It’s time to break out the bubbly and celebrate the season, but let’s be real. Not everyone (ourselves included) has the budget for the good stuff, especially post-holiday-shopping. But everyone has the budget for the budget stuff! So for this week’s Battle of the Dishes, we’re comparing cheapo sparkling wines. Get ready to celebrate the holidays and ring in the holidays thriftily. Or at least wake up the next morning with a splitting hangover.
Originally we had wanted to compare cheap champagnes — that is, sparkling wines made exclusively in the Champagne region of France. However, when we went to Astor Wines & Spirits to pick up two bottles, we were told that the cheapest bottles started at $25. Not quite the price point we were looking for. American sparkling wines it would be. Astor had a good selection of American sparklings, although most of them, with the exception of Korbel, started at about $13, which is still too pricey in our minds. And Korbel seemed like too easy of a choice. So we went to Warehouse Wines & Spirits (735 Broadway, 212-982-7770), where we found two delightful bottles of sparkling wine for $4.99 each. Now we’re talking!
We began the evening with André, a California brut champagne, although this is really a labeling scam because it doesn’t follow the methode Champenoise of France, but rather the Charmant method, occurring in a large tank. Nevertheless, the 9.5 percent alcohol by volume sparkling wine is made at the André Champagne Cellars in Modesto, which is in part owned by wine conglomerate E. & J. Gallo. According to the company’s website, it was its first foray into sparkling wine, debuted in 1966. Since then, it’s become the No. 1 selling sparkling wine in America. So how does it taste?
The bottle comes with a twist-off cap (but don’t worry, it still makes the requisite “boom”) that you can screw back on (genius if you’re party-hopping). Pale straw in color and not very bubbly, the nose was clean with a hint of wet, autumnal leaves. Flavorwise, the wine is mild, with just a touch of unripe fruit at the finish. Easy to drink, and even easier as the evening went on.
One down, one to go.
At 10 percent alcohol by volume, J. Rogét is billed as an “American champagne,” and is made in Canandaigua, New York. We couldn’t find much background on the wine, and by this time in the evening we’d already consumed quite a bit of André.
The J. Rogét bottle proved a bit trickier to open, but ultimately we got the plastic cork out. Right off the bat, we noticed the color, which was deep golden. The liquid was also much more bubbly than André. When we poured it into our glass, however, we were put off by the aroma, a sort of tart apple meets synthetic gasoline.
Things didn’t get any better once we tasted the wine. It’s labeled a brut, but still had a hint of off-dryness, mellow on the palate. If we could imagine the flavor of cat pee, it would be this. Sorry, J. Rogét, we can’t even finish what’s in the glass.
And the winner is …
As if this is going to be a shocker. André had this in the bag. Although we wished it would have had a bit more bubble, it iss relatively pleasant to drink and will be even more so once you’ve already consumed the good stuff.
And if you need another suggestion for a value sparking wine, you might want to check out Cristalino cava. As one of our friends said, “Just put some duct tape over the ‘ino’ on the bottle, and you’ve got yourself some Cristal, baby.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 22, 2010