Bargain bubbly

Back in the 20th century, when we were organizing our wedding, I was making conversation with the New England innkeeper where we had our wedding reception. I was living in Barcelona at the time and we were chatting about Catalan food and wine. Somehow we stumbled onto the topic of cava, the sparkling wine from the region that is dramatically less expensive than Champagne. That really got the innkeeper going. “Cava! I wouldn’t wash the family dog with that!” he flamboyantly declared.

Whatever you might do with bargain bubbly, they have their time and place. I’ve gotten several reader mails recently from people getting married looking for advice on wines for their wedding, particularly when they have the option to source the wines themselves.

The real budget killer can be the Champagne toast. Every guest feels obliged to take a glass, whether they are going to drink it or not. Some just take a sip. Either way, there’s generally a lot bubbly left in the flutes on the tables.

So here’s a short list of bubbly that doesn’t break the bank. Perceptive readers will notice that none of these hail from the region of Champagne. That’s because entry-level Champers starts at $30 these days. I set a maximum of $15 so that we didn’t send the newlyweds (or the parents of the bride) into penury–we’ll let the florist do that.

Bargain bubbly can be a mixed bag with too much residual sugar and too little depth of flavor. If you end up being able to source your own bubbly for the wedding, be sure to taste a bottle before buying in bulk to ensure it is your style. The bubblies here are in my order of preference:

Bisol, “Crede” prosecco (Italy) $14 (find this wine)
My buddy Mark Oldman is a huge fan of prosecco. He shows a flagrant disregard for international law and calls it “Italian champagne” at his parties. Why is it a good party wine? Because it is easy on the wallet and on the palate. Sometimes I find prosecco too sweet but this Bisol is crisp and dry. More importantly, it as a good bead–the wine geek term for them there bubbles that make it so festive. Heck, I wouldn’t just save this one for mass toasts–I’d drink it with plenty of food too ranging from hard cheese to an Asian noodle soup. (Importer: Vias)

Juve y Camps rose cava $14 (find this wine)
I’d be willing to bet that if my innkeeper got poured this cava blind, he do something other than wash the dog with it — he’d no doubt drink it with great enthusiasm. Made from 100 percent pinot noir, this dry pink bubbly has nice red berry notes surprisingly pleasant acidity. Drink pink.

Chandon California brut. $11 (find this wine)
My expectations were low for this one with a generic “California” designation. But in the glass, the wine surprised me pleasant fruit, a good bead, and enough sugar to make it rich but not cloying. I poured it at a tasting event recently and it was well-received. Don’t be surprised if you see Aunt Marnie going around and taking sips out of the half-empty glasses if you pour this one at the wedding.

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11 Responses to “Bargain bubbly”

  1. AAHHHHHHHHHH Bisol. I had this wonderful prosecco on the wine list a year or so ago. I have since gone through three or four other producers and now I am back. I have the Jeiol right now but when that is done i will be upgrading to my old friend Crede. I am sure you’ve had it but their Cartizze it’s great.


  2. what about gloria ferrer’s sonoma brut? we served this at our wedding in sonoma. great deal at less than $15 a bottle.

  3. My personal favorite bottle fermented sparkling wine (which is UNDER $10!!!) is Domaine Laurier – Brut. Enjoy anytime, anywhere

  4. Hey Doc – I had the Bisol Crede 2005 last night and we all enjoyed it very much. At about $14 I agree that is a good value. I remember thinking last night as I tasted the wine that although I like it, it doesn’t compare, honestly, to good champagne. I don’t mean vintage expensive stuff, I mean NV Brut from a grower like Margaine, Pierre Peters, or Lallement, let’s say. Those bottles might cost $30-35. Are they twice as good as the Bisol, worth twice the price? I realized last night, and it saddens me because Bisol is supposed to be as good as it gets in Prosecco, that I think they are more than twice as good and worth every penny in comparison.

  5. I hit sibmit without finishing – sorry. I also meant to say that when I compare these these wines to Champs, I am always disappointed. So I’m trying to stop, but it’s hard.

    My favorite bubblies in this price range are Hureau’s sparking Saumur Champigny at about $12, and Cremant de Bourgogne in general – they make nice bubbly in Burgundy.

  6. Thanks for adding your thoughts, everybody! Feel free to add others that you have enjoyed.

    EVWG – haven’t had their Cartizze but would be willing to give it a shot!

    Brooklynguy – yes, I agree. Under $15 bubbly is dangerous and may not justify the risk. But sometimes, as weddings where few people are paying attention and budgets may already be stretched, bargain bubbly may be called for. But if you are sipping, I agree it is more rewarding to have bubbly every other week and go twice the price.

    It’s kind of a frustrating puzzle why the category is so difficult.

  7. Have you tried the Giro Ribot Cava Rose? Not easy to find, but another great value….85% Trepat & 15% Pinot Noir.

  8. Try Boyer for $9.95 from Sherry Lehman in NYC…only distributor I think. For the price, it’s a steal. We served Yves Lambert Crémant de Loire at our wedding, and no one complained!

  9. An addition and a comment. The addition is Piper Sonoma, which can be found in California almost all the time on some kind of special at $9.99. Domaine Laurier? I found this on closeout a few years back at $3.99. We tried a bottle and went back for all of it. From the box it was evident that it was stock that was intended for a major aitline. The problem? Getting the corks out required a pair of pliers. I can’t imagine cabin crew trying to open these. Once opened, surprisingly good.

  10. Very usefull post, i think i will use it.

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