Uncorking a Bargain

A champagne buyer's guide

N.V.-Scharffenberger, Pacific Echo, Rosé, $22.99 at Whole Foods: An American beauty

Iron Horse Rosé, $25.79 at Richard's: America's best rosé

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé First Cru N.V., $27.99 at Spec's: 100 percent pinot noir, a great value

Bear Dalton: "Young, [luxury cuvées] aren't very impressive, but if you put them away for a while, they develop a lot of depth."
Troy Fields
Bear Dalton: "Young, [luxury cuvées] aren't very impressive, but if you put them away for a while, they develop a lot of depth."

Location Info


Spec's Deli

2410 Smith
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Restaurant > Deli

Region: Montrose


Spec's Liquor Warehouse, 2410 Smith, (713)526-8787. Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Richard's Liquors and Fine Wines, 2124 South Shepherd (and other locations), (713)529-4849. Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Whole Foods, 2955 Kirby Drive (and other locations), (713)520-1937. Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Lanson Brut Rosé N.V., $42.99 at Whole Foods: Toasty and complex

Taittinger Cuvée Prestige Rosé, $43.79 at Spec's: A real stunner

French Cremants

These sparkling wines are made in regions outside the Champagne district with grape varietals not usually associated with champagne. French Cremants aren't quite as bubbly as champagne, so they don't hold their fizz as long, but they are excellent bargains.

Ackerman Brut Saumur N.V., $10.53 at Spec's: Crisp and clean from the Loire Valley

Willm Cremant d'Alsace, $11.99 at Spec's: Citrus and yeast flavors

Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace, $13.49 at Richard's: Alsatian pinot blanc

Labet Cremant de Bourgogne, $12.99 at Spec's: Chardonnay from Burgundy

World Beat

Spanish cava, Italian spumante and sparkling wine from other parts of the world can be quite impressive -- especially for the money. Cava, the Spanish variety of sparkling wine, is very much in vogue. It is made by the same labor-intensive method as French champagne, but with grapes native to the east coast of Spain. Some Spanish cava producers use strains of yeast imported from Champagne.

Italian spumante is not very popular lately, but some other Italian sparkling wines from the Trentino region are selling well. The Australians have also gotten into the business lately with a sparkling chardonnay.

Segura Viudas Brut Riserva, $7.99 at Spec's: A good Spanish cava

Cristalino Cava Brut, $7.99 at Whole Foods: Another quality cava

Rotari Brut Arte, $8.89 at Richard's: Italian sparkler made with the Champagne method

Marques de Gelida, $9.48 at Spec's: A step up in Spanish cavas

Albet i Noya Cava 1995, $13.27 at Spec's: A top cava with real depth and complexity

Banrock Station Sparkling Chardonnay, $9.99 at Whole Foods: Straight from Down Under

Bubbly Buzzwords

Blanc de blancs: Literally "white from whites," which, in Champagne, means 100 percent chardonnay.

Blanc de noirs: "White from blacks," a white wine made with a dark grape. In Champagne the dark grapes are pinot noir and pinot meunier.

Brut: It literally means "natural," but in the case of champagne, it really means dry. Brut is drier than "extra dry."

Charmat bulk process: A process to make less expensive sparkling wine by speeding up the traditional champagne production method.

Méthode champenoise: Made by the expensive champagne process.

Cremant: French sparkling wines, generally with fewer bubbles (about two-thirds the pressure of champagne) produced outside of the Champagne region.

Cuvée: The blend of wines used to make a champagne.

N.V. or nonvintage: Champagnes made by blending wines produced in several different years. Nonvintage champagnes are consistent in taste from year to year.

Vintage: Champagnes made from wines produced in a single exceptional year. These vary widely in character from one vintage to another.

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