Start looking for celebration wines now before prices rise

September 9, 2023

As we edge into fall and the various holiday seasons are approaching, I’m starting to see ads for sparkling wines “on sale.” However, several prices that rolled across my screen were not sale prices. A bit of searching and winnowing provides an abbreviated list of favorable quality-price ratio selections. We have all of September to evaluate before price escalation begins. Planning for sparkling wine purchases is a wise financial decision. Most prices will rise into the holidays. Think through your needs, then buy a case or mixed case, which are often given a discount. Be sure to shop around. The following should be findable. Try a single bottle, then move forward. They store easily. Short term, any dark space with a regulated temperature works. Keep in mind, we aren’t discussing all sparklers. Top-flight, vintage sparklers should be stored properly in a cool (less than 68 degrees F), dark, moderately humid (50-75%) space, and on their side for best results. Easy idea for cases – store neck down, label on case bottom. The following are all non-vintage, moderately priced sparkling wines. The focus is on best and affordable. has a short, basic discussion on storage.

Many who recognize Duckhorn are unaware the winery has rolled out a sparkler. Decoy Brut Cuvée is new to the game but at $20 and 90 McD, it is up to the high standard we expect from Duckhorn. It’s a blend of 49% Pinot Noir, 47% Chardonnay and 4% Pinot Meunier, made with Methode Champenoise, fermented in French oak. Pale golden with fine bead, it has roast apple, pear, lemon zest and yeasty aromas. A touch of sweetness is offset by bright acidity. Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs Rosé is 90% PN and Chardonnay, under $22, 90 McD. Pretty, peachy pink with lots of tiny bubbles making it festive, opens with strawberry, cherry and damp river stone aromas. Dry acidity balances the bouquet. Flavors repeat with a hint of vanilla in the finish.

Don’t turn up your nose at well-made Spanish Cava, just breathe in deeply. Juvé y Camps Milesimé Chardonnay Gran Reserva Brut Cava is one of Spain's best bargains. Pale golden with fine bead, opens to a complex bouquet of ripe peach, tea and toast, with lemon and apricot back notes. Aromas repeat as flavors, supported by appropriate acidity backbone. A wonderful sparkler for appetizers from cured meats to seafood, delicious with Serrano ham, 91 McD, under $22 add two price points. Finding this gold star recommendation may require help from your wine store pal. 

Kirkland Signature Brut from Costco is not a substantial value at $25. It reviewed under my minimum 87 points. The nose quickly dissipated, and it finished sweet from too much dosage for my palate. Just so you don’t think I’m a wine snob, the Barolo DOCG 2018 and ‘19 rated 91 McD around $20, and the Signature Suscol Vineyard Napa Cab 2019 was a great QPR buy at $18, 91 McD plus two price points. It is rare to find this quality and price for Barolo and Napa Cab, produced by Jeff McBride of Benziger. Following a winemaker is an excellent idea. Some other sparklers worth sampling: Mumm Napa Brut Reserve Rosé, 89 McD under $22. Paula Kornell Brut, 80% Chardonnay and 20 Pinot Noir, under $17 load up the truck, 92 McD. Pale golden, it opens to apple, jasmine and toast aromas, then evolves to brioche and strawberry as the PN shines through. Lovely, long, clean, smooth finish.

For those few no-alcohol fans, those expecting, and those who eschew alcohol, keep reading. Non-alcoholic and alcohol-removed wines can legally contain as much as 0.5% alcohol by volume, per FDA. Those looking to eliminate all traces of alcohol should make sure to double-check the label. "Alcohol-free" or 0% ABV denotes the product has no detectable levels of alcohol. Thomson and Scott Noughty NA Sparkling Chardonnay is organic, vegan, 0% ABV, with about half the amount of sugar of most NA sparklers. Chateau De Fleur NA Sparkling Wine, $18, tastes of apples and peaches. Élivo Zero Zero is a Spanish sparkler, $19, 0% alcohol, 100% Chardonnay. Semi-dry, vegan and halal, straw-colored with prolific small bead and glass-coating viscosity. This would be my choice of the three. Remember to order your holiday wine for Rosh Hashanah now.

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