Champagne is the only wine that makes a woman beautiful

Madame Pompadour
Madame Pompadour

Supposedly, over two hundred bottles of champagne were ordered by Madame Pompadour (Jeanne Antoinette Poisson), per year, every year.  It was also the official chief mistress of Louis XV, who once said that “Champagne is the only wine that makes a woman beautiful .“

I have already written several blogs about champagne and sparkling wines in previous years, and I would hate to repeat myself. Yet, here comes this time of the year again, when we, more than ever, consider what kind of bubbles should be on our table for the end of the year celebration. The New Year’s Eve and the sparkling wines are inevitably linked together for generations. The champagne means celebration, victory and joy. Unlike with any other wine – when there is any reason to celebrate, we usually reach for champagne.

Top 15 Sparkling wines to welcome New Year in styleSo I decided to make a revision of my previous blogs  – and that’s why I also visited the website of Total Wine & More. Just to get inspired about the bubbles that I may have tasted previously and forget all about it. Well, Total Wine is not exaggerating when they proclaim being the biggest wine store here in Florida. They had listed “just” 483 sparkling wines or champagne! Hard to imagine not be able to select at least one bottle that would meet your personal requirements.

At the same time, such selection could be quite overwhelming even for somebody who has tasted many of sparkling wines on regular bases. To be honest, I never was a big fan of sparkling wines. That was true at least until I was introduced to some truly great, great vintage champagne wines, and started to understand the huge difference between poorly made bubbles, and some pretty amazing sparkling wines.

Yet, my budget hardly allows indulging on premium choices. Therefore I was always on the look for inexpensive, yet exquisite alternatives. This time I igTop 15 Sparkling wines to welcome New Year in stylenored champagne altogether, with just one exception.  Laurent Perrier Brut  Non Vintage is not as well-known as perhaps Veuve Clicquot or Dom Perignon, yet it is a superb, fine Champagne with a reasonable price tag.

My intention this year is to stay within $20 budget (plus minus few bucks).  And no, that doesn’t mean that I have tasted all the sparkling wines listed by Total wine & more website. That would have been a steep task to accomplish. I have selected those that I tasted, enjoyed and believed that they were great value for its price.

Here are my favorite choices for sparkling wines of the world in 2012:
(please note that the indicated prices can vary, depending on the retailer and/or state)

Spanish Cava (made in traditional method, just like Champagne, but from different grapes):

$   8 Segura Viudas Brut Reserva N/V (non vintage)
$   8 Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut
$ 12 Segura Viudas Aria Brut
$ 10 Segura Viudas Brut Rose N/V
$ 15 Marques de Gelida Brut
$ 20 Llopart Brut Rose N/V (aged 5 years)
$ 22 Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad
$ 25 Llopart Leopardi Brut Reserva (aged 5 years)

Italian Prosecco (a classic, quality Italian sparkling wine):

$ 14 Adriana Adami “Garbel 13″ Prosecco N/V
$ 12 Mionetto Prosecco Brut N/V
$ 12 Zardetto prosecco
$ 16 Adriana Adami “Bosco Di Gica” Prosecco Brut N/V
$ 20 Adriana Adami “Vigneto Giardino” Prosecco
$ 25 Mionetto Sergio Rose
$ 30 Mionetto Sergio Extra Dry

French sparkling wines:

$   9 Veuve de Vernay
$ 12 St Reine Blanc de Blancs Brut
$ 18 Louis Bouillot Blanc de Noirs
$ 36 Laurent Perrier Brut N/V  (Champagne)

$ 20 Scharffenberger Brut   (California – formerly known as Pacific Echo)
$ 20 Huber Grüner Hugo Rose Sparkling  (Austria)


I hope that your New Year’s Eve celebration will be full of joy, laughter, dance, friends and, most importantly – that your glass will be full at all times!

Have a happy and healthy New Year everybody!

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Wine buying in Florida

I recently visited Florida for a short pre-Christmas vacation. It was sweet to feel warm, embracing breeze in the middle of the winter, especially coming from the place where current temperature doesn’t go above 39F right now.  We were visiting family and friends, and I also wanted to research the current wine environment in Boca Raton.

