Ten Top Sparkling Wines Not Called Champagne

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been reviewing sparkling wines from the U.S., Italy, and Champagne to hopefully help you bring in a new year that we all badly need to celebrate. Today, I offer another ten sparkling wines from different parts of the world, all worthy of being popped in anticipation of a more sparkling 2021.

NV Domaine Bousquet Brut Rosé, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $13. 75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir. Made from organic grapes from one of the best value producers in Argentina, Domaine Bousquet delivers again with this Charmat method sparkler (the second fermentation occurs in tank, as with Prosecco). Candy Cotton pink in the glass, with red berry fruit (strawberry, cherry) on the nose, the palate is tart and mineral, with just a touch of sweetness. For under fifteen bucks? This more than delivers. Very Good. 89 Points.

NV Henri Champliau Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Authentique, Burgundy, France: Retail $30. 85% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay. France produces boatloads of sparkling wine that is not champagne and many of those wines are called “Crémant.” I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but Burgundy is at least near the top in overall production and this wine is made using the same grapes and same method as its neighbors to the north, Champagne. Pale straw in the glass with sweet, ripe fruit on the nose (ripe peach, golden apple) along with a hint of that yeastiness that I look for in sparkling wines. The palate is initially tart and fruity, but then comes a bit of sweetness (even though the dosage is a relatively low 5.9 grams/liter). This is a nice change of pace from champagne, particularly if you like your bubbles a bit fruity. Very Good. 88 Points.

NV Los Dos Cava Brut Rosé, Spain: Retail $17. 50% Trepat, 30% Monastrell (Mourvèdre), 20% Garnacha. Full disclosure: I do not drink a ton of Cava since, well, I have not found many that I like (Yes, in case you were wondering, I am a champagne snob). And I have tasted far less rosé Cava (in fact, I am having difficulty thinking of any Rosé Cavas I have tried). Well, that might have to change as this is delicious. Salmon color in the glass with red berry fruit, rose petal, and wet rock. The palate is subtle, but with good fruit flavors balanced with zingy acidity and a spritzy sparkle. Again, I do not have a ton of experience here, but this wine is delightful. Very Good. 88 Points.

NV Jansz Wine Company Premium Rosé Brut, Tasmania, Australia: Retail $28. 78% Pinot Noir, 22% Chardonnay. I have to say that despite the volume of wine that is produced in Australia, I rarely get the chance to taste quality wines from the island-continent. Part of the reason is that the American market seems to have adopted the position that all wine from the region is inexpensive plonk, based on the rear end of a jaundiced animal. That is too bad as I have had some phenomenal wines from Australia (I am trying really hard not to say “Down Under”), and while this wine might fall short of “phenomenal” it certainly is tasty. Quite pale in the glass, with wave after wave of red berry fruit, red flowers, and minerality. The palate is both delicate and full of body (no doubt thanks to the healthy dose of Pinot Noir). Again, not a world-beater but a wonderful, well-made sparkler from a region that should get more attention in this country. Excellent. 90 Points.

2014 Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Rosé, Italy: Retail $45. 80% Pinot Nero, 20% Chardonnay. Any fan of sparkling wine in general and champagne in particular, should be drinking more wine from, arguably, Italy’s best region for the bubbles, Franciacorta. Brilliant salmon in the glass with tight, fresh berries, red rose, a hint of red rock, and the wafting aroma of fresh-baked bread on the nose. The palate is tart and focused on the fruit (pomegranate, tart peach, clementine peel), and then evolves into a wine with particular depth and complexity. While I do not drink a ton of Franciacorta, I know enough to realize that this wine is fantastic. Excellent. 92 Points.

NV Loimer Brut Rosé, Niederösterreich, Austria: Retail $25. 70% Zweigelt, 25% Pinot Noir, 5% St. Laurent. I think I can say without equivocation, that this is the first Zweigelt sparkling wine I have ever tried (OK, that is clearly not the case, but it may just be the first sample of such a varietal makeup that I have tried–and that might not be true either, so let’s move on). Pinkish-orange color with red berry fruit a-go-go–on the nose, really fruity. The palate is equally fruity and decidedly delightful–this might be the best Austrian sparkler I have ever tried (admittedly, that is a shortlist). Excellent. 90 Points.

NV Gustave Lorentz Crémant d’Alsace, France: Retail $24. 34% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Blanc, 33% Pinot Noir. There is no doubt that I am a Champagne hound. This, of course, is not champagne (as it hails from Alsace, not Champagne), but in my mind, it is pretty close to the next best thing. Of all the Crémants (with the possible exception of those from the Jura), it’s the bubbles from Alsace that I consider the best. Why? Well, it is a relatively cool-climate, uses mostly the same varieties as in Champagne, and I studied there “back in the day.” Bright, tart, focused, even angular. This is a lovely wine. Excellent. 91 Points.

2018 Paringa Shiraz Sparkling, South Australia: Retail $16. 100% Shiraz. Sparkling Shiraz? Really? That sounds like a really bad idea, particularly given that many a still Shiraz from Australia that makes it to the U.S. is, well, challenging. Fruity, dark, brooding, and fruity, really fruity. I really tried hard to dislike this wine, really hard. There’s that fruit, a (not-so-light) oak component, and all that fruit on the nose (did I mention the fruit?). The palate is defined mostly by that fruit (duh), but also by a rich, oaky, vanilla aspect that I have not found in many sparkling wines. Like I said, I really wanted to dislike this wine, but I can’t…it’s far too intriguing and delicious. Very Good. 89 Points.

2018 Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Cap Classique, Stellenbosch, South Africa: Retail $18. 55% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir, 1% Pinot Meunier. From perhaps the premiere (and certainly the first) sparkling wine producer in South Africa, Simonsig consistently produces a solid sparkling wine. Bright and fruity with oodles of citrus. Clean and lovely on the palate. for some reason, this bottle is coming off as much tarter and drier than the wines I have previously tried from Simonsig. Perhaps a change in the dosage? I rarely say this, but this wine could use a touch more sugar. For $18 though? Easy choice. Very Good. 88 Points.

Finally, if you are looking for something more than a little different to bring in the new year (and who among us does not want something more than a little different in 2021?), Troon Vineyard in Southern Oregon has you covered.

2019 Troon Vineyard Pét tanNat, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon: Retail $30. 100% Tannat. Crown cap. There are few certainties in this world, but there are several absolutes: no one makes it out of this alive, Spam (the canned meat-food) will last forever on the shelf, and no one will agree on Pet-Nat. Pet Nat is the great uncle of the traditional method (aka méthode champenoise) where the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle. There are, of course, a few differences but that is for another post. What is not disputable, however, is that this is the first and only PetNat of Tannat that I have ever seen or tried. Funky (in a very good way) with some tree and citrus fruit, and funky. Yeah, funky, but in a very good way. Tart and irreverent on the palate, yet another case which proves that Pet Nat is an acquired taste. And this wine requires considerable realignment. Excellent. 90 Points


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Chardonnay, Grenache, Monastrell, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Sparkling Wine, St. Laurent, Trepat, Wine, Zweigelt. Bookmark the permalink.

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