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Austin Chronicle The Word from the Experts

DECEMBER 28, 1998:  We collected picks and descriptions from winebuyers at Fielding's, Reuben's, the Austin Wine Merchant, and Wiggy's. Wines that were specifically recommended by more than one store are noted as such. A store not being listed after a description does not necessarily mean that a wine isn't available at the other stores.

Sparkling Wines Under $10

François Montand (around $8) A methode traditionelle blanc de blanc brut (made from 100% Chardonnay) which is characteristically light and clean with some toasty notes. Paul from Wiggy's says, "After two or three glasses of some cheap Champagne, you'll have heartburn. Not with this one." (recommended by Reuben's, Fielding's, Wiggy's)

Gratien and Meyer Brut Fleur de Lys (normally $12, now about $10) From a firm that has been in business for 130 years. Lots of limestone in the soil helps give these methode traditionelle wines deep flavor; a lot of character for 10 bills. Aromatic hinting of apples, toast, nuts, with a delicate and persistent sparkle. (recommended by Austin Wine Merchant)

Cristalino Spanish Cava (just under $10) Wiggy's winebuyer says, "We recommend this because of the price point - it's got good acid, it's citrus-y and mineral-y, with a lot of peachy flavors, but it's still sort of toasty, too. All in all, a lot of character for that price range." (recommended by Wiggy's)

Sparkling Wines Under $20

Argyle Willamette Valley Brut, Oregon ("Normally a $20 bottle, we're running it at $14.99.") "This wine, which is aged on its lees for a minimum of three years, is disgorged on demand. Young, robust, full and rich on the palate, this wine is just beginning to flex its considerable muscle - powerful good bubbles! Made in the methode Champenoise by Rollin Soles, a Texas Aggie," says John Rennick from Austin Wine Merchant. (recommended by Austin Wine Merchant, Wiggy's)

Roederer California Estate Brut "Stylistically in the same vein as its French big brother (see Under $30 category), but the fruits are a little cleaner, and it's a little less toasty. Very typically Californian, really well-made, nice crisp flavors," says Rob Moshein of Reuben's. According to Paul McDonald, it's a favorite under-$20 pick at Reuben's, too. "Good fruit - on the acid side, but with a lot of power behind it." (recommended by Reuben's, Fielding's, Wiggy's)

Sparkling Wines Under $30

Roederer Brut Premier Champagne: ($26.99 for the holiday) This has light yeast, warm toast, balanced fruit, and a very delicate sparkle - a classic French Champagne! (recommended by Reuben's)

Alfred Gratien Brut Champagne (down from $31.99 for the season) This yeasty, toasty, buttery, nutty Champagne is giving Clicquot a run for its money! (recommended by Wiggy's)

Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Champagne ("A steal at $23.75!") A blast of pleasing yeast at the outset. Lemony without being creamy, with a really tight bubble. Sort of glossy. "There's a lot of good Champagne out there but this consistently makes our clients happy." (recommended by Austin Wine Merchant)

Montaudon Brut Champagne ($24.99) "This has got a balance I really like. Sort of a doughy taste, but nutty. Comes alive in your mouth!" (recommended by Fielding's)

Sparkling Wines Over $30

Clicquot Vintage Réserve 1989 ($42.50) Robb Walsh's new favorite. Golden-colored, toasty, nutty-flavored glory. (recommended by Austin Wine Merchant)

Feuillatte Cuvée Palme D'Or 1990 ($99.99) Those at our tasting who rated this wine highly found it complex and nutty like marzipan. Full-bodied and citrus-y with excellent bubbles. (recommended by Reuben's, Austin Wine and Spirits)

L'Ermitage Brut 1992 ($30.99) Really elegant for an American sparkling wine. You mix that with real Champagne, and people have a hard time sorting it out. (Fielding's)

Charles Heidseick Vintage Brut 1990 ($59.99) At 97 points, the highest rated sparkling wine from the Wine Spectator "Top 100 at a Glance" list. According to Rob Moshein from Reuben's, "It's worth $50 because it's a good combination of the toasty, yeasty flavors with good fruit, wonderful texture, and very fine sparkle." (recommended by Austin Wine Merchant)

Gratien and Meyer Cuvée Paradis ($77.99) "This is what I would recommend for something over $50. In the style of a well-balanced luxury cuvée for under $100, this is from Epernay in the Champagne district, but it hasn't reached the whole world in the same way as Grande Dame, so the demand hasn't pushed the price over the top yet. Complex aromas, lively, vibrant, citrus-y fruits, with a really long finish," says Christian Primeaux. (recommended by Wiggy's)

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