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During my early years in the wine business, many, many years ago, I used to think of Champagne as "bad wine with bubbles" - coming from industrial farming, made with cultured yeasts and many additives and corrections, and loaded with SO2 (hence the headaches). And besides, I couldn't afford it. Happily, the Champagnes we sell at Chambers Street are a different and quite delicious breed altogether, but I've maintained my love of well-made sparkling wines from other regions, which is shared by the whole staff. And we all appreciate that these wines are usually much less expensive...prices start at $13.99 for the organic Prosecco from Il Fortunato!
So here is a collectiion of our favorite non-Champagne sparkling wines, be they Methode Traditionelle (we can't say "Champenoise" anymore) or Methode Ancestrale (aka Pétillant Naturel) or "Charmat" as in Prosecco and Lambrusco...
Special Mention: Les Capriades, perfect for New Year's Eve! Pascal Potaire and Moses Gadouche of Les Capriades are known as "Les Rois du Pét-Nat" (the Kings of Pét-Nat) in France. Their expertise on the subject makes them a reference for winemakers who want to learn to raise and handle a cuvée of natural bubbly. There are no other pét-nats that will age as well, or that are more balanced, more refreshing. All three tasted beautifully last winter in France - made with all organic grapes from Touraine, no sulfur, no yeasting, no dosage, no nothing....
Tiny quantities of this exuberant Pet-Nat were made this year from Wildman Wine! For this vintage of the very silly named "Piggy-Pop", winemaker/Master of WIne Tim Wildman, sourced the fruit from Sue Trott's organically farmed vineyard, Five Geese, in McLaren Vale. This year is a blend of mostly Nero d'Avola grown on iron-rich, alluvial soils, with a bit of Mataro to add some lift and freshness to the ripe Nero. is fermented with 25% whole clusters with just 4-5 hours on the skins making this a lighter ruby rosé than the previous vintage. Fermentation was halted mid-way, bottled under crown-cap and continued fermenting through the winter until dryness.
Central Otago has been building its reputation for excellent sparkling wine, and this is a perfect example. The stunning Bendigo Estate vineyard is one of only six in the region to receive Demeter certification. Though they are at a high elevation and at the southernmost latitude for viticulture, the Bendigo sub-region is one of the warmest pockets in Central Otago, and their sun-drenched north-facing slopes bring much needed ripeness to the Pinot Noir. The name Quartz Reef refers to the large quartz deposits in Bendigo, which gives this traditional method sparkler a crystalline mineral quality. The wine spends a minimum of 18 months on the lees and is bottled with 3 g/l of residual sugar. Bright, crisp, and elegant are the words that come to mind with notes of just ripe raspberries, strawberries in fresh cream, a touch brioche. Excellent as an aperitif and worked very well with prosciutto and melon. Michelle DeWyngaert
Noel Téllez works with a field blend from the San Antonio de la Minas vineyard in Baja at 1,066ft elevation close to the ocean of as yet unknown varieties. These are 69 year-old, gnarled vines that are farmed organically, without irrigation, and the grapes are hand-harvested and destemmed. The wine finishes fermentation in bottle with no SO2 added.This pet-nat is left just slightly off-dry making it juicy and luscious on the palate with notes of red candied apple, fresh raspberry, and strawberry preserves. The perfect aperitif!
What a difference 2 kilometers makes! Bruno Dangin's Crémant de Bourgogne is made from 100% Pinot Noir from organically farmed vines in Molesme, located just beneath the southern border of Champagne's Aube.The limestone rich soils are the same as those of their pricier neighbor to the north. Boasting a fine bead and soft mousse and aromas of red fruits and autolyse, one would be hard pressed to spot the difference. The palate offers great depth, pure pinot fruit, and a suave, layered, persistent finish. This is a great value in bubbles and will grace the holiday table nicely. John McIlwain
The Guillemot-Michel "Une Bulle" comes from a tiny parcel of old vines on limestone with red clay, high in iron. The wine is a Pet-Nat (Methode Ancestrale) that is bottled after a short period of fermentation, leaving enough sugar in the wine for the fermentation to continue and create the desired bubbles. The wine is aged in bottle on the lees for around 18 months, then riddled and disgorged and re-bottled with a bit more "Une Bulle." The result is a very delicious aged Pet-Nat showing honeyed aromas of pear and white peach with hints of almond, marzipan and brioche. On the palate the mousse is soft and creamy with flavors of peach and quince with lime-flower and minerals and a long finish of white fruits, citrus peel and firm acidity. This is a delightful wine to sip by itself or pair with mild cheeses, patés and terrines, fruit desserts.. David Lillie
An abiding staff favorite from Stéphane Tissot's biodynamic estate in Arbois, this crémant is a blend of 50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 5% Poulsard and Trousseau. The interplay between the dry, mineral complexity and rich generosity make this an incredible Champagne-alternative. Opulent aromas of raw honey and baked red apple lead to flavors of tangy yellow fruit, crisp apple, toasted almond, and quince on the persistent finish.
This charming, low-alcohol sparkler hails from the tiny appellation of Bugey (across from the Mont du Chat in Savoie). At 8% ABV this delicately sweet and exquisitely balanced pét-nat is the breakfast of champions, a companion while you prepare a feast, or the perfect solution to tricky dessert parings. The 2018 is a blend of Gamay and Poulsard. The wine pours a pleasing shade of magenta in the glass and offers up vivid aromas of purple wild flowers, raspberry patch, and mouth-watering grapefruit zest. The palate is light and fresh with flavors of sweet strawberries, raspberries, and crunchy blueberries on the attack then finishes with thirst-quenching mineral acidity. A purely enjoyable bottle at a great value. Serve chilled alongside fruit tarts, dark chocolate, or with tangy cheeses. Amanda Bowman
The lovely 2019 Les Capriades "Pet' Sec" is made from 30 to 70 year-old vines of Chardonnay, Menu Pineau and Sauvignon Blanc grown in the home vineyard in Faverolles-en-Berry and in the Cher Valley. This is just delicious with the perfect balance, silky palate and fine mousse of all the Capriades wines showing floral pear, quince and green apple - it's easy drinking and refreshing, a perfect aperitif anytime of the year or serve with oysters, charcuterie and mild cheeses.
The beautiful 2018 "Pynoz" is from 30 to 80 year-old vines, 50/50 Pinot Noir and Pineau d'Aunis, grown on stony clay/limestone soils. The artistry of Pascal Potaire and Moses Gadouche produces this perfectly balanced Pet'Nat Rosé that spends 24 months sur lie before bottling. Tasted in February 2020, this youthful wine showed subtle raspberry and floral aromas and a fresh, silky palate that will open up nicely over the next few years, although it's remarkably delicious now as well...
Jo Landron's vivacious "Atmospheres" is made with roughly equal amounts of organic Folle Blanche, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, hand harvested and fermented with wild yeasts. It's a Methode Traditionelle (Champagne method) that's very dry and refreshing, with lively aromas of pear, citrus and red currant. The palate is vibrant and fresh with flavors of pear, quince, citrus and brioche. It's a delicious aperitif and will pair well with oysters, salmon, crudites and charcuterie and it's great for a crowd on New Year's Eve!
Many of you may instinctively reach for the Pinon Vouvray Non-Dosé, and while that is an excellent and refreshing example of sparkling Chenin Blanc, you should absolutely not dismiss the utter deliciousness of the Brut! The Chenin's of Pinon are some of the best in Vouvray due to their impeccable farming, diversity of clay, limestone, and silex soils, and deliberate, albeit low-intervention, cellar work. The Vouvray Brut comes from ~45 year-old vines that hand-harvested during the first pass of the season. It is made in the traditional method with two years resting on the lees before disgorgement with 9g r/s. On the nose is a just baked pie with pear and apricot, a bit of honey and dried chamomile, and on the palate are soft, persistent bubbles (it even stayed alive after two days in the fridge!) and a textured mineral-driven finish. Perfectly balanced to be just the slightest bit off-dry owing to the vibrant acidity, it will be delightful as an aperitif or with a selection charcuterie and cheese. Michelle DeWyngaert
François and Julien Pinon make some of the finest sparkling wines in the Loire Valley. The superb Brut Non-Dosé comes from 45 year-old Chenin Blanc vines on Turonien limestone with topsoils of clay with silex. The fermentation lasts 4 to 6 weeks without added yeast or sugar. The wine shows aromas of creamy lemon, pear, brioche, fines herbes and stone, with pear, green apple. mineral, herbal and bitter lemon flavors on the palate. The mousse is fine and refreshing and there is fabulous length of dried herbs, citrus pear and stone flavors on the finish. This very young wine will develop nicely in the glass and will cellar beautifully for twenty years or more - a few years ago we tasted a 1976 that was sensational. David Lillie
Tasted in January 2020 in Angers, Hervé Villemade's 2015 Bulle Blanche is a vibrant belnd of Menu Pineau, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc grown on his estate that spends 24 months on the lees. It's elegant, creamy and flavorful with the herbal, almond and citrus notes of Menu Pineau with the pear and floral white fruits of Chenin. Really a classy and delicious aged Pet Nat that is a great value as well. Serve as an aperitif or with a ceviche, grilled fish, chicken in sauce. David Lillie
Isabelle and Franck Pascal make outstanding and expressive natural wines from their biodynamically farmed vineyards in Bergerac, and this lively sparkling rosé is a great example of their precise, low-intervention winemaking. This delicate pét-nat is made with mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (70%) and a smaller portion of Sémillon (30%), and shows a lovely pink-orange color in the glass. The mousse is very delicate, and on the nose, raspberry, peach, tea, and crushed strawberries are evident, while citrus, melon, and strawberry come to the fore on the slightly off-dry palate. The delicate bubbles make this an outstanding candidate for before-dinner drinking, or a fun pairing with appetizers or Asian cuisines. It's intriguingly delicious, with zero additives, and it's $16.99?!
50% Cot and 50% Grolleau, organically farmed in Vouvray by Julien and François Pinon. This is an elegant and very delicious Pet Nat that will accompany just about anything and is delightful as an aperitif by itself. The aromas are quite pretty with ripe raspberry, strawberry and red currant with hints of rose and blood orange. The palate is fresh and creamy with raspberry and tart strawberry with a nice mineral kick and sappy fruit in the refreshing finish. Grab this before it's gone... DL
This is a fun, refreshing traditional method sparkler from winemaker/farmer Geraud Fromont in the Jura. 100% Chardonnay, with most of the blend from the 2018 harvest, is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks and left on the lees for 15 months before bottling with no dosage and no SO2. On the nose is firm golden apple and crushed white rock, and on the palate is apple, fresh grass, a bit of sea-salt, and a touch of bitter herbs, with very soft bubbles. A solid choice for aperitif, that's meant to be fun and not overly complex.
For couple of years, Eric, Christine and Clément Nicolas have been producing a tiny quantity of delicious sparkling, some pet nat, some traditional method, some white, some rosé from Pineau d'Aunis and Chenin from their biodynamic vineyards in the Loir Valley. Myriade de Bulles is a new cuvée for them, and I never really tasted anything like this. Think Lambrusco meets Rosé de Saignée Champagne, but made with Cabernet Franc & Aunis! So how is it made? The base is 2017 very ripe Aunis, directly pressed, but very dark, vinified dry, bottled to do the second fermentation in bottle. Because the tirage led to too much pressure, they had to disgorge it, put it back in tank. They added 20% Cabernet Franc from 2018, and vinified again a traditional method this time with less pressure. It is disgorged after a little more than a year on the lees, with no dosage. So, what to expect? Eric wanted vinous, dry, red bubbles - this for sure is the case, but because it is made with lightly extracted Aunis and Cabernet Franc, the tannins don't come in the way of the tension, the dryness and the pressure (which is quite high, at least 5 bars). The colour is quite deceptive as you would expect something bigger and more structured, but it is not the case. Aromatically, it is a really enticing combination of the dominant of the two grapes, playing with each other : pepper, beet juice, raspberry, cherry, forest floor, fern. All in all it is more on the savory than the fruity style. I have to say I really like it! Drink it now, chilled, and serve it with anything grilled on the barbecue, including river fish, a paella with a lot of saffron, any type of cheese or red-wine marinated strawberry. As you can see, you have lot of options! 80% Pineau d'Aunis, 20% Cabernet Franc. Pascaline Lepeltier.
This is the second vintage of Terraquila Falconero Zero that I've been able to taste. Less earthy funk than the 2017, but full of the same dried fruits and herbal tonic essence. The wine is made from organically grown Lambrusco Grasparossa and Malbo Gentile. It is fermented on the skins for 6-7 days and rests on the lees for 15 months before being discorged. On the nose, there are dark flowers, raisins, dried cherries and blueberries. On the palate, the wine has flavors of crushed dark stones, plum peel, a touch of licorice, quinine and clove, all rounded out with savory black cherry. What I like most about the Falconero Zero is that it has a blanket of dense, firm bubbles initially, but when the carbonation softens, a wonderful mouthfeel follows. Its as dry as dry can be, fitting perfectly with the wine's slight bitterness. Paired with homemade caponata and a marathon of Michael Douglas movies... a Sunday that'll be hard to beat. David Hatzopoulos
A blend of Pignoletto, also known as Grechetto Gentile, and Trebbiano, from organically farmed grapes. Bottled after halting fermentation, allowing carbonation to develop within the bottle. It is not disgorged, and is cellar aged for 15 months before release. In the glass, the color is a silvery lemon. On the nose, there are rich floral aromas, ripe lemon fruit, and sliced apricots. Like the TerraQuilia reds, this sparkling white is a touch herbaceous, balancing a faint bitterness on the edge of zingy lemon fruit and dried stone fruit. The palate has a bright core, but a softness in surrounding texture, creating a very compelling mouthfeel. Highly drinkable, but full of character. David Hatzopoulos
In Emilia-Romagna, Terraquila creates red méthode ancestrale sparklings from organic Lambrusco Grasparossa. The wine goes through a cold maceration with the skins. It is aged for 15 months on the lees and is released without disgorgement. The color of the Falcorubens is a dense red. Aromatically, the wine offers roasted coffee and dark forest fruit, with a touch of barnyard and earth. Similarly, the palate is full of burly flavors like smoke, plum, raw herbs, and espresso. The structure is soft with a touch of tannin. A lovely wine to sip, a great bubbly for the cooler weather. David Hatzopoulos
Il Fortunato aced it with their Rosato Spumante; another lively sparkler produced from organic vineyards with only a minimal addition of sulfur. The nose is playful with a mix of bright berry fruits and fresh red cherries cut by tart apple skins. On the palate, a delicate mousse lifts the wine showing some weight, great acidity, and just touch of sugar. Absolutely lovely! Pair with charcuterie, simple pasta, or simply drink on its own. Andy Paynter
A lively sparkling wine made from 40% Bical, 35$ Maria Gomes, and 25% Arinto from the Bairrada region in Portugal. The nose shows a fresh and energetic medley of almond, pear, thyme and white flowers. The palate is crisp and refreshing with fine minerality, with notes of bright citrus and flowers. An excellent aperitif, or can be paired with a mild cheeses or a light seafood dish. JDC
Bairrada, with its cooler maritime climate, has a long history of producing fresh and distinctive sparkling wines of quality from the native grapes of the region. Filipa Pato admirably keeps the tradition alive with her delicious and unpretentious brut rosé made from a blend of Bairrada’s signature noble red variety Baga and the tangy high acid white grape, Bical. Spicy and zesty with notes of bright citrus and red berries, this is a great (and affordable!) pairing for baked fish with paprika and Iberian olive oil or smoked fish brunch.
Pepe Raventós stepped outside of the Cava appellation in 2012 to create the Conca del Riu Anoia designation. The de Nit rosé was the first Conca wine and continues to sate and impress us with its lively expression of calcareous soils, rich with marine fossils. This is an incredibly versatile sparkler that has crisp, pretty stone fruit and light raspberry fruit with a gorgeous minerality. AR
Castellroig is one of the finest values in sparkling wine and a great example of the wines of Corpinnat: it is farmed organically, harvested by hand, aged at least 18 months on the lees, and fermented with native yeasts. Marcel Sabate and his team have a remarkable understanding of their vineyards and have mapped out every minute shift in terroir on their estate; this fanatical approach to quality shows in the bottle. The focus of this cuvée is Xarel-lo, a favorite among the grapes of the Penedès for its refreshing mineral qualities and notes of mountain herbs. A light-on-its-feet bubbly for everyday occasions. Ariana Rolich
Les Perles du Mont Blanc is made from biodynamically farmed Gringet and spends two years on the lees before disgorgement. Fermentation for the base wine is done with indigenous yeast; the second with Champagne yeast and there is no dosage added, making for an exquisitely dry wine with fascinating complexity. This bottling is richer than in years past, but still intensely mineral with heady aromas of pine forest, baking spice, and toasted walnuts. The palate is decadent, with creamy flavors of pear, wildflower honey, nutmeg and bright lemon curd. The invigorating acidity makes this a versatile, food-friendly wine to pair with roasted chicken, oysters, charcuterie, or cheese. Amanda Bowman
'Mont Blanc' is named for the snow-capped mountain 30km away from Dominique's winery. This cuvée is built to age, but that requires personal discipline. 100% Gringet from vines planted at 450m elevation, the 2015 was aged for three years on the lees before disgorgement. The delicate nose offers elegant floral aromas and comes across as quite austere at first. Within an hour the nose blossoms with generous notes of honeysuckle, orange zest, almond skins and orchard fruits. The palate has exquisite cut with powerful minerals driving fresh pear and apple flavors. An excellent vintage that should shine in 2-3 years. Amanda Bowman
The 2018 Les Capriades Pétillant Naturel "Piege a..." Rosé is made from 25 to 50 year-old vines of Cot, Cabernet Franc and Gamay grown in the Cher Valley. The wine shows perfect balance, a silky texture and a fine mousse with a lovely melange of earthy red fruits, minerals and citrus that continue in the very long finish. This is a beautiful sparkling wine that should be consumed regularly rather than just on New Years Eve...
This is a rare item: Clean, crisp dry Prosecco, made from organic fruit, indigenous yeasts, very low SO2. This is a wine that will please everyone – your inner wine geek, and your (here please fill in the blank for your friend or relative who pays no attention to the details but will guzzle it down and ask for more). An amazing value! Jamie Wolff
A treat for lovers of Castellroig, the Rosat is a refreshing rosè sparkling wine made from organically farmed Garnacha and Trepat grapes, fermented with native yeasts, and aged a minimum of 18 months on the lees before disgorgement. A lovely, rosy watermelon hue, dry and frothy, with deep and delicious flavors of raspberry, cranberry, orange rind, sea salt, and Mediterranean herbs. This rosat is always cold in our fridge at home, ready for smoked salmon brunch, a sardine snack, and fish from the grill. Ariana Rolich