Popping a good bottle of French Champagne or sparkling wine from other countries is de rigueur during the holiday season.  To that in tighter economic times we would add seeking out and sipping value wines from around the world. During December, we tasted hundreds of wines and found some reasonably-priced winners from France, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and the United States.  Here are the tasting notes, as Tweeted during December:


Under $20 NV Brut Calif sparklers: Gloria Ferrer, light yeast, fruity; Domaine Carneros, crisp; Roederer Estate, balanced, long finish.

Champagne NV Brut $25-35: Laurent Perrier, crisp/fresh; Duval Leroy, nice yeasty nose; Chartogne-Taillet, Saint-Anne, light yeast, balanced.

Top Champagne $35-65 in recent tasting: Henriot Blanc Souverain; Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label; Bollinger NV Special Cuvee Brut.

Champagne top 3 expensive of 14 tasted: Roederer Cristal 02; Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame 98; Dom Perignon 00. All super/Veuve for yeast fans.

Value Whites

Consistent Marlborough NZ Sauvignon Blanc 08 Kim Crawford $13. Sharp citric nose; mid-body, good fruit/finish. W/terrine; clams, mussels.

Quaffing party Chardonnay 07 Fox Glove Central Coast $11. Tropical nose; fat, decent acids, short. W/appetizers, cheeses, crackers, etc.

Bargain WA Chardonnay $8 Three Rivers 07 Columbia Valley. Sharp gold; toasty tropical nose; fat grapey style. w/Fr. bread, soft cheeses.

Veggie dip/crackers/bread quaffing wine. Il Papavero 08 Pinot Grigio Sicily $12. Fresh peach nose; fruity, round, quaffable, nice finish.



Robust Reds

Tempranillo 50% Merlot 30 Cab 20. Pago de Cirsus 06 Navarra $12. Berry/wood nose; tight body, good flavor/finish. w/lean beef/wine sauce.

Winter stew/beef bourg wine 08 HJ Fabre Mendoza Malbec $13. Fruit/wood nose; mid-body to fat, good varietal flavor, a little hot (14.5 alc).

Ch Millegrand 07 Minervois $13. Wood/berry nose; round/ripe, quaffable. w/ hearty fare (Tuscan bean soup, cassoulet, etc.).

Rioja value 08 Vina Labarta $12. Zinfandel-like nose; fruity, young, berries/wood. Carne asada, meatloaf or pasta and meatballs wine.

Value Chianti 07 Torciana $12. Complex Sangiovese/wood/berry nose; balanced, good flavor/style/finish. Smooth, 12% alc. w/chicken marinara.

Big Aussie rib wine Yarrunga Field 08 Barossa Red $13. Fr. Oak aged, ripe berry nose, wood; round; 14.5 alc, long finish. Blend? Not noted.

Stylish Malbec 06 Norton Reserva $13. 12 mo/Fr oak. Berries/wood nose; mid-body, balanced flavor/finish. w/cheeses; beef, mushroom sauces.