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Sparkling Wines for the Holidays, 2019

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

Dear friends,

Before my vacation trip in Spain I wanted to leave you with something useful for the Holidays. In this post you will find commentaries about 18 affordable sparkling wines from the US, France, Italy and Spain, the four largest producers.There are many I would have wanted to include but I restricted myself to ones I could find in the PLCB store and to the mid to low price range. No expensive Champagne in here (my favorite, but I only drink that free of charge in international flights). You will find these wines ordered from highest to lowest rating, but there are some near the bottom that are recommended considering their price.

I hope you enjoy them all and, if you happen to toast with one of the sparkling wines, please toast in the air to Sally (my sparkling adviser) and me.

Ricardo Llovet

Gloria Ferrer, Brut, Sonoma

Expensive cork with 2 rings that expanded immediately and was totally dry. Plentiful effervescence with small constant bubbles forming a thick crown.

A fresh lemon aroma overwhelmed the others, but with a bit of attention I could notice white flowers, pear and a hint of quince paste, all enveloped by minerality and a pinch of salt. Pleasant and elegant mouthfeel. Easy to drink. Overall very solid. It was really #1 in this tasting but Moletto was almost as good and half price.

Sally’s go to quality sparking for many years, it is the work of Gloria, daughter of Mr. Ferrer, the owner of Freixenet cava in Catalonia, Spain (the most sold sparkling wine worldwide). I think she is surpassing her father, at least in quality. Women to power!

$17.99 (Center Ave. 12/2/19)

$21.99 (Waterworks 12/1/19)

92 pts.


Notice the difference between the bubbles and the crown between this and the next one.

Also notice the difference in price we got for the two bottles we bought. This is not the first time that I see something like this happen. Do not assume that prices at the store are stable and uniform.



Moletto, Prosecco de Treviso DOC


The cork expanded immediately and looked very dry and fresh. Although the crown was weak, the small size of the bubbles made soft and lovely tickling in my palate.

Sally and I found citrus and a bit of cantaloupe as well as shy hints of candied squash in this one. It lacked the sweetness that most Proseccos have, which was a plus.

The most expensive and best Prosecco is from the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. I could not find any in the store, so that

I resorted to this Treviso.

This denomination surrounds those two small towns and produces the second best Prosecco. The vast majority of what you see in the store is just Prosecco or Prosecco del Veneto, that is produced in a huge region and is, with some exceptions, inferior.

A Treviso for this price was a gift and that induced me to give it an extra point.

$11.99 after a $2 coupon

91 pts.




Cava Brut Reserva 2016

Penedés, Spain

Parellada, Xarel-lo, Macabeo

Traditional Method. Great cork (see picture) and shy crown with medium to small bubbles.

Very interesting aroma of raw almonds and cooked lemon. Mineral. refined, elegant and serious.

Especial. If it wasn’t because of a slight bitterness I would have considered it outstanding.


91 pts.



Gruet Brut, New Mexico

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Gruet is a Champagne producer that has established a branch in the US, like Chandon, Piper and Mumm. What makes Gruet special is the location: They are in New Mexico. Yes! New Mexico!

Frankly, the initial impressions made me expect the worse. The cork was shrunk in a strange shape (see picture) and did not have any circular ring of solid cork. No stamp either signaling the use of the Traditional Method. When I poured it, it had very shy bubbles and no crown at the top. However, the aroma was great and contained some nutty notes. In mouth it was clean, refined but dense, and solid. No defects. No bitterness. Just pure nectar. Yummy.


90 pts.



Chandon Brut, CA, US

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Menier

The California venture of Moët Chandon.

A French friend and wine lover, told me that this was the most similar California sparkling to real Champagne he had found. "It could have passed for a real Champagne".

I saw good initial promise with a very good cork, in good condition, and a very nice continuous flow of bubbles forming a thick crown at the top. The aroma was nutty but shy and in mouth it was just non-distinct with a little bit of apple, pear and citrus. . Elegant, with no defects but neither any salient characteristic that would make me excited.


My rating: 89 pts.



Cygnus 1+1=3

Brut Nature Reserva

Cava, Penedés, Spain

Parellada, Xarel-lo, Macabeo

Traditional Method and organic grapes. The only Brut Nature of the list. Brut Natures are made with no addition of sugar. The winemakers rely on their residual natural sugar to obtain the bubbles in the second fermentation in the bottle. Surprisingly cheap cork with no rings but in good condition. Typical aromas of Cava. Light flavor. Mineral, dry, austere and elegant.


My rating: 89 pts.


I Castelli,

Prosecco DOC


Cheap cork. Very few and very small bubbles not even dreaming of forming a crown.

Given that start I was ready for something mediocre. However:

I smelled lots of lemon and lemon peel, melon or cantaloupe and white flowers, maybe jasmine.

