Under $20 Sparkling Showdown!


This is the right time for a blind tasting.  Many surprises, guaranteed.

Moral of the Story
You don’t need to read the rest of this post if you follow this simple advice.

  • You need chilled sparkling wine available at your house 24/7. Whenever guests arrive, open a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate.  Good day? Open some bubbly! Bad day? Some sparkling wine to salve the wounds. Get the picture?
  • Sparkling wine doesn’t need to break the bank.  There are lots of high quality sparkling wines available for under $20.
  • Fun party idea: get your friends together to try a bunch of sparkling wines vying for the honor of being your “house bubbly”. Follow our approach or design your own.
  • Our favorites are not your favorites.  You’ll need to make up your own mind. Run your own competition/party/test!
We all need a "house sparkling wine". Troy and Gina invited our tasting group to help them find theirs. And our own.

We all need a “house sparkling wine”. Troy and Gina invited our tasting group to help them find theirs. And our own.

Troy and Gina from our blind tasting group are looking for a “house” sparkling wine, so they suggested one of our meetings be a blind tasting of Under $20 Methode Champenoise sparkling wines. We’re all fans of sparkling wines and drink more than our fair share.  Could we find some that rival Champagne? Of course, at <$20 we are unlikely to find any Champagne in our test. We would all bring our bottles wrapped in foil, mix them up, number them and evaluate.  Everyone could score their own and we were sure there would be a few surprises.  Sound good?

At tasting time, it's just you and that mysterious glass of wine.

At tasting time, it’s just you and that mysterious glass of wine.

The Rules

  • Wines must be purchased locally and < $20 at retail (could be on sale)
  • Must use Methode Champenoise. Sorry, Prosecco need not apply.
Our blind line-up

Our blind line-up after the big reveal. Notice not one but two doubles! Great minds think alike.

The Wines (after reveal)

Troy was super careful to ensure the test was double blind.  The wines were all wrapped in foil, all markings including the plaquet de muselet were removed from the wines.  All the wines were scrambled, then numbered. No one knew whose wine was being opened.  Each person knew what 1-2 wines were, but not which one.

I found the text area more useful in scoring.  I wrote very similar notes on the wines which revealed as doubles, I just didn't recognize them as such.

I found the text area more useful in scoring. I wrote very similar notes on the wines which revealed as doubles, I just didn’t recognize them as such.

Troy also put together a scoring sheet. I liked having an area for text to write notes about each wine.  For me, the numerical rating area didn’t help.

Don't be surprised by what you learn!

Don’t be surprised by what you learn!


  • Doubles – not one, but two sets of doubles.  And no one guessed we were tasting the same wines twice. It’s harder than you think!
  • No Cava. I guess our panel of experts didn’t think Cava had quite the appeal needed, Several of us have Cava’s we’d put into the competition, but no one did. Interesting.
Hey, stop smiling, this is hard work!

Hey, stop smiling, this is hard work!

Conclusions – Winner(s)!

  • Katie nailed the Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé blind and it was her favorite.
  • Troy, Gina and Nick all declared the Laetitia to be their favorite.
  • I gave top billing to one of the bottles of Roederer Estate Brut, even though some folks gave it their bottom score. Who cares. Interestingly, I didn’t like the second bottle as much and we all felt the bottle variation between the two was noticeable.
  • The point is, it’s your house, you decide which will be your house sparkler!

Other Takeaways

  • There wasn’t a stinker in the bunch.  All would be welcome with a group of friends.
  • None of the wines rivaled a nice Champagne, sometimes you just need to spend the extra $$.
  • For your everyday house sparkling wine, be sure to include variety, and get some Prosecco and some real, (dry) Lambrusco!

Minneapolis / St. Paul Sparkling Wine Shop
All our local wine shops have good sparkling wine selections with lots of choices priced under $20.  My choice for the best selection in this category is Zipps Liquors. Erica, the wine buyer at Zipps has worked diligently to source really cool choices that almost anyone can afford.

Disclosure: Erica is in our tasting group; my opinion here is strictly from my experience as a paying customer.

Our new puppy, Otto, helped me wrap up our submissions.

Our new puppy, Otto, helped me wrap up our submissions.




12 Responses to “Under $20 Sparkling Showdown!”
  1. Lynda says:

    You are too funny, love that “hard work” and photo of Otto!

  2. talkavino says:

    Sounds like a great night of fun! Blind tastings are the best way to learn about wines.

  3. chef mimi says:

    What a wonderful idea! I noticed there’s no prosecco in the bunch as well, but I prefer real bubbly over cava or prosecco. oh – i guess those are not methode champenoise – duh!

    • Troy says:

      Chef Mimi – actually, cava IS methode champenoise. The difference is that it is typically (but not always!) made from indigenous Spanish varietals rather than traditional Champagne grapes.

      Great write up, Jeff. It was a lot of fun having you all over. For the record, Gina also like the Laetitia best. 🙂 That said, the Roederer actually showed better for me on day 2 when we finished it!

    • Thanks, Mimi! Troy pretty much answered your questions. Cava was allowed, but no one chose one, even though we all have Cava’s we enjoy.

  4. Penelope says:

    I love bubbles and I love this idea to mix things up and see if my favorites really are my favorites.

    • 6 people whose palates you trust, lots of good but different wines, and only moderate agreement on the “best” choice. We sure had fun. Definitely worth cooking up your own event!

  5. How fun. I was just noticing my bubbles are stacking up and I should have a bubble dinner. Now I am thinking I should have a blind bubble dinner! Great idea! Cheers.

  6. Love a good wine tasting party and you can’t go wrong with sparkling for fun times!

    Cheers, Louise@WillungaWino.com

Leave a Reply to foodwineclick Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: