Wine Reviews: Sparkling Wines for the Holidays

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-15-2018

So, the holiday season is in full swing, and, like every year, the bubbles abound.

I drink Champagne (and, to a lesser extent, Champagne-method bubbles from other regions) year-round, but the average occurrence of bubbly-popping definitely spikes between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

In this report, Champagne gets its due, with some wines from the houses of Bruno Paillard and Laurent Perrier. Gloria Ferrer, the Sonoma bubbly powerhouse, offers up three budget-friendly offerings, and a Santa Barbara sparkler from Lucas & Lewellen impresses. Lastly, a few sparklers from Alsace deliver — Crémant d’Alsace is one of my favorite sources of inexpensive but delicious sparkling wines, and this duo is a great example.

All of the wines in this report were received as samples and tasted sighted. Happy holidays to you all, and I hope the last few days of your 2018 include some lovely Champagne-method wines.

N.V. Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $22
Light copper color. Nose shows lemons, grapefruit, sea salt, white flowers, some musk notes. Crisp and bright on the palate with fresh acidity, fine bubbles, and very light biscuit notes. Green apples, apricots, wild strawberries, backed up with chalk dust and floral perfume notes. Fresh, bright, these are fun, accessible bubbles for the price. Mostly Pinot Noir with about 14% Chardonnay. (87 points)

N.V. Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs - California, Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $22
Pale copper color. Smells fresh and bright with red apples, raspberries, rose hips and some salted biscuits. Fresh and crisp with a salty, zippy, light appeal. Raspberries, red apple and lemon mix with white flowers, white pepper and sea salt notes. Some sugar adds to the texture and flavor, but it stays fresh and fun for the price. Includes a bit of Chardonnay, this spends 18 months on the lees. (87 points)

N.V. Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs - California, Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $22
Light yellow color. Aromas are tart and tangy with limes and green apples, light biscuits, sea salt, with some nettle and honeysuckle. Light and zesty on the palate with fine bubbles, this is fun and fresh with lines and green apples. Saline, chalk, lots of white flowers. Fresh and fun but significant complexity, this is a solid bubbly for holiday parties for sure. Aged two years on the lees, 100% Chardonnay. (88 points)

2016 Lucas & Lewellen Brut - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $36
Deep yellow color. Nose shows a bunch of honey and graham cracker on top of yellow apples, apricots, and floral perfume. Ooh, this is nice on the palate, some rich texture with honeyed, baked apple elements nice hint of sweetness to the fruit but a brisk appeal. Flowers, graham crackers, honey, chalk, sea salt and toasted bread. A lot of flavor, depth and appeal here. 55% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay. (90 points)

N.V. Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace Brut Réserve - France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
SRP: $19Pierre Sparr
Deep yellow color. On the nose, lots of chalk, sea salt, crushed shells, with lemons, green apples, ginger and baguette notes. Super bright and zesty but some plumpness as well. Crunchy green apples, lemons, limes, doused in chalk, limestone and mountain stream. Ginger, musk, mineral, toasted baguette notes, all of this combines in a bracing but richly textured Crémant that is surprisingly good for the money. 80% Pinot Blanc and 20% Pinot Auxerrois. (89 points)

N.V. Keuntz-Bas Crémant d’Alsace Brut Tradition - France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
SRP: $18
Deep yellow color. The aromas show lots of honey, salted almond, biscuits, spiced white tea, with apricot and yellow apples. Crisp acidity frames the wine nicely but there’s a nice honeyed, biscuity richness as well. Bruised apple and apricot topped in honeyed tea, ginger, sea salt, minerals. Rich but zesty, lovely balance and complexity here, especially when you consider the price point. A blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc aged 18 months on the lees. (89 points)

N.V. Laurent-Perrier Champagne Brut Nature “Ultra Brut” France, Champagne
SRP: $80
Medium yellow color. Lots of yellow apples, apricots, lemon curd, with rich honey, toasted biscuits and salted butter, but also bright chalk and sea salt notes. Precise and brisk on the palate with focused acidity but plenty of texture and depth. Apricots, yellow apples, lemons, laced with sea salt, crushed shells, with rich, deep notes of honey, ginger snap, toasted biscuits. The focus, precision and minerality is really impressive, this wine is lip-smackingly tasty with significant complexity. 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, no dosage, aged six years on the lees. (91 points)

N.V. Laurent-Perrier Champagne Harmony Demi-Sec - France, Champagne
SRP: $50
Medium yellow color. Nose shows rich honey, apricot marmalade, candied ginger and apple peel, some sea salt biscuit notes. Plump and sweet on the palate but shows vibrancy throughout, sugar cane and candied apple notes mix with chalk, dried flowers and limestone. This is rich and sweet but shows liveliness as well, and would pair nicely with pastries or after-dinner cheeses. 45% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier, 45 g/l dosage. (89 points)

N.V. Bruno Paillard Champagne Brut Premiere Cuvée - France, Champagne
SRP: $50
Rich yellow color. Nice mix of chalk, limestone, flowers, with lemons, apricots, and notes of biscuits and toasted almond. Brisk and vibrant on the palate with clean, crisp acidity and lots of minerals and chalk and crushed shells. Flavors of lemons, orange, apricot mix with biscuits, flowers, ginger, and minerals. Lovely, as usual, from Bruno Paillard. From 32 different villages, vinified separately, this wine consists of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Meunier, with at least 25% reserve wine. Disgorged Sept. 2017. (90 points)

N.V. Bruno Paillard Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Extra Brut - France, Champagne
SRP: $70
Deep yellow color. Brisk nose of sea salt, crushed chalk, white flowers and fresh biscuits on top of lemon curd, green apple, apricot. Pretty, clean and crisp on the palate with salty minerals and high acidity, but some nice depth and texture throughout. Lemon, crunchy apricot and green apples mixed with honey, chalk, mountain streams and minerals. Dry, crunchy, vibrant. Aged four years on the lees, with a 5 g/l dosage. Disgorged October 2016. (91 points)

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