With so much to celebrate lately, I've had champagne and sparkling wine on the brain even more than usual! Anyone who's been out to drink with me knows that bubbles are often at the top of my list, which means I've amassed quite a robust portfolio of preferred bottles. Given I have bubbles at least once a week at this point, I'm pretty good at champagne and its ilk!
So as we get into the warmer months, and as I continue to toast to my impending move, I figured it wouldn't hurt to start a running list of my favorites!
Of course we're starting with the mother of all sparklers, Champagne itself! When Champagne is capitalized, it refers specifically and only to sparkling wine bottled in the Champagne region of France, an appellation that is sacred and has legit led to lawsuits over proper identification on bottles. The map above shows just how little of the "champagne" bottled in France is actually Champagne!
Taittinger: I have a soft spot in my heart for Taittinger given we drank it at Taittinger's famous champagne house on our Paris trip in 2015! While we tasted only the La Française Brut at Taittinger, I've also had their Prélude Grand Cru and very much enjoyed it.
Jacques Chaput: I had Jacques Chaput last summer for the first time last summer at Monello in Minneapolis. It had the cleanest, driest finish...which I love (sweet wine is my least favorite thing EVER).
Maison Penet: Oh my gosh, one of the most incredible experiences of my life was dining at Maison Penet with Monsieur Penet and his wife Martine on our champagne tour. Martine and I chatted in French for over an hour about everything, including her 12-year-old's refined champagne palate. KILL ME. While I adore the Penet Chardonnet Blanches de Voies photographed above, we bought two bottles of the Grande Réserve Grand Cru Brut Nature on our visit and they are incredible. They only produced 5,000 bottles, and each is engraved with a metal plate including its bottling date for optimal drinking. Completely obsessed, I tell you.
Duval-Leroy: I just tried Duval-Leroy for the first time in April and am hooked...there's another bottle in my fridge waiting for me currently! Their Brut Réserve is deliciously dry, with an almost-bready nose and soft, floral finish that I love (floral flavors are one of my favorite things!).
Champagne Lelarge Pugeot: Another from our Champagne day, Lelarge Pugeot is noteworthy for their 100% organic production method. I particularly liked their Pinot Meunier, a blend made with pinot noir grapes.
Ayala Brut Majeur: Jodester, Em and I got a bottle of this at RM Champagne in Chicago on our Hamilton weekend last November, and it was revelatory...and 100% worth the obscene price tag!
Crémant is essentially any kind of French bubbly that isn't specifically Champagne, and I love it by and large. The beauty of French sparkling wine is that there are so many subtle variations among the different regions, and the more I've had it, the more I can appreciate those variations. Crémant tends to be slightly less bubbly than Champagne, but it also tends to be slightly less expensive...which, given my bubbly habit, is a VERY good thing.
49M Crémant de Loire: Mineral and clean and apple-y, I occasionally have this at Spoon and Stable after trying their Daily.
Deligeroy Crémant de Loire: A very reasonably priced crémant, I get a nose full of pear and a nice, bready flavor. This, of all my crémants, tastes the most like a true Champagne to me.
Domaine Rolet Crémant de Jura Rosé: I am NOT usually a rosé drinker, but this one changed my mind. It's dry, not sweet, and has a very pretty floral flavor to it.
Prosecco = bubbles from Italy, YAY! They are also generally much, much cheaper than French offerings, though variety may be harder to find unless you go to a specialty wine store (Total Wine is my JAM, guys).
LaMarca: LaMarca is one of the universally-sold proseccos and it's generally priced between $12 and $17 a bottle. I tend to serve it at parties where bubbles are called for, but not everyone will appreciate the subtler nuances of a champagne. It's also generally on the sweeter side of what I drink, but I don't always hate that. Plus, their branding and advertising is top-notch, and I adore the shade of blue on their labels.
Sorelle Bronca: I love Sorelle because they make an Extra-Dry prosecco, which is a welcome change from the dessert-y sweetness of LaMarca. It's also around $18 a bottle, which makes for a "feels fancy but costs basic" kind of party that I am ALL about.
Cava is Spanish bubbly, and is my least-favorite generally of all the varieties I've tried. Why? I don't know. Maybe I've just had generally bad cava, or generally really good everything else.
Segura Viudas Brut: I like Segura Viudas because it's easy to find and leans drier than most Cavas I've found on restaurant menus. Per their site, they also have an extra-dry, which I think I would like even better...so now I'm on a mission to get my hands on that!
Basically anything produced anywhere other than the regions I mentioned above, to my knowledge, gets lumped in as a "sparkling wine." (I'm probably wrong! Don't judge!) I'm pretty focused on the California sparkling wines, for obvious reasons...our recent Sonoma/Napa trip, the fact that I'm moving there, and hi, duh, did I mention that my sister designed some bottles??
Gloria Ferrer Extra Brut: Our first stop in wine country, but they actually distribute nationally, so I've enjoyed their Brut a few times since we returned! It's deliciously light and citrus-y - such a summery, refreshing choice.
Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée and Russian Cuvée: Iron Horse cracked me up - it felt like we were driving up a horse track, but by the time we reached the top of the hill on which their outdoor tasting space is perched, we were in awe of the views and in for a treat with the wines. Their Wedding Cuvée was bottled for a daughter of the family's wedding (duh) and is fruity without being overly sweet. The Russian Cuvée was bottled for the famous Reagan-Gorbachev summits in Iceland to end the Cold War, and has been served at the White House since. I love it for the history alone, but also for the rich, robust and dry flavor.
Favorite Places for Bubbles:
Saint Genevieve, Minneapolis: Charming and light and airy, with a comprehensive bubbly list that changes often and pairs perfectly with their fresh riffs on French food.
RM Champagne Salon, Chicago: The exact opposite of Saint Genevieve: intimate and cozy and dim, with a literal Champagne bible from which to order, and the richest snackie options to pair with the bubbles.
Meritage, St. Paul: oh my gosh, one of my favorites in general, but their champagne cocktails are over the top. I've never had as much fun sampling an entire cocktail menu as I did when Michael and I worked our way through it one evening before and after the opera!