Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week is sparkling wine week. As we head into the holidays people are always asking me for recommendations for bubbly, and I usually have a number of samples stacked up in the corner waiting to be opened, so this is a good excuse to plow through them all.

I’ve got bubbly for every budget below. There’s the inexpensive floral notes of Col Vetoraz Prosecco, the creamy apple tones of Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace, and the saline citrus of Paula Kornell’s Central Coast Brut, all of which can be found for under $20. Albrecht also makes a killer rosé, which is one of the best budget bottles of pink bubbles around.

In the mid-range I’ve got a well-aged Cava from Avinyó that has some nice toastiness that fans of older sparkling wines will enjoy. Also in that zone we’ve got Paula Kornell’s wonderfully floral Blanc de Noirs as well as Bruno Paillard‘s Première Cuvee.

Paillard’s non-vintage Blanc de Blancs takes us up into the next price level, along with the slightly less expensive Lanson’s “Le Rosé” and the lovely smaller production rosé from Legras & Haas.

Notes on all these and more below. Enjoy your holiday celebrations.

Tasting Notes

2020 Col Vetoraz Brut Prosecco Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy
Pale greenish-gold in color with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of grapefruit pith and white flowers. In the mouth, a soft but voluminous mousse delivers clean and bright flavors of green apple, white flowers, and Asian pear across the palate. Good acidity and brightness. 11.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2020 Col Vetoraz Brut Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze, Veneto, Italy
