Today's Sponsor
 California Wine Club
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In This Issue
 Sparkling season We begin the countdown to the holidays with a look at a fine sparkling wine that's not a Champagne.
 The California Wine Club Shop now, pay and ship later!
 François Pinon NV Vouvray Petillant Brut ($16.99)
A fine Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, rich and off-dry, and it's got bubbles!
 This week on
Hot topics include a report on value-vs.-price in Burgundy, a poll on our attitude about sparkling wine, and a new online "blind tasting" game.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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Sparkling season

No, I'm not any more excited than most of you are about seeing Santa Claus and reindeer and decorated trees in the shopping malls at Halloween.

But let's face it: Autumn is here, and the countdown to the holidays has begun. As we move into the season, chances are that we'll be hearing the festive pop of sparkling-wine corks more and more.

After all, as I've often observed, Champagne and other sparkling wines aren't just for New Year's, weddings and Super Bowl champions any more. A glass of bubbly is appropriate not only for festive occasions but for almost any occasion; and a quality sparkling wine doesn't have to be reserved for toasting: It makes a fine match with many a dish on your dinner table.

Although Madame Lily Bollinger, of the Champagne house that bears her family name, had an obvious commercial interest in promoting the stuff, she still pretty much wrapped it up with this often-quoted hymn of praise:

"I drink it when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and I drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it, unless I'm thirsty."

I can't quibble with the assertion that Champagne, the real deal from the French region of that name, is hard to beat for quality. The folks there invented the stuff some 300 years ago. But real Champagne is expensive, rarely available at less than $25 or so for the most basic bottlings and easily rising into the triple digits. (I recently spotted Roederer Cristal, beloved of hip-hop stars and the casually affluent, at a local discount shop for a cool $229.)

So, now and then over coming weeks I'll offer reports on a random selection of non-Champagne bubblies that offer good quality for a few dollars, Euros or pounds sterling less. Today's featured wine is one of my favorite alternative sparklers: It's a Vouvray Petillant, a rich, nearly dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire, a full-fledged Vouvray that just happens to come in a sparkling-wine bottle with a full complement of bubbles.

There's a taste of the winter and the holiday season in our Wine Focus feature for November in the Wine Lovers Discussion Group, where we're taking a close look at Port. You're invited to drop in and share your impressions of Port wines you've enjoyed, or to ask any questions you may have about Port, its production, and general consumer advice on buying and drinking Port. Spinning off from the Port theme, our Netscape/CompuServe WineLovers Community is featuring all the wines of Portugal, from Port to Vinho Verde and beyond, as Wine of the Month.

To take part in these fun and educational online activities, click
for the WLDG's Wine Focus, and

for the WineLovers Community Wine of the Month.

Today's Sponsor

California Wine Club
Shop now, pay and ship later!
The California Wine Club

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François Pinon François Pinon NV Vouvray Petillant Brut ($16.99)

This clear, light-gold wine opens with a pop of its Champagne-type cork and pours with a frothy mousse that falls back fast. Good Chenin Blanc aromas of apples and honeydew melon add a touch of "woolly" minerality and just a hint of pumpkin-pie spice. Fresh and bright white-fruit flavors follow the nose, with barely perceptible sweetness cloaked by mouth-watering acidity. Crisp appley fruit and a touch of snappy citrus lingers in a long, clean finish. U.S. importer: LDM Wines Inc., Louis/Dressner Selections. (Nov. 3, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: Its crisp acidity, prickly carbonation and fresh white-fruit flavors make it a natural with seafood and fish. It was very fine with a seafood risotto packed with shrimp, scallops and scrod.

VALUE: At this mid-teens price point, it's half the price of bottom-end Champagne, and is frankly a more complex and refined sparkling wine than most non-vintage Champagne house cuvees.

WHEN TO DRINK: There's no reason not to enjoy it now, although the combination of quality Chenin Blanc and well-made sparkling wine suggest that it could gain richness and complexity with several years under excellent cellar conditions.

Here's a fact sheet and photo about François Pinon Vouvray Petillant Brut from importer Polaner Selections. You can link from here to fact sheets on both the Petillant and regular Vouvray.

I got mine from Chambers Street Wines in NYC, which currently shows a supply available at this link:

Compare prices and find vendors for François Pinon Vouvray Petillant Brut on

To read and comment on today's column in our non-commercial WineLovers Discussion Group, click:

Today's article is cross-posted in our Netscape WineLovers Community, where we also welcome comments and questions.

To contact me by E-mail, write I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

This week on

Some highlights of recent articles on that I hope you'll enjoy:

QPRwines: 2001-2004 Red Burgundy
When we compare these four Red Burgundy vintages by score and price, the 2002 vintage has one "Outstanding Value" and 49 "Great Value" wines, the 2003 has 28 "Great Values," the 2001 has eight "Great Values" and the 2004 vintage has three "Great Value" wines. For specific ratings and QPR reports on 1,704 Red Burgundies, visit Neil Monnens' QPRwines.

Hot topics in our WineLovers Discussion Groups
Our WineLovers' Discussion Groups are the best places online to ask wine questions and participate in the civil and intelligent discussion of good things to eat and drink. Our WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG) is the Internet's original wine forum, a non-commercial venue intended for wine-related conversations that range from apprentice-level to wine professionals. Our WineLovers Community on the Netscape/CompuServe service is dedicated to wine education, a friendly place to get quick answers to your questions about wine, beer, spirits and all good things to drink.

Poll: I like bubbly ...
As we move toward winter and the holiday season, there's an increasing chance of encountering Champagne and other sparkling wines. Cutting right to the chase, this week's Netscape WineLovers Community poll invites you to put it on the record: Do you love bubbly, or does it leave you feeling listless and, well, flat?

Second-hand blind tasting
In this new interactive wine game, folks in our WineLovers Discussion group are trying to zero in on the precise identification - grape and region - of a wine that the perpetrator, Bob in Alberta, presents only by description. There are no losers in this game, only wine education and fun. Click to join in:

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Red wine frenzy (Nov. 3, 2006)

 Sunrise, Sunset ... (Nov. 1, 2006)

 Another look at Portugal (Oct. 30, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Ragù (Nov. 2, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:


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Monday, Nov. 6, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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