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Real Champagne under $20...

Pssst Jan 15, 2006 01:26 PM

I was at Bevmo a couple days ago and found Castellane Brut Non-vintage for $19.99 (usually $24.99). I thought this was a really good deal for a couple of reasons -

1. There just aren't many champagnes (as opposed to sparkling wines) available in the San Francisco Bay Area for under $20
2. The Castellane Brut is a good, solid champange. Its crisp and lovely, not too yeasty, not too sweet.

We liked pretty much everything we had at Castellane's tasting room in Epernay a few years ago and we very sad to learn they didn't export to the States. We brought back a number of bottles from our trip but finished our last bottle about six months ago so coming across bottles locally was great! I suspect the reason for the good price is that its not a well-known brand in the US (where most of the population buys known brands like Veuve & Dom).

I love finding lesser known brands that perform as well as "designer labels". Does anyone know of similar deals/finds?

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  1. t
    theSauce RE: Pssst Jan 15, 2006 11:36 PM

    Sorry, it's not under $20. But, Charles Heidsieck Brut is excellent choice bubblies. Originally $42 a bottle on sale now at Bevmo for $29.99. If memory serves me correctly, Champagne can only be called Champagne if the grapes used to produce the bubblies are from the Champagne region in France.

    1 Reply
    1. re: theSauce
      Pssst RE: theSauce Jan 16, 2006 12:25 AM

      Yes, there are plenty of champagnes available in the $20-$30 range. And I noticed the Heidsieck Brut Mis en Cave 2000 mentioned on a couple of newsletters, I haven't tasted it yet.

      We buy most of our champagnes at D&M (link below) since they specialize in small producers, although we'll pick up interesting bottles wherever we find them.

      Link: http://www.dandm.com/champagne.php

    2. n
      nooodles RE: Pssst Jan 16, 2006 01:49 AM

      Have you tried the Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut? It's currently my favorite champagne under $20 and would be curious how it compares to the Castellane.

      I think it's about $15 at Bevmo. The more expensive GF champagnes have a much more European taste: yeastier, drier. But I find the Sonoma Brut perfectly serviceable for large crowds, and fantastic for mimosas.

      7 Replies
      1. re: nooodles
        Tugboat RE: nooodles Jan 16, 2006 08:50 AM

        The post was about Champagne, not sparkling wine.

        1. re: nooodles
          Pssst RE: nooodles Jan 16, 2006 11:03 AM

          Yes, Gloria Ferrer is one of the sparkling wines we'll buy when its on sale. In fact, we had a bottle yesterday which, after Friday's bottle of Castellane, sent us running to Bevmo for a case of Castellane.

          I make mimosas with GF fairly regularly but would definitely not do that to a bottle of Castellane. Does that answer your question?

          I will say that I think Castellane is a very accessible champagne for people used to American sparkling wines. I thought it was very light on yeast, crisp and smooth.

          1. re: nooodles
            Carb Lover RE: nooodles Jan 16, 2006 12:16 PM

            Along these lines, have you tried the Roederer Estate Brut from Anderson Valley? Around $16 at Cost Plus and I bet that BevMo sells it. Tried it for first time on NYE and it was good for something in that price range.

            I still need to try the GF and will look out for the Castellane, thanks to the OP! Want to also try some Spanish cava since I've heard it can be a nice affordable alternative to champagne. Sounds like it's hard to find good true champagne for under $30.

            1. re: Carb Lover
              MMRuth RE: Carb Lover Jan 16, 2006 04:50 PM

              I'm a big fan of the Roederer Estate - usually priced between $16 and $20 - as well.

              1. re: MMRuth
                nooodles RE: MMRuth Jan 17, 2006 12:12 AM

                I like the Roederer Estate quite a lot; more than I like the Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, but maybe less than the higher end Gloria Ferrer selections.

                1. re: nooodles
                  Melanie Wong RE: nooodles Jan 17, 2006 12:05 PM

                  Give the vintage Roederer Estate l'Ermitage a try too, I've linked my tasting note for the 1999 below. Right now Ferrer and Roederer are my favorite California sparkling wines.

                  Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                    nja RE: Melanie Wong Jan 17, 2006 01:32 PM

                    The Ferrer NV Blanc de Noir that I have been praising is getting a little long in the tooth. The notes of fresh pinot noir flavor that I enjoyed so much have started to mellow. While there's no vintage markings on the bottle, the case boxes are marked with 12/2004, which I assume must be a blending/bottling/packing date of some sort. My supply is almost gone, so I'll be checking the stores soon to see if there is a new batch out yet.


          2. t
            Tugboat RE: Pssst Jan 16, 2006 08:53 AM

            I don't know if you have place there that sells it, but I have always liked St. Hilaire as low cost option from Champagne.

            Esp. if you need it for champagne cocktails.

