Cheap Wine That Doesn't Suck
If there's anything suckier than cheap sparkling wine it probably ought to be illegal. You've probably had your share, whether the ubiquitous black bottle or the fruit-infused swill that makes Kool-Aid taste like Chateau d'Yquem or any of the legion of insipid imitators lurking on supermarket shelves everywhere. In addition to simply being bad wine, there's something seriously wrong with taking a beverage made for celebrations and turning it into something better suited for flushing automobile radiators.
The first step towards escaping sparkling suckitude is to drink outside the box, which means looking to Spanish cava, some Italian proseccos and, especially small French sparkling wine producers that you've probably never heard of and are likely outside the Champagne region (where, as you no doubt know, the only true champagne can be produced).
As you might have guessed, I have an excellent example here. It's the Charles de Fere Cuvee Jean-Louis Blanc de Blancs Brut. At 10 bucks a bottle it's an exceptional value, less austere than many French Bruts, with subtle peach, apricot and orange flavors and hints of freshly baked bread balanced by a tangy lemon-lime acidity.
So it doesn't have the complexity and almost magical bubbles of Dom or Veuve or Cristal, but for the price of any of those you could buy at least a dozen bottles of Jean-Louis and have money left over for a champagne flute and maybe a chocolate-dipped strawberry. And that definitely doesn't suck.
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