We're absolutely loving the selection of champagne that's on the market this year!
At Vin Chicago, our strategy is to taste all of the big name champagnes along with bottlings from dozens of smaller mom and pop producers.
While we've found some outstanding bottlings from mid-size "negociant" producers such as Charles Heidsieck and Billecart-Salmon, it's the tiny "grower" producers that have really hit the sweet spot on price and quality.
Though you'd think that the small, boutique producers would be more expensive, that's not the case. While the big name champagne houses spend a fortune on marketing and promotion, the small houses spend hardly a nickel.
As a result, you can buy hand-crafted wines like the Marc Hebrart "Cuvee de Reserve" Premier Cru Brut NV ($38.99) and D Henriet-Bazin "Selection de Parcelle"s Premier Cru Brut Champagne NV ($37.99) for the same price as the big names. The quality of these wines, starting with the Premier Cru vineyards that the wine comes from, is at an entirely higher level.
And the Champagne region is not the only source nowadays for excellent sparkling wine. There is some very good Spanish Cava and Italian Prosecco at prices that range from $8 to $15, and some wonderful California sparkling wines as well from Domaine Carneros, Scharffenberger and Schramsberg.
Starting with the Champagne and moving on to California, Spain and Italy, here are a few of our picks for New Year's Eve:
- Marc Hebrart "Cuvee de Reserve" Premier Cru Brut NV ($38.99)This is a world-class Champagne, made in a style that everyone will love.
- D. Henriet-Bazin "Selection de Parcelles" Premier Cru Brut Champagne NV ($37.99)Henriet-Bazin is a tiny fifth-generation estate. If you like your Champagne crisp and balanced, check this one out. They're too small to get reviewed by the big publications, but on the Vin Chicago scale, this bottling clocks in at 93 points.
- Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne NV ($44.99)This mid-size producer launched a completely renovated cuvee this year and it is a stunner. Wine Spectator awarded it 93 points, and we totally agree.
- Henri Goutorbe "Special Club" Grand Cru Brut Champagne 2004 ($74.99). This is for those in need of a really special bottle. It's a top-tier Grand Cru vintage Champagne. This has far more nuance and character than even the big names like Dom Perignon – and, though not cheap, it costs half as much as the big name wines.
- Domaine Carneros Brut 2009 ($21.99) Domaine Carneros is the California outpost of Champagne Taittinger. Their 2009 is getting all sorts of accolades.
- Scharffenberger "Excellence" Mendocino County Brut NV ($13.99). A serious bottle of wine here, at a very fair price. Wine Spectator gives this 90-points – the same score that they gave to Vueve Clicquot.
- Bele Casel Prosecco NV ($13.79) When it comes to easy drinking, crowd-pleasing sparkling wine that won't break the bank, Italy is king. This bottling from Bele Casel has been a favorite of ours for years.
- Gran Sarao Brut Rosé Cava NV ($7.99). This is as big of a bubbly bargain as you'll get from anywhere in the world. Made using the famous "Champagne" method, this dry Rosé is crisp and delicious. How they're able to put this kind of quality in the bottle of eight bucks, we have no idea.
Vin Chicago has been the go-to retailer for wines in the Chicagoland area for decades. Their team boasts an expert staff, including two wine buyers in the final stages of securing the title of Master Sommelier. Vin Chicago has locations in Barrington, Chicago Highland Park and Naperville.