March 08, 2006

The best inexpensive sparkling wine of late

Really good, inexpensive sparkling wine is not easy to find.

Sure, there's good, cheap stuff to be had. But there's a lot more garbage, overly sweet wines that taste like soda pop and watery, flavorless stuff that gives sparkling wate a bad name.

I've enjoyed a variety of things around or even under $15 that represent their typcially modest terroir well. There are some real values in Prosecco, Cava, sparkling Vouvray, even a few California and Oregon producers, among many examples the world over.

But really good, inexpensive sparkling wine? Nope. Just doesn't really happen. Mostly, they're just good, especially for the money.

Then there's the latest bottling of NV Hubert Clavelin et Fils "Brut-Comte" from the Cotes du Jura, a 100% chardonnay bottling that positively dazzles. And it costs just $13.50.

What? You've never heard of the Jura? Yes, some of you have. But for the less obsessive, it's a range of hills in France due east of Burgundy, with similar limestone soils that produce terrific wines that don't get much play in the U.S. Perhaps that will change.

The Brut-Comte has fine bubbles with a frothy mousse and a fragrant, well integrated and complex aroma of apples, dough, and minerals. In the mouth, it's flavorful and rich but so light on its feet, with a mix of apple, citrus, toast, and mineral flavors, good length but weightless and truly elegant to the end.

I'm amazed a wine this natural and pure, so rich and yet so cool, can sell for so little money. Seek this out, even if it's hard to find. The importer is Weygant-Metzler, which has a little write up on its web site.

And if you can't find this, don't miss the well distributed NV Gruet Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine. Straight out of...Albequerque, New Mexico, Gruet offers consistently nice, reasonably priced Blanc de Blancs and this especially attractive Blanc de Noirs. It's light copper in color from its Pinot noir grape, with strawberry and clean earth aromas and flavors, and a hint of sweetness. It's terrific with Sunday brunch. And it usually costs around $14.

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