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90+ point rated wines under $20
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More than any other wine, people either seem to love or loath Champagne. Regardless of where you stand, sparkling wines have been around for over 300 years and they aren't going away anytime soon. In fact, it seems every country making wine, has jumped on the bandwagon, which is something of a surprise considering how time consuming and expensive the process is. While only wines that come from the Champagne region of France can officially use that moniker, their methods are being used around the world by wineries trying to compete with that region's reputation.

Champagne is all about the brand, each winery producing a unique house blend that delivers the same flavors from year to year. They accomplish this by blending wines from various vintages, which is why most bottles have no year declared. If a vintage is declared on the bottle, this was considered an exceptional year that will show distinct characteristics which you will pay extra to enjoy. Prestige Cuvées, like Dom Perignon and Cristal, are usually vintage wines made from the highest quality grapes, aged longer before release and made in limited quantities. The best deals in sparkling wines are coming from Spain (Cava) and Italy (Prosecco, Asti). Unfortunately, the only way to find the house style you like (mine is Moet et Chandon's White Star) is to taste a lot of them and that is an expensive enterprise.

WHAT TO EXPECT: The size of the bubbles depends on the method of production and the age of the wine. In this case, bigger is not better. Most dry sparklers are light-bodied and fairly high in acidity with notes of green apples, citrus and bread/toast. As you move up the sweetness scale from Brut Nature to Doux (hitting Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec/Dry and Demi-Sec along the way), you'll get more stone fruit flavors, bigger body and less bready notes. What one region considers Brut may be more or less "dry" somewhere else. Blanc de Blancs are made with only Chardonnay. Blanc de Noirs, though not pink, either/both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. NV styles can use any combination of the three.

P.S.: I like my sparklers to be more on the fruity/sweet side, so beware my reviews if you don't. I warned you.


spacer.gifNV Canard Duchene Brut Classic, Champagne, FranceRATING: **
spacer.gifDomaine Chandon Etoile Brut Sur Lees 2000, Sonoma, CaliforniaRATING: ***
spacer.gifNV Gaston Chiquet Brut Tradition, Champagne, FranceRATING: ***
spacer.gifNV Gloria Ferrer Brut, Sonoma, CaliforniaRATING: ***
spacer.gifNV Lindauer Brut, New ZealandRATING: **
spacer.gifNV Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rose, Alsace, FranceRATING: **
spacer.gifNV Mumm Napa Cuvée M, Napa, CARATING: ***
spacer.gifNV Ogio Prosecco Extra Dry, Veneto, ItalyRATING: **
spacer.gifNV Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut, North Coast, CARATING: **

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**** Outstanding | *** Delicious | ** Enjoyable | * Drinkable
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