Buy special-occasion bubbly now before holiday price hikes

November 5, 2022

Serving the ravenous horde? Think case buying now. Typically, prices escalate as holidays approach. I advise buying those sparklers labeled NV, non-vintage, for larger groups; they’re normally at lower end of price range. These are winemaker’s and blender’s art to provide wine that is consistent, avoiding the vagaries found with specific vintages. The producers blend so consumers can identify products which fit their enjoyment level and return to the same or very similar profile regardless of the weather and effects of terroir. Those I endorse are compared by me, side by side. By keeping a few years’ purchases well refrigerated to lessen the effect of bottle aging, I can observe the consistency or lack thereof. Unless one has the gift of perfect recall, which I don’t, it is the only method I’m aware of to test this similarity. Since even well-refrigerated wine is live, I’m thinking these panels are reduced to “close enough for government work.”

An issue rarely addressed is that when the panel or winemaker changes, the consistency needs to be reevaluated. Some may have noted that I no longer recommend recent Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne. I was a fan since 2008, when Dominique Demarville ceased blending 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay in favor of nearly 100% PN from 50-60 different crus. Although some called the move an inventory clearance, I found the results appealing. When Demarville left in 2019 and was replaced by Didier Mariotti, the NV profile left with him. Mariotti, former head at Pernod/Ricard-owned G.H. Mumm, is an accomplished fellow. He’s just not in tune with my NV palate, although I do favor Mumms Brut Rosé Napa, 89 McD under $18.

Please be sure to use exact names. These producers make several labels of varying quality and price. La Marca Prosecco around $15, 87 McD; Valdo Marca Oro Prosecco Brut NV, under $16, 88 McD; Valdo Cuvee 1926 Extra Dry Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG, $20, 88 McD. Remember extra dry is a bit sweeter than Brut. VP DOCG reputed as one of the best Italian terroirs for Prosecci. Nearly all highly regarded VP employing the Charmat process are labeled Cartizzi also. Bolla has been marketing Valdo No. 10 Brut VP DOCG for several years, using Methode Champenoise. The 2017 and ‘18, 90 McD under $20, are definitely worth trying. 

Caveat emptor! – Dom Perignon 2010 can be found at Costco, roughly $40-$60 cheaper than usual. Unfortunately, the 2010 is likely past its prime. Dom is one label whose values greatly increase, if age-worthy. The vaunted 2008, 96 McD, has plenty of shelf time left. It was released in 2013 at $170, currently $357. The 2009, 95 McD, $160 on release, is now $300+. The best vintage Champagne is normally long-lived. Sadly, few have the knowledge, patience or pocketbook to enjoy these in their prime. Reminder to cellarers – buy a case, wait, sell half, drink free wine. Next week more sparklers. Support your local stores. Case buyers allow a few weeks to process. 

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