A Sample of Sparkling Wines 

Yes, you can buy a good European bottle for less than $10

With the holidays fast approaching, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to taste some inexpensive sparkling wines. It's also no secret that this Wineau likes to look cool when arriving at a holiday party armed with a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine that appears to be expensive when it's not.

This time around, we headed to Vino on College Avenue in Oakland's Rockridge district to check out some European sparkling wines for right around $10. Vino's always-friendly staff suggested four choices — two from Spain, and one each from France and Italy. The two Spanish wines were Parxet Cava Cuvee 21 Brut ($8.95) and Cavas Hill Brut De Brut ($9.95). From France, we bought a Blanquette De Limoux Cuvee Berlene ($10.95). And our Italian choice was Montelliana Prosecco Extra Dry ($9.95).

Since Wineau was drinking with some veteran sparkling-wine lovers, we decided to conduct a blind taste test because some in our group were familiar with at least two of the selections. After two rounds of tasting, our four-person group picked a consensus winner, and decided that we could recommend three of the four choices.

The winner was the Parxet Cava Cuvee 21 from Spain. We liked its fruity aroma and its mild, smooth aftertaste. It's a good sparkling wine that rivals more expensive California labels. We agreed that it's drinkable on its own, or would go well with appetizers or a desert dish. On a scale of one to ten, we gave it a 5.5.

The Blanquette De Limoux Cuvee Berlene was our second choice in close balloting. In fact, one of our veteran sparkling-wine lovers was surprised that she liked this French selection even more than the Parxet Cava Cuvee 21, which is part of her regular rotation. The Blanquette De Limoux Cuvee Berlene has a tart flavor and a robust champagne aroma. Only one of us didn't like it. This taster thought it had a vinegar-like aroma, and was too tart. Overall, we gave it a 5.

Our third favorite was the Italian Montelliana Prosecco Extra Dry. We thought its aroma was fruity and very light, and we liked its sweet aftertaste. It makes for a good desert sparkling wine. We thought it would go especially well with cake. Overall, we gave it a 4.5, and although we scored it lower than the other two, we agreed that we could recommend it.

We can't, however, recommend the Cavas Hill Brut De Brut. Its aroma was reminiscent of rubbing alcohol, and it tasted bland and uninspiring. It might work as a mixer for Mimosas if it went for $3.95. But at $9.95? Skip it.

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