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Valentine's Day: 18 great champagnes for every budget

Valentine's Day is here. There's a lot riding on this holiday, and you want to make everything perfect--including the champagne. So we called on a few experts at some of the Cities' best wine shops (France 44, Haskell's, Solo Vino, and Surdyk's) to help out. We asked them to recommend their best sparkling wines in four price ranges: Under $15 for the budget-minded; from $15 to $40 for a classy bottle; $40 to $60, when you really want to make an impression; and over $60, when money is no object in love and romance (including one bottle that will set you back 350 bucks). Look for their suggestions and tasting notes on the following pages, followed by information on where you can get these superb sparkling wines.

UNDER $15

Louis Bouillot Brut ($10.99): A Crement de Bourgonge--a sparkling wine from Burgundy. It's 100 percent chardonnay and, for the price, the best bubble in the house. (Haskell's)

Riondo Prosecco ($14.99): A nice, everyday sparkling wine from the Veneto in Italy. It has fresh floral aromatics and pear notes on the palate. (Solo Vino)

Trevor Jones Sparkling Red NV ($14.99): Who says there's no sparkling wine for red-wine drinkers? Sparkling reds have long been popular in Australia, and they are becoming increasingly popular in the States. Made by the Charmat method of fermentation (the same as prosecco), this south Australian sparkler made from grenache, shiraz, and merlot grapes definitely tastes red, bursting with berry and cherry fruit. It has nice depth, and finishes dry. (France 44) Valdoro Prosecco ($11.95 on sale): The last two years have seen a significant increase in the number of proseccos, but this shows classic creamy bubbles with tasty apple fruit, and it's ready to please the novices as well as the experienced consumer. (Surdyk's)

Zardetto Prosecco Brut NV ($14.99 on sale; $7.99 for 187 ml): A quality prosecco that's crisp, fruity, and dry. (France 44)

Next page: Sparklers from $15 to $40

 

$15-$40

Baumard "Carte Turquoise" Cremant de Loire ($21.99): Champagnes will fall into the upper end of this price range when they are on sale, but this beauty from the Loire is always a great value. It has the fruit, acidity, and yeast of Champagne at a fraction of the price. (Surdyk's)

Boniface 'Les Rocailles' Brut ($19.99): This dry sparkler from the French Alps offers delicate green-apple and floral aromas with a touch of yeasty character. (Solo Vino)

Duval-Leroy "Paris Label" Brut Champagne NV ($35.99 on sale): A great Champagne for aficionados and novices alike, this one has medium weight, pleasant, biscuity notes, soft stone and citrus fruits, a fine mousse, and balancing acidity. (France 44)

Mumms Napa Rosé $(21.99): California wine made with the French flair. The rosé will set the mood as well. (Haskell's)

Roederer Estate Brut Rosé NV ($31.99): Who can resist pink for Valentine's Day? This sparkler from northern California's Anderson Valley is made using the same method as Champagne (in fact the winery is owned by Champagne house Roederer). Sparkling rosés taste similar to their non-rosé counterparts, but the addition of just enough red wine to turn them pink adds a hint of soft red fruit. (France 44)

Next page: Sparklers from $40 to $60

 

$40-$60 Argyle Extended Tirage Brut Sparkling 1999 ($59.99 on sale): Only available in limited quantities, this sparkler from Oregon's Willamette Valley spends additional time on its lees, which gives it rich, toasty-spicy aromas and flavors balanced by great finesse and acidity. (France 44)

Larmandier-Bernier Brut Tradition ($55.99): An artisan-grower Champagne that has citrus and red fruit characteristics. It balances richness and juicy acidity. (Solo Vino) Margaine Demi-Sec Champagne ($44.99): There is something of a misconception that demi-sec champagnes are for dessert. This version, however, uses its residual sugar to bring extra depth to the ginger, pear, and biscuit flavors. This would be divine with teriyaki chicken and roasted carrots, onions, and potatoes. (Surdyk's)

Vouve Clicquot ($59.99): The orange label has become a mark of quality and excellence in the world of Champagne. (Haskell's)

Next page: When money is no object. Plus, a list of our consultants and wine shops

 

MONEY IS NO OBJECT:

Billecart Brut Rosé ($95.99): Sure there are better-known big-buck Champagnes in the world, but if you drink Champagne for the beauty of the flavors, it's tough to beat this. The aromas show red fruit, roses, and spice, which the flavors echo wonderfully. Share this Champagne with a loved one, and give both every bit of attention you can. (Surdyk's)

Geoffroy Millesime 1999 ($109.99): Another artisan small grower. It shows candied stone fruit with smoke and minerals. Complex with a long finish. (Solo Vino)

Krug Brut Champagne 1996 ($349): Krug is at once powerful, full-bodied, rich, and toasty, while possessing incredible finesse and complexity. Krug may ruin cheap sparkling wine for you forever. (France 44)

Pol Roger Cuvee Winston Churchill ($239.99): Sir Winston drank a bottle of Pol Roger every day, saying, "In victory I deserve it, and in defeat I need it." An elegant bottle of Champagne. (Haskell's)

CONSULTANTS AND WINE SHOPS:

Rob Bonelli, wine director Solo Vino 517 Selby Avenue, St. Paul 651.602.9515

Roger Clark, wine consultant Surdyk's Liquor & Cheese Shop 303 East Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis 612.379.3232

Ted Farrell, vice president Haskell's Several locations, including 2221 Ford Parkway, St. Paul, 651.698.8844, and 81 South Ninth Street, Minneapolis, 612.333.2434

Jessica Nielsen, wine educator France 44 Wine & Spirits 4351 France Avenue South, Minneapolis 612.925.3252


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