I kept hearing from everybody: “You must see this new wine store, called Total Wine & More! You have never seen anything like that!  It’s fantastic, it’s like a warehouse, but nicer. They have such a huge selection and the best prices!”

Wow, everybody we knew, was shopping there and talking about it.

After few days in Florida, I could see why. Their radio and TV advertising were running like they had never ending budget. We went to check it out one Saturday afternoon.

Being from the trade, I wasn’t so impressed with the size of the store (I have seen stores of that size before) but I must admit, the layout was nicely done and their selection was quite impressive. Although, I can imagine some people may get humbled by the size of the store and its selection, if they don’t know what they are looking for, exactly.

We noticed a friendly staff in uniforms (the store is claiming to be very educated and ready to help). I didn’t ask any questions so I can’t testify here. I am sure the management  knew that knowledgeably staff is needed in this size of the wine shop. A nice surprise for me was to find familiar wines, much cheaper than in my home state, CT.

It was a weekend, so there were several wine tastings going on throughout the store, and that easily caught my attention. I came to the first table to check out what this very friendly young men was pouring – and realized he had my favorite Spanish wines!

The gentleman was Pablo de Simon, the winemaker of Bodegas de la Marquesa Valserrano. Now, that’s impressive! That doesn’t happen every day – walking into a wine store and getting a chance to taste wines with the winemaker itself. We started to chat about Rioja and I tasted all his wines.
His wines were very soothing, approachable and priced well. I particularly liked his Reserva and Grand Reserva.

Yes, we ended up buying Bodegas de la Marquesa Valserrano Reserva for ourselves. I would buy more wines, if I were home, but the idea that I will try to fly them back north wasn’t too tempting. Unfortunately, as he told me, his wines are not available in Connecticut.

Looking for something simpler and fruity to bring to a party, Pablo left his station to introduce me to his friend Rafael – who was pouring wines from Portugal, near by. Another round of tasting, starting with refreshing Vinho Verde. I liked them all, particularly his ports. Despite the concerns about traveling with wine, I couldn’t resist and ended up buying his 10 years old Tawny. (My husband will find it under the Christmas tree, pssst).

As much as I like my wine dry, I love my ports rich and sweet. We also ended up buying a bottle of Quinta de Ventozelo Douro Q.V 2008, an amazing fruity, smooth, easy to drink red wine, crowd pleaser, for about $ 8. Lovely!

As Pablo recommended, the store was selling great shipping option – a plastic cover that seals the bottle into a bubble bag, with a waterproof seal. Perfect idea! We brought the bottle home in my suitcase, without any problems.

The Total Wines store also provided a printed catalog of wines they carry. I took one out of curiosity, without knowing that I will need it the very next day. One of my friends approached me to recommend a selection of richer, fruity reds for his Christmas party. I wanted to go and buy few samples to let him taste it first, but his busy schedule didn’t allow that.

So I sat down, opened the Total Wine’s catalog and searched for wines I tasted, and I would recommend, based on his preferences. I ended up making him a list of approximately 15 wines in a different price point to choose from.  Our friend ran to the store the very next day, curious what I picked for him. He called me the next day that more than 5 wines from my list (picked from the catalog that Total Wine claims to carry) they didn’t have.

Somebody who spends a lot of money to advertise that they are America’s Wine Superstore and carry over 8,000 wines – should deliver on their ad. I was disappointed at myself for believing it. Here I am, voluntarily trying to get them a business, sending a friend there to get his Christmas wine shopping done at one store. I understand that they can be out of stock on stuff. But 1/3 of my list of wines they are claiming to carry? In December, which is a biggest season for any wine shop?  If I only knew. I would go and picked only wines that were physically on the shelf.

When I was in business of selling wine, I would rather under-promise and over-deliver. It worked miracles.

I guess some businesses are working the other way around. It is a very impressive claim in their ad, but disappointing result.

How about spending some of that advertising budget on the inventory, especially when it’s the holiday season? That’s the buyers time of the year, right now!

Other than that, it was a really nice store and pleasant experience. I learned they are located in many more places within Florida and other states of U.S. You should check it out for yourself.

And, by the way, Boca Raton was really beautiful during the Christmas time!!!