Blind Drunk

The palates of our staffers don't discriminate by price

If you pattern your tastes after those of the wine experts, you'll end up preferring classic French Champagnes, which can be very expensive. But if you pay attention to only your own taste buds, you'll probably find yourself drawn to a very different flavor profile. That's why blind tastings are so interesting. My theory is that Cavas have become popular because they offer both the softness of expensive Champagnes and the fruitiness of the lemon-soda wines. Try a couple of Cavas in a blind tasting of your own. You could discover a new favorite.

Or you could conclude, like News Hostage columnist Rich Connelly, that there is hardly any difference between them. "Which is great," says Connelly. "Because I just saved myself a whole lot of money on New Year's Eve."

Freixenet Brut, Cordon Negro (Spain) Rank: 1 (tie)
Average score: 6.8
Price: $6.79 at Specís

Freixenet, in its familiar black bottle, seems to be uniquely appealing to the American palate.
Monica Fuentes
Freixenet, in its familiar black bottle, seems to be uniquely appealing to the American palate.

Robb Walsh (3) spices, no fizz
Anna Moore (8) fruity, piquant, multi-layered
Khoa Nguyen (7) inoffensive and light
Wendy Grossman (9) makes me want to dance
Paul Galvani (6) extremely tart, smooth
Lauren Kern* (9) dry, fizzy, smooth
Margaret Downing* (7) fizzy, light, dry
Jennifer Mathieu (7) crisp, decent, enjoyable
Rich Connelly (5) tasteless

Mumm Cordon Rouge, Brut (Champagne)
Rank: 1 (tie)
Average score: 6.8
Price: $23.99 at Auchan

Walsh* (9) big yeast, toasty
Moore* (8) spicy, peppery
Nguyen (8) nutty
Grossman (4) didn't make my tongue cringe
Galvani* (7) robust flavor, acidic
Kern (6) quite dry and nice
Downing (7) more fizz, sharper edged
Mathieu (7) nutty, I could drink a lot
Connelly (5) tasteless

Segura Viudas "Aria," Cava (Spain)
Rank: 2
Average score: 6.7
Price: $9.99 at Spec's

Walsh (6) cinnamon, nice bubbles
Moore (9) titty-dancer caliber
Nguyen (4) bitter, lingering aftertaste
Grossman (10) makes me want to take a bubble bath
Galvani (9) nice bouquet, fruity
Kern (4) a little salty
Downing (4) a little heavy
Mathieu* (9) delicious, could get me in trouble
Connelly (5) Because a) I have a cold…

Chandon Fresco Perla, Extra Dry (Argentina)
Rank: 3
Average score: 5.4
Price: $9.90 at Spec's

Walsh (4) pleasant but sweet
Moore (7) sweet, average, one for uppity poseurs
Nguyen*(9) youthful, full of potential
Grossman (5) very fruity, could drink a bottle
Galvani (4) shallow flavor
Kern (3) too sweet
Downing (8) a little light
Mathieu (4) decent, went flat fast
Connelly (5) …and b) I'm from New Jersey…

Pacific Echo, Brut (California)
Rank: 4
Average score: 5.2
Price: $16.75 at Spec's

Walsh (4) yeasty nose, decent
Moore (2) god-awful syrup
Nguyen (5) strong attack, backs off fast
Grossman* (10) this can be @ my wedding
Galvani (7) lowest fizz, highest alcohol
Kern (2) yuck
Downing (6) smells good, nice fizz
Mathieu (6) humdrum
Rich Connelly (5) …they all taste the same…

Marques de Gelida, Brut, Cava (Spain) Rank: 5
Average score: 4.9
Price: $9.48 at Spec's

Walsh (4) peachy, sweet
Moore (5) tastes expensive, classy
Nguyen (10) brisk like an autumn day
Grossman (4) not crazy in love with it
Galvani (3) no bouquet, very thin
Kern (4) aftertaste
Downing (5) inoffensive, almost pleasant
Mathieu (4) tastes cheap, watery
Connelly (5) …to me….

Paul Cheneau, Brut, Cava (Spain) Rank: 6
Average score: 4.4
$4.99 at Auchan

Walsh (3) floral nose, crisp
Moore (7) very berry good
Nguyen (6) light, mellow
Grossman (2) champagne with a screwcap?
Galvani (6) slightly sweet, very clear
Kern (1) bitter, dishwater
Downing (4) inoffensive
Mathieu (6) sorority girl champagne
Connelly (5) …But even the expert says…

Cristalino, Brut, Cava (Spain) Rank: 7 (tie)
Average score: 3.2
Price: $5.99 at Auchan

Walsh (4) a little yeast, good bubbles
Moore (1) yuck, grody to the max
Nguyen (2) ginger ale, anyone?
Grossman (3) dry
Galvani (4) no bouquet, tart
Kern (3) fruity, but flat
Downing (4) okay
Mathieu (3) funny smell, icky
Connelly (5) …that 70% of these wines…

Vincent Edouard Poirier (Loire Valley)
Rank: 7 (tie)
Average score: 3.2
Price: $6.99 at Whole Foods

Walsh (3) lemon-lime soda
Moore (3) orange peels and pear bruises
Nguyen (1) tastes cheap
Grossman (1) made me choke
Galvani (5) very fruity, slight bitterness
Kern (2) yuck
Downing (6) appley, goes flat fast
Mathieu (3) cheap date champagne
Connelly (5) …are indistinguishable…

Mont-Marçal, Brut Reserva, Cava (Spain)
Rank: Last
Average score: 2
Price: $5.99 at Central Market

Walsh (1) skunky, awful, corked?
Moore (1) rotten, roadkill
Nguyen (3) ham, tastes like ham
Grossman (1) tastes spoiled
Galvani (2) black coffee overtones
Kern (2) smells like dirty socks
Downing (1) stinky, sludge on the tongue
Mathieu (2) horrible, smells like ass
Connelly* (5) …which means I'm right.
* Guessed this was the French Champagne

Bubbly Buzzwords

Brut: It literally means "natural," but in the case of champagne, it really means dry. Brut is drier (less sweet) than extra dry; semi-dry is sweeter still.

Cava: The word cava is Spanish for "cellar," and is used to describe Spanish sparkling wines made using the méthode champenoise. The name was adopted in 1970 at the behest of Spain's European trading partners. Prior to this time, Spain's sparkling wine was called Champaña. Although production of Cava is actually somewhat spread out across the country, some 98 percent is made in the Penedés region of Catalonia.

Charmat bulk process: A process that speeds up the traditional champagne production method in order to make less expensive sparkling wine.

Méthode champenoise: Made by the expensive champagne process.

Cremant: French sparkling wine, 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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