Champagne and Sparkling Wines Suggestions From WineGuyMike™

The following recommendations were featured on NBC’s Montana Today Show this morning.  I will be featuring additional recommendations over the next 48 hours so stay tuned.

Champagne and Sparkling wines are drinks of celebration, so it is important to understand what’s out there, and more importantly how they are different. 

The Champagne region of France produces some of the finest sparkling wines in the world.  Typically there are three grapes used in the blend for sparkling wines; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.  Different vintages are used to create the blend, or the “cuvee”. 

Pink Champagne is strained through the Pinot Noir grape skins which create its beautiful color.  Blanc de Blancs is true French Champagne; it is produced entirely from the Chardonnay grape.

Designations of quality:

Prestige cuvee:

This Champagne is the highest priced and is available only in small quantities.  It is designated “Prestige” because the grapes come from the best grapes grown in the highest rated villages. It is made from the first pressing of the grapes, produced only as a vintage, and will have been aged longer than vintage and non-vintage Champagnes.

Vintage Champagne:                                     

Some select years produce an outstanding grape harvest.  The Vintage Champagnes are aged for at least three years.  Remember, a Vintage Champagne will be identified by an actual year marked on the label, but expect to pay a premium for this.

Non-Vintage Champagne:

The majority of Sparkling wine on the shelf of a store is non-vintage.  These are a blend of wines aged for two years.

How to identify your Champagne

  • Brut is Dry
  • Extra Dry is Semidry
  • Sec is Semisweet
  • Demi-sec is Sweet

Other sparkling Wine Regions:

Loire Valley of France produces Crémant, while the Asti region of Italy produces Asti Spumanti, and Prosecco comes from the Veneto region.  The Catalonia region of Spain produces the world’s most popular sparkling wine, Cava.

Prosecco is mainly produced as a sparkling wine in either the fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante, gentile) styles.  Prosecco spumante, which has undergone a full secondary fermentation, is the more expensive style.   Depending on their sweetness, Proseccos are labeled “brut”, “extra dry”, or “dry”, with the brut being the driest.

Asti Spumante is a sweet sparkling wine with a mellow effervescence.  It is produced in the Italian province of Asti and made from the Moscato grape.  Spumante is a fruit forward sparkling wine that is grapy, and has low alcohol content usually around 8 percent.  Moscato d’Asti is a sparkling wine that is frizzante in style and more refined than the Asti Spumante.

Cava originated in the Catalonia region at the in the late 19th century.  Cava is produced in different styles ranging from dry to sweet; Brut Nature, Brut (extra dry), Seco (dry), Semiseco (medium) and Dulce (sweet).  


$$$(20.00 & up) = Expensive, complex sophisticated selections

$$(14.00 -20.00) = Excellent quality, some of the nuance and complexity of $$$

$(under 14.00) = Simple, fun, value

Gosset Champagne $$$

A crystal clear, pale golden hue with persistent fine, lively bubbles.  The bouquet of this Champagne is intense, elegant and inviting on the nose. Fresh floral notes reminiscent of honeysuckle, wisteria and white jasmine seamlessly give way to exotic aromas of pineapple, guava and mango with hints of caramel, gingerbread and cinnamon.  A trace of pear liqueur completes the harmonious finish.

The taste of this invigoratingly fresh and refined champagne is characterized by rich density and volume.  On the palate, delicate floral notes give way to flavors of sweet peaches and nectarines over subtle notes of spices like cardamom and green pepper.  The finish is delicate and smooth, with irresistible and deliciously sensual flavors of candied fruit, cinnamon and licorice.

L’Ermitage 2002 $$$

L’ERMITAGE is Roederer Estate’s special Tête de Cuvée, which has consistently been rated one of California’s top sparkling wines since its debut in 1989. Taking a cue from owner Champagne Louis Roederer, Roederer Estate produces its sparkling wines in the traditional French methode champenoise and adds special oak-aged reserve wines to each blend. L’ERMITAGE is made only in exceptional years, of pre-selected grapes that come from the very best lots.

