December 31, 2008

Pommery POP vs. Piper Heidsieck Brut

piperheidsieck.jpgThe true Champagne battle was a little like comparing apples to oranges. I didn't realize that the POP I grabbed was Extra Dry (which oddly, in Champagne-speak means a little sweet). I should have selected another brut, but the tasting must go on. So the POP was ok, but I didn't feel like it was substantial enough to be a real contender. Beyond the sweet I thought it was a little bland and really undeserving of more attention.

But the Piper, ahhh the Piper... lush and creamy with a warm, toasty back bone and lovely mousse. Lingering flavors of honey and citrus peel give this sparkler added dimension. A classic and thoroughly enjoyable Champage and the overall winner. Now we can really ring in the new year.

Piper Heidsieck Brut Cuvee $34

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

December 31, 2008

Mumm Cuvee Prestige vs. Chandon Brut Classic

mumm_napa_brut.jpgSuspecting that it might be a wee bit lighter, we started with the Chandon. Mr. CheapFunWine commented on the extremely light hue in the glass and the serious lack of scent emanating from said glass. I must say, for the most part, I concurred. The Chandon was fairly flavorless--save for the initial punch of sharp fruit on the tongue. And by fruit I mean distinct essence of Smarties and Fun-Dip. Powdery and too sweet-tart.

Thankfully, the Mumm's provided a little more enjoyment. The dark golden hue is a clear indicator of the toasty, creamy bubbly inside. Vibrant and crisp with a thread of richness that creates an endearing sense of balance. A great Champagne alternative for under $20!

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige $17

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

December 31, 2008

Freixenet Brut vs. Segura Viudas

segura.jpgIn the battle of the Cavas, the Freixenet is definitely better known, but I think the Segura Viudas (which is also made by Freixenet) is the clear winner. The former is bright and crisp but a little watery and fairly flavorless. You feel the bubbles on your tongue but there really isn't much else going on. Conversely, the latter is smooth and slightly creamy with refreshing grapefruit and soft fruit notes. Light, but pleasant and a great value pick. I love this cava for a big bash or for an anytime bubbly.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva $8

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

December 31, 2008

Top Five Treats Enjoy With Champagne (or any bubbly)

champs.jpgOkay, these are completely subjective, of course, but are my all time favorite things to eat while enjoying a little bubbly:

1. FRIED CHICKEN - I know it sounds crazy because fried chicken is sooo heavy, but the bubbles act as a palate cleanser and if you choose something a little yeasty, it is a thoroughly indulgent treat. Try Westport Rivers 2003 Brut Cuvée RJR

2. SUSHI - Again, rich, oily fish meets bright scrubbling bubbles. If you don't like wasabi and soy, go for something light, bright and crisp. But if you, like me, enjoy a little sweet and salty sauce in which to dip your fish, then go for something with a little more fruit. Try Llopart Brut Rosé Cava Reserva 2005

3. CRAB CAKES - Authentic, Maryland crab cakes. There really is no substitute. Essentially the same principles apply... take a fairly rich substrate (in this case jumbo lump crab meat from Chesapeake Bay blue crabs) add generous seasonings and a fresh bread crumb coating and then broil or pan fry for a golden, delicious lump of love. Once again, the sparkler cleans the palate with bursts of bright citrusy bubbles. Try Gruet Brut NV

4. COCONUT SHRIMP - A little rich, a little sweet, a little fried... all the makings for an ideal bubbly pairing. If the shrimp and coating are well seasoned, I prefer mine sans sauce. Try Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose

5. QUICHE - Specifically, the gruyere and applewood-smoked bacon variety. Tangy cheese, smokey pork all nestled in a bed of rich eggs and cream and contained in a flaky, buttery crust. Of course the wine must deliver on all of the different flavor components so I would go with something full bodied and layered. Try Roederer Estate Brut NV

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

December 31, 2008

Bubbly, Bubbly, Bubbly... and More Bubbly

This year I couldn't decide on one celebratory sparkler so I rounded up six popular standards and decided that I would pair them up and pit them against each other in a bubbly New Year's throwdown: two Spanish cavas, two California sparklers and two real-deal French Champagnes. As I am house-bound with a sick three-year-old this evening, this tasting comprises the the exciting entertainment for me and the dashing Mr. CheapFunWInes. Here is the line-up:

freixenetbrut.jpgFreixenet Sparkling Cordon Negro Brut $11
35% Macabeo, 25% Xarel·lo, 40% Parellada. A Cava with an exceptional, fresh, fruity style and a lingering aroma. It is the perfect partner for the finest food and excellent at any time. (via


segura-viudas-brut-reserva.jpgSegura Viudas Brut Reserva $11
50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada, 15% Xarel lo. Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, created from a blend of reserve and non-vintage wines, is clean and delicate, yet rich in flavor. The wine is vinified according to méthode champenoise technique and is aged in the bottle for up to 2 years. This fine cuvée is fairly crisp with an interesting floral note and mouth-pleasing sensation of creaminess. (via

mumm_napa_brut.jpgMumm Napa Brut Prestige $17
This hugely popular, award winning wine offers touches of vanilla and melon, with firm acid and crisp structure. Medium bodied, with excellent mousse and a rich lingering finish, it is equally at home with a plate of iced oysters, fried calamari, chicken or a favorite pasta with a mild sauce. (via


chandonbrut.gifChandon Brut Classic $20
51% Pinot Noir 43% Chardonnay 4% Pinot Meunier 2% Pinot Blanc Classic balance typifies this refreshingly soft, yet dry wine. The wine delivers complex apple and pear characteristics accented by citrus spice over notes of almond and caramel in the bouquet. When you taste Brut Classic, look for nutty flavors with hints of brioche that build to a refreshingly dry finish. (via

pommeryPOP.jpgPommery POP $10 (187ml)
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier Impertinent and deliberately out of step, POP is a champagne with a determined commitment to the future - designed for lovers of beauty and non-conformity who are looking for new sensations. POP, is the sound of the cork leaving the bottle, conjuring up the spontaneous high spirits of party-time. (via


piperheidsieck.jpgPiper Heidsieck Brut NV $10 (187ml)
55% Pinot Noir, 30% Meunier and 15% Chardonnay Piper-Heidsieck cuvée Brut combines 50 rigorously selected growths. Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes create a more rounded blend and ensure the originality of the Piper-Heidsieck style. The wine's harmony develops over the course of slow ageing in Piper-Heidsieck's chalk cellars. (via

Obviously the French champagnes are a touch outside the $20 provenance of CheapFunWines, but I made it work by splurging on a split of each. I found all of these at Cost Plus World Market, but as you may have noticed above, they are also available on

Throughout the evening, we will be checking in and reporting our tasting notes and thoughts and declaring a winner in each category.

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

December 15, 2008

Langhorne Crossing Red 2005

langhornered.jpgVARIETAL(S): Shiraz 48%, Cabernet Sauvignon 37%, Petit Verdot 15%
REGION: Langhorne Creek, Australia
PRICE: $11
From the folks at Bleasdale Winery comes this interesting Aussie red blend. I loved the warm and spicy berry aromas and the smooth supple texture. Very warm and inviting. You get lots of ripe and bold fruit from the shiraz and a sturdy backbone from the cab. However, the more I sipped, the more I was underwhelmed. I would definitely try the new vintage--I'm a fan of many of the Bleasdale wines--but this one faded pretty quickly on the palate. Generally good, but lacking just a little something. Not sure if the 2006 has been released yet, but if you see it, it is probably a good bet. Overall I think a new vintage would be a food-friendly crowd-pleasing red.

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking
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