Recently, I was asked by a worried young hostess if it would be, as her friend suggested, “bad form” to serve a cava or a prosecco instead of pricier Champagne at a wedding or holiday celebration. The short answer is: absolutely not. (What is bad form is suggesting that your hostess should bankrupt herself in order to give a party.)
There are lots of appealing sparklers out there that won’t break the bank. If a Champagne-like experience is your preference, I’d steer you towards the cavas of Spain, such as the recently reviewed “Three Great Value Sparklers From Spain.” If you tilt towards a softer, fruit-forward beverage, why not sample prosecco, the classic full-fizz spumante from Italy?
The following wines offer a range of styles in a very reasonable price range; you’ll be sure to find something to supply some affordable, bubbly fun. Celebrate!
La Gioiosa et Amorosa Prosecco DOC Treviso Spumante Brut, Treviso, Italy, $11.99
Much fruitier and a bit sweeter than either of the two proseccos reviewed, this wine was also made from 100 percent glera grapes, and also hails from the Treviso region. La Gioiosa is also a true spumante, not a frizzante, and has a healthy supply of vigorous bubbles. It is not as well-balanced as the other two, and I would argue that it is extra dry rather than a true brut. It is also less complex and elegant than either the Mionetto or the Desiderio Jeio, and the first impression is marred by what one taster accurately described as the powdery flavor found in those little pastel Valentine’s hearts — not unpleasant, but a bit strange in a wine. Still, if you prefer a soft, fruity bubbly, this is a perfectly presentable inexpensive option.
Mionetto Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut, Treviso, Italy ($14.99)
Absolutely my favorite among the three, and ranked number one by all the participants in a blind tasting, this wine is an astonishing value. Pale straw in the glass, the nose, and palate are full of ripe apple, a bit of peach, and a touch of apricot. The flavors are bright, with fine bubbles and enviable structure; this prosecco has a deliciously round mouthfeel. The balance between fruit and acidity is excellent, and the true brut finish is dry and very fresh — there isn’t an off note in the whole tasting experience.
Unlike Champagne, this wine is finished in stainless steel barrels rather than in the bottle. Alcohol is 11 percent. Crafted from 100 percent glera grapes (formerly known as prosecco) grown in the clay-rich soil just north of Treviso, the fruit provides the clean, fresh taste and the acid/sugar balance provides complexity and sophistication. Oh, and the bottle is really pretty, too.
Bisol Desiderio Jeio Prosecco DOC Brut, Valdobbiadene, Italy ($17.99)
Pale blonde in the glass, the Bisol Desiderio Jeio Prosecco is a high value wine. It has plenty of fruit; the nose is full of apple touched with pear and white flower, and the pleasantly round mouthfeel is enhanced by fine bubbles. The finish is slightly fruity as well, with more of those white flowers providing freshness. It tilts further towards fruit than acidity, but is nicely balanced with no off-notes in the mix.
Unlike the other two wines tasted here, the Desiderio Jeio is predominantly made from glera fruit, with the addition of pinot blanco and verdiso to round it out a bit and add complexity.