Fine tiny bubbles and a long lasting mousse are the usual footprints of the L’ERMITAGE cuvée.  This cuvée from the palindromic vintage 2002 is showing great notes of “tarte tatin”: baked apples and buttery crust, with notes of apricot and delicate vanilla bean. The mouthfeel is creamy, expresses flavors of quince and bread crust, with a clean and crisp yet long finish.

Roederer Estate Brut NV $$

Roederer Estate Brut, the first California sparkling wine produced by Champagne Louis Roederer, builds upon a 200-year tradition of fine winemaking that has made Roederer Champagne among the most sought-after in the world.

The Roederer Estate Brut is crisp and elegant with complex pear, spice and hazelnut flavors. It is fresh and lightly fruity with great finesse and depth of flavor.

Gruet Brut Rose $

This nearly garnet Rose, like all our non-vintage sparkling wines, is aged 24 months en tirage. It has a lovely, bright floral bouquet with hints of strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. On the palate, it is rich and fruity in a dry, Brut style. The flavor of berries continues on the palate, revealing more strawberry, raspberry, cherry. This sparkler is lots of fun and very festive, but production is limited to 5000 cases per year, so don’t miss out!

Vietti Moscato d’Asti Cascinetta 2010 $$

Straw color, frizzante, peach, rose petal, ginger, sweet & delicate on the palate. Good balance of fruit and acidity, complex, apricots on the finish.

Lamberti Prosecco $

This non-vintage Prosecco Extra Dry offers lovely balance in a perfumed, crisp style defined by green apples, flowers and sweet spices.  The finish is long and polished.

Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut $

This fine Spanish sparkling wine is made using the Traditional Method, in which the secondary fermentation producing a sparkling wine’s bubbles occurs in the bottle. Its fresh, toasty nose, beautiful citrus, green apple and mineral flavors, supple, lively mouth-feel, and clean, crisp finish make it the ultimate celebratory wine.

Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut – Extra Dry $

Slightly off-dry, it offers fresh pear and apple aromas and rich citrus, peach and green apple flavors. A subtle yeasty tone and a refreshing, elegant finish.

2008 Argyle Brut $$$

63% Oregon Pinot Noir, 37% Oregon Chardonnay, Sparkling Wine

In the glass this wine presents a soft straw color with tight tiny streams of bubbles.  On the nose you get full aromas of creamy vanilla poached pear and fresh sour dough starter.  The first impression on the palate is of how well balanced this wine is, playing the purity of fruit off of the fresh acidity while showcasing the wine’s natural mineral notes.  There are notes of ripe guava, red Anjou pear, Meyer lemon, and lightly toasted brioche, finishing with notes of honeysuckle and lemon curd.  A great vintage sparkling wine from Argyle in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux $$

 This sparkler is probably the oldest sparkling wine in the world.  We know that in 1531, the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire were already producing Blanquette de Limoux which certainly makes it France’s Oldest Sparkling Wine preceding Champagne by more than a century.

Dry, toasty, smooth and clean SAINT-HILAIRE truly captivates with an attractive yeasty aroma and luscious creamy texture. The palate is light and crisp with citrus and apple flavors and the body is just hefty enough.


Rotari was born in the heart of the Dolomites.  The mountain climate, the special care of the vineyards, the dedication of our winemakers in the manual selection and harvest of the grapes give life to the fresh and fragrant bubbles that are both complex and enjoyable reflections of the characteristics of the region.  The Metodo Classico, its history, and its long aging process on its yeast bestow upon Rotari unique and unrepeatable characteristics.

 Produced with Chardonnay grapes that are selected and harvested by hand and originate exclusively from the best vineyards in the hills of Trentino.  At the foot of the Dolomites, where the Chardonnay expresses best its fresh and fruity character, the Rotari Brut is fragrant, intense and elegant.


"from my table to yours", Happy New Years

"from my table to yours", Happy New Years


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