good acidity and a long finish. The brut rosé has flavors of black cherries, red fruit, and a touch of citrus and a long finish. Both pair nicely with a variety of hors d’oeuvres, as well as seafood and poultry dishes.
Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rosé Champagne, $75.99 (France)
This is one of my favorite champagnes for under $100 and probably my number one recommended champagne in the store. Customers often come in asking for Veuve Clicquot Rosé, and I always steer them to this 100% Pinot Noir rosé, whereupon they often come back and tell me how much they enjoyed it. This wine exhibits lots of juicy red fruit and is well-rounded yet sharp with a soft, delicate finish.
Co-Owner, Vinum Wine, Middleton, vinumwineshop.com
Varichon et Clerc Blanc de Blancs, $14 (France)
This French sparkling wine is produced outside of the Champagne region and, thus, is far more affordable than most true champagnes. It has beautiful apple and pear fruit notes and a long-lasting mousse (bubbles). It is produced using the same method as in Champagne but does not have the richness nor the complexity of actual champagne. This sparkler is excellent on its own and in mixed drinks such as mimosas and Bellinis.
Marsuret Prosecco di Valdobbiadene San Boldo Brut, $17 (Italy)
This outstanding sparkling wine is from Valdobbiadene, arguably the finest region for Prosecco. It is light and bright with citrus fruit notes and has been the best-selling sparkling wine at Vinum Wine Shop since the day we opened. Many customers will not drink anything else after tasting it.
Vollereaux Brut Champagne, $40 (France)
Produced in the Champagne region of France, this champagne is big and rich with a yeasty quality that is the hallmark of champagne. In addition to the complex flavor, it has tight, long-lasting bubbles.
More Great Finds
+ Côté Mas Crémant de Limoux Brut NV, $19.99 (France)
Made in the traditional champagne method from 60% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir, and 10% Mauzac grapes, this zippy bubbly from Southern Fance has notes of citrus, yellow apple, honey, and candied lemon rind. With good acidity and small bubbles, it makes a terrific cocktail wine.
+ Ferrari Rosé NV, $38 (Italy)
This copper-pink sparkler from Northern Italy’s Trentodoc evokes wild strawberries on the nose, leading to a palate of pomegranate, almond, and biscotti. Well-balanced and crisp, it’s a bottle to savor with appetizers, pasta, and game.
+ Buena Vista La Victoire Brut Champagne, $85 (France)
California-based Buena Vista Winery partnered with the largest family-owned vineyard in Champagne to produce this luxurious elegantly-crafted rosé with lush flavors of raspberries, stone fruits, minerals, and brioche. Beautifully balanced with fine bubbles, it’s worthy of any grand occasion.
Winemakers Tommaso Gambino and Jules Gold-Gambino reside in Massachusetts, Los Angeles, and Italy, where they produce the following Proseccos.
+ Gambino Prosecco, $12.99
and $6.99 (single-serve bottle)
Extra dry and golden straw in color, this crisp Prosecco has flavors of citrus and green apple tinged with white peach and toast.
+ Gambino Gold Prosecco DOCG Brut $19.99
Considered the “Grand Cru” of Prosecco, this well-balanced sparkler has a floral, almost creamy finish.
+ Jules Prosecco Rosé, $16.99
Released in December 2020, this soft pink Prosecco is made from 88% Glera grapes and 12% Pinot Noir and has notes of red berries and citrus.