A Non-Connoisseur’s Guide to Champagne

One night while eating spaghetti, I started thinking about champagne. Italy is close to France thus explaining why my mind went from eating meat sauce to thinking about bubbly wine.


I then decided it was my mission to find the best champagne/sparkling wine in Texas. And by Texas I mean the city of Austin. I take my duty at Books and Beverages seriously, but not so serious that I’ll drive to Houston for chuckles. The thought of five lane freeways makes my eye twitch.

Now if you’re looking for an expert’s analysis full of wine-ish terminology, then please stop reading. I couldn’t tell you what wine to drink with what if my life depended on it (I just trust Google to tell me what to do while at the grocery store), but I can tell you champagne is really tasty (and yes, I realize Champagne and sparkling wine are technically different, but they both come from grapes and they both bubble, so I’m just going to toss them together. Please don’t send me wine hate mail).

Those are my credentials. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Stop #1 HEB where Here Everything is Better!

The first stop in my investigation led to HEB, because as we know this is the first place the wineries of France send their fancy bottles of aged drink. For those not familiar with Texas store lingo, HEB is your Vons, Albertsons, Stater Brothers or Alpha Beta (#throwback). If you don’t recognize those names, then you’re probably not from California either. All that to really just say: it’s a grocery store. What can I say about getting champagne from a grocery store? I’m a baller on a budget.

I bought the cheapest bottle (who knew it wasn’t Cook’s?) and the almost-most expensive. Because if I were to spend $41.99 on a bottle, it’s not going to be from HEB.

Andre Pink Champagne Blush: This was the cheapest of all the bottles purchased and it faithfully proved you get what you pay for. No ma’am to this one. No ma’am! I’m almost embarrassed to admit it came from California. Before this investigation I thought there was no way champagne could taste bad.

I was wrong.

It can.

My roommate and I both had the same reaction of something along the lines of: What is this? Why do we keep drinking it? And why does it smell like a gross beer? So should you buy it? The answer is no, no you should not.

Cuvée Jean-Louis Charles de Fère Blanc de Blancs Brut, France: Well this French gem was rather delightful. It’s good to know that you can indeed buy tasty stuff from HEB. A bit stronger than the Spanish ones (as you’ll soon read about), but still smooth and a pleasant aftertaste (or the “finish,” as apparently it’s called).

CRU Books and Beverages Champagne

Stop #2 CRU Food and Wine Bar

My second stop in the Texas Champagne Investigation of 2014 (let’s see how many ridiculous names I can come up with throughout this article) was a step up to Cru Food and Wine Bar in Austin. A couple of my friends and I went and had a lovely night of wine, excellent food and chocolate fondue (a.k.a. my nemesis). I felt so French, I thought Edmond Dantès would walk around the corner (which I’m glad he didn’t. It was rainy and nasty weather, thus doing wonders for my hair. Can’t be looking like that when I encounter Mr. Dantès).

At CRU you have the option of choosing samples of three, so I went with Flight No 6: Bubble Bath. Lest you think I’m smart in the things of wine, I copied the descriptions directly from the restaurant. I admit, there might have been a couple (or several) words I had to take to m-w.com.

Rive della Chiesa, Prosecco, Brut N.V., Treviso, Italy: Here’s what they say about it: Straw colored, brilliant, with persistent froth and extra-fine perlage. The flavor is dry, full bodied, fresh, acidulous and has a pleasantly fruity characteristic. An aperitif wine suitable for almost anything.

Or as I like to say: delicious. High five Italy! Out of the three I tried at CRU, this ranks #2.

Michele Fonne, Rose N.V., Cremant de Alsace, France: Let’s dive right into the fluffy description shall we? Light and playful aromas of strawberry cream, raspberries, and cranberries with a hint of spice. Beautiful white peace tones, mineral nuance and hints of citrus skin resolve with a long, dry finish. Extremely well crafted and a superb Champagne alternative.

If I actually read this before trying it, I might have been scared off. Citrus skin? Mineral nuance? What does that even mean? Why are there hints of rocks in my drink? But even with all that mischief, this was another tasty drink. It was really refreshing and perfect to go along with my strawberries dipped in chocolate.

Lanson “Ivory Label,” Demi-Sec N.V., Champagne, France: I went to the original source for this one! Described as follows: “Aromas of ripe fruit, cinnamon and honey. Fruity and very full, this is all roundness and sensuality. The dosage liqueur is made of sugar cane and old wine which is added at the end of the winemaking process. It helps to give Lanson Ivory Label its special taste.”

Maybe it’s just me, but describing a drink using “sensuality” is a little creepy. Minus that, this was by far my favorite of the three and worth getting a bottle of (although I didn’t). Going to the source proved a rather excellent idea.

Stop # 3 Cost Plus World Market

The third stop of Champagnes de Tejas 2014 was Cost Plus World Market. That place is so much fun and I look for any excuse to go there.

Segura Viudas Brut Cava: First reaction? I expected more of you Spain. While not a terrible tasting drink, I think it was the finish that threw me off. Would it work for a mimosa? Of course. What doesn’t?* But would I buy it again? Meh.

*I wrote this prior to the “Andre Incident,” so in light of that, I’ve decided there can be a disastrous mimosa.

Jaume Serra Cristalino Extra Dry: Please don’t ask me to pronounce the name. Not a chance. Also hailing from Spain, this was described as “Twice named a “Hot Brand” by Impact magazine! A customer favorite for its subtle toasty tone and fresh apple and pear flavors.” I have no idea what it meant by “subtle toasty tone,” but I do know what favorite, apple and pear all mean, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

This one should make the people de Espana proud! It’s smooth and there’s just enough of apple and pear to be just right. It tasted very much cider-ish as well, so if you’re a fan of ciders, I recommend trying this one out.

The Results

Never EVER Drink This Award: Andre Pink Champagne Blush

And the winner of all 7?? It wasn’t easy, but I’d give the edge to…

Lanson “Ivory Label,” Demi-Sec N.V., Champagne, France

My people making me proud!

I hope this investigation was helpful for you, my dear readers! So what about you? What are some of your favorite wines or sparkling wines? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

P.S. If anyone out there would like me to continue to research and send me to the motherland (a.k.a France), I shall do my duty!

  • Wesley

    Oh I tried some prosecco for the first time a week or two ago and I loved it! It was all sunny and bubbly. My sister had (only) the pink andre stuff at her wedding and sent like 4 bottles home with me. Have not touched a one of them. Im never that desperate for booze. I’m going to stick this post on my fridge, I like this investigative reporting!

    • https://booksandbeverages.org/ Jamie

      So glad you enjoyed my investigation :).

      Yes, Prosecco was a pleasant surprise! I should probably go to Italy to investigate further :). And a tough lesson learned with Andre. Ew. No thank you!

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