That rockin’ New Year’s Eve party is fast approaching, and with it comes the annual dilemma: On the one hand, you don’t want to show up empty-handed or with whatever bottle a fiver got you at the 7-Eleven — you’ll look like a schmuck. On the other, who wants to shell out boocoo scratch for a nice bottle that everyone else will drink?

Lucky for you, we’re here to help. We slithered like a viper through these suburban streets in search of the best popped cork for our buck, hitting up wine purveyors throughout Northeast Florida and picking their brains.

A quick overview of the subject matter: Most champagnes — and keep in mind that technically, Champagne with a capital C has to come from the Champagne region of France, like Scotch has to come from Scotland; everything else is considered sparkling wine  — are going to set you back at least $30 a pop, pun intended. However, you can find many sparkling wines that are just as good and have just as interesting origins and backstories, for less.

Using $20 as a (somewhat-arbitrary) cutoff, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of sparkling wine recommendations made by some of Northeast Florida’s foremost authorities on the subject.


2012 San Marco Blvd., 

San Marco, 398-0726

Justin Tichy, manager


BAUMARD, France, $18.99

“This is one of my favorite producers in the world. He’s making a dry chenin blanc from Loire Valley that has honeysuckle and it’s very delicate and beautiful.”

GRUET, New Mexico, $17.99

“This is made by a family from Champagne who landed in New Mexico. They went to New Mexico ’cause the weather in Champagne is real screwy and it’s hard to grow grapes there, and they needed a climate like that, [and that’s] where they ended up. This is the closest thing to true Champagne that you’ll find in an area like that. It’s made in the Champagne method. This is a rose, and it’s excellent for the price.”

GERARD BERTRAND, France, $14.99

“This is from an area called Limoux, in the south of France. The monks of Limoux were making sparkling wines before Champagne, so this is really neat. They make them in a style called methode ancestral; when they do the secondary fermentation, they don’t disgorge the yeast like they do in Champagne. It’s an ancient style of making sparkling wine.”

J.P. CHENET, ICE EDITION, France, $9.99

“Served over ice, extra effervescence in it. Meant to be refreshing. Very trendy drink in France right now. Off-sweet, off-dry. A nice balance.”

Pro Tip: “In Europe, when they write what it is on the label, they’re not concerned with the variety of the grape. They write the place where it comes from, the individual area or village that it comes from, ’cause they’re more concerned about the climate and the soil and the people and culture that actually made the wine, and that’s what makes wine what it is. The fascination with the actual variety is considered blasphemy in France; that’s why they never put it on the label. The grape variety’s really not that important.”


3548 St. Johns Ave., Avondale, 379-0983

1112 Third St. S., Jax Beach, 853-5559;

9210 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin, 503-2348

Abigail Falconer, manager



South Africa, $17.99

“From South Africa, super-interesting. A chardonnay and a pinot blend. Tangerine, spicy oak and a hint of exotic fruits on the nose. A little yeasty, some nice complexities, fairly dense. Finishes dry and crisp.”


California, $17.99

“Brut. A lovely sparkler. Two-thirds chardonnay, one-third pinot noir. Nice apple-honey aromas. Crisp, dry, soft with a long finish.”

LA MARCA, Italy, $14.97

“A prosecco from Italy. A luminous sparkling wine with some peach and honey, touch of sweetness with a nice bubbly finish.”

Pro Tip: “All of our wines at W90+ are 90 points and above on the Wine Enthusiast/Wine Advocate scale, hence our name. So you can find awesome bottles for under 20 bucks. It’s just kind of finding what you like and what works for you. There’s no ‘bad’ wine.”



4413 Town Center Pkwy., Ste. 300, St. Johns Town Center, 998-1740

Ryan Woodhall, champagne specialist


LOUIS BOUILLOT, France, $18.99

“Created in a traditional method, so it’s got the same process that they use to make Champagne. It’s made in Burgundy, which is where Champagne is, so you’re still getting that French aspect, unfortunately, you just lose that soil content that is very chalky, which is what makes Champagne Champagne, but you still get a very good balance. The bubbles are very nice. It’s very elegant and the citrus isn’t over-the-top, so it’s a very good sparkling wine.”

SANT’ORSOLA, Italy, $16.99

“This is for someone who wants something a little on the sweeter side; you can shift over to Italy and do something called a bruschetta d’acqui. Those are made with a bruschetta grape, which are basically sweet red grapes. These are actually sweet, red sparkling wines. So if you’re not into the super-dry style, the traditional offer, you can get something a little bit sweeter.”


“If you want something a little more on the citrus-based side, I always tell people to go prosecco. A real good balance, and it’s inexpensive.”

Pro Tip: “When you’re shopping at Total Wine, talk to the people who work here. We train these guys, they spend hundreds of hours of training and they have a great knowledge base.”


C.A.S.K./rain dogs.

1045 Park St., 5 Points, 379-4969

Ian Ranne, owner


WYCLIFF, BRUT, California, $12

“This is our house champagne at rain dogs. Good standard dry brut champagne.”

TOSO, BRUT, Argentina, $14

“A brut, sparkling chardonnay. This is sort of our higher-end stuff. I’d say it’s a little less dry than Wycliff and a little more wine-like, but still good and sparkling.” 

ZONIN, Italy, $18

“Our sparkling rosé wine. It’s pink, it’s very, very sparkly. A little on the sweeter side, and the ladies tend to love it a whole lot, partially for the color, but just ’cause it’s good wine also.”

Pro Tip: “Definitely always pick one with a cork, man. A plastic screw-off one is always a sure sign that you probably don’t want it.”

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october, 2021