In mouth it was acidic and salty, very refreshing. Nice mouth feeling with that light effervescence.

Very nice in general and a good buy.


My rating: 88 pts.



Brut Réserve Blanc de Blancs

Chardonnay, Aligote

This producer was one of the fathers of Crémant de Bourgogne, typically sparkling wine based on Chardonnay. However, the only region claimed in this wine is “France”.

Lemon rind, maybe hints of key lime pie, peach and apricot. Fresh and clean. Simple, but no defects. Very good value for the price.


My rating: 88 pts.



Piper Sonoma, CA

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Another Champagne producer that has settled in California.

It felt to me as a sweeter version of Chandon. Good crown in the glass. Excellent cork. Aroma of mature apple and a bit of yeast. Creamy

texture. Bouquet of grapefruit, toast and a bit more sweetness than I would have liked.


My rating: 88 pts.


Casa Canevel



Light aromas of flowers and pear in a good and refreshing acidity.

Nice and correct although not spectacular as one would have expected from a Valdobbiadene-Conegliano. The reason is that, although this prosecco is made in that place, the grapes it uses come from other places.


My rating: 88 pts.


Feuille D'Or Brut

Crémant de Loire, France

Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc

What a cork (see picture)! How could that cork have been used? Very shy small bubbles not forming a crown.

Shy aromas of lemon, straw and maybe raw almond.

In spite of all that, in mouth the bubbles produced a very pleasant and subdued ticking. It felt like delightful microscopic electric sparks in the tip of the tongue. And the taste was clean and elegant, similar to the elegance of a Champagne. Almost no bouquet but clean.


My rating: 88 pts.


Château Moncontour Cuvée Prédilection,

Crémant de Loire, France

Chenin Blanc

Relatively good cork. Shy bubbles not able to make a crown. It felt flat to me. Close to a Pétillant (a kind of sparkling wine with less fizz)

Lemon and Raw almond aromas. A bit of bitterness in the bouquet.

Not bad but I was disappointed after what I had read about this one: Chairman’s Selection says that it is from the oldest cellar in the prestigious region of Vouvray. WE gives it a 92 and says that it has green salad texture.


My rating: 88 pts.


De Perrière, France (Crémant de Bourgogne)

The cork expanded immediately. 2 rings. No Traditional Method symbol.

Small and persistent bubbles forming a stable and long lasting crown. Very good start.

Citrus aromas with lemon skin flavors combined with apple. Simple, nothing spectacular, but an excellent quality / price ratio.

Very interesting for the more cost-conscious consumers.

I had a headache the next day, but I have no prove it was due to this wine.


My rating: 87


Paul Cheneau, Lady of Spain, Cava Brut

Penedés, Spain

Parellada, Xarel-lo, Macabeo

This was strongly recommended by a person at the wine store. Traditional Method.

We tried it and were sort of cold about it. Not bad but nothing special. Some almond or chestnut pastry in the aroma, together with some hints of lemon. A little sweetness in the finish.


My rating: 87 pts.


Varichon & Clerc Privilège

Rosé Dry, France

Gamay, Cabernet, Airén, Côt.

Traditional Method. Poor cork (compare with the other rosé, El Miracle, that we tasted simultaneously). Some bubbles in it that could hardly produce a crown.

Aromas of strawberry, raspberry and grapefruit. A bit of sweetness at the end.

What is interesting about this sparkling is the combination of varietals, including Airén that is typical of La Mancha in Spain, and the barely known Côt. Pleasant.


My rating: 86 pts.


El Miracle Cava Brut Rosé

Alicante, Spain


Traditional Method. Expensive cork in excellent condition (see picture above). Big bubbles barely forming any crown and making it difficult to drink without burping. Aromas of cranberry, citrus and apple. Some very slight bitterness in the bouquet.

What is interesting about this one: First traditional method sparkling I’ve ever seen made with Grenache. I have to get a little up to date. Keep trying!


My rating: 86


La Marca, Prosecco, Veneto, Italy


Low-cost cork. Little aroma. Very neutral. It reminded me a bit of San Pellegrino sparkling water.

La Marca was Sally’s go-to sparkling in the past. Reliable and affordable. I think many people felt the same way, and La Marca has grown spectacularly. It is now ubiquitous. I wonder what they have done to meet the demand.


My rating: 86


Viña Cecilia, Brut Blanc de Blancs, Cava

Valencia, Spain

Macabeo, Chardonnay

Interesting and intense aromas of green apple, kiwi, lemongrass and honey. However, in mouth it was too expressive and cheap tasting in my opinion. It reminded me of Moscatel/Moscatto/Muscat and showed some reminiscence of Asti Spumante.

The price was very cheap too and I am sure that there are people in PA that will love this sparkling’s fruitiness and sweetness.


My rating: 85

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