            It is even decent on its own.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Tugboat
              Karl S RE: Tugboat Jan 16, 2006 09:43 AM

              St. Hilaire is not, IIRC, from Champagne but is a Blanquette de Limoux: that DOC has the oldest French sparkling wines (yes, there was sparkling wine before Brother Perignon discovered stars), and they represent tremendous value.

              1. re: Karl S
                Tugboat RE: Karl S Jan 16, 2006 04:06 PM

                Thanks for the info.

                On the bottle it says "Champagne" but I guess that is just like a Sonoma producer putting "Champagne" or "Chablis" on a bottle that is from California.

                I just figured they would not let it on the label if it was not technically Champagne.

                1. re: Tugboat
                  MMRuth RE: Tugboat Jan 16, 2006 04:51 PM

                  It may be that in the US they are not prohibited from using that term.

              2. re: Tugboat
                Andy Jacob RE: Tugboat Jan 16, 2006 12:08 PM

                We consider St. Hilaire to be our staple-everyday bubbly, but don't consider it to be Champagne as it is from Limoux, not Champagne, and, therefore, it is Sparkling Wine.

                We get is locally in the Pacific NW for ~$9/bottle (case price). We continue to sample bargain bubbly from Trader Joe's, etc (Cava, Prosecco, Champagne, Sparkling Wine). For us, we have yet to find anything that compares in value(price/quality) to St. Hilaire.

                We've only had the yellow label (Brut), but I see on the below website that they also make Extra dry and Semi-sweet.



                Link: http://jackpoust.com/sh.htm

                1. re: Andy Jacob
                  Melanie Wong RE: Andy Jacob Jan 17, 2006 01:17 AM

                  I like the J. Laurens, also from Limoux, just a tad better than the St. Hilaire. It has a cleaner and less earthy taste to me.

                  Link: http://www.klwines.com/product.asp?sk...

                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                    thelambchop RE: Melanie Wong Jan 17, 2006 06:53 PM

                    I served the J. Laurens at my wedding in San Francisco, and it was a huge hit. I have trouble finding it in NYC, unfortunately, so we often resort to the St. Hilaire, which I agree isn't as nice. My husband and I have had a few discussions about ordering a case from K&L (they provided all the wine and whatever liquor they could at our wedding) but I fear what would happen to our productivity with a case of tasty, inexpensive bubbly around!

                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                      nja RE: Melanie Wong Jan 17, 2006 07:48 PM

                      I tried the J Laurens once, a bottle bought from K&L in fact, and I hated it. It had an overwhelming yeasty, biscuity, almost paint-like aroma. I tasted it about this time last year during my wedding wines tasteoff (same night I rediscovered GF BdN), and all 15 or so people thought it was terrible. I haven't gone near it since. A bad example?

                2. w
                  welle RE: Pssst Jan 16, 2006 09:30 AM

                  NYTimes recently (pre-NYE) had a review of cheap champagnes (under $30). I'm afraid nothing was under 20:


                  1. m
                    Melanie Wong RE: Pssst Jan 17, 2006 01:22 AM

                    Sounds good, I'll have to try it.

                    When I talked with my friend Wilfred at BevMo not too long ago, he said that they're doing more direct purchasing and scouring Europe for brands like this that aren't widely available in the US otherwise. BevMo has a big enough retail pipeline to warrant sending buyers abroad to get the price advantage on unique products. So, it's worth keeping an eye out for deals like this one.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                      Pssst RE: Melanie Wong Jan 17, 2006 10:40 AM

                      Interesting. Bevmo has never really been on my radar for champagne, we tend to think of K&L and D&M when we need bubbly. We'll definitely swing by the champagne aisle, now that we know they're making the effort, when we visit the Colma Bevmo for tequila (for some reason they seem to stock more tequila than the SF Bevmos).

                      While everyone was really nice to us on our trip (we don't speak even high school French), the people at the Castellane tasting room were especially nice. The champagne houses have tours that are pretty much mandatory. At Castellane, we arrived just after the last tour of the day had departed. At seeing our disappointment, they offered to let us do a "light tasting". But as we began asking questions, engaging them and getting all sorts of interesting stories, they opened more and more wines for us. Then, just as we finishing up with our purchases, in came tromping the 30 person tour. We scurried away giggling that we at getting such a wonderful personalized tasting (although we'll always slightly regret not getting to go up their tower which is the tallest building around and is supposed to have an amazing view of the countryside).

                      Damn, now I'm vacation-sick, I wanna go back!

                      1. re: Pssst
                        Melanie Wong RE: Pssst Jan 17, 2006 11:19 AM

                        Not just Champagne, but all styles of import wines. It gives them some extra margin and price advantage, plus no competition for specific skus. I haven't been in a BevMo for over a year myself, time to wander the aisles.

                        Link: http://www.bevmo.com/productlist.asp?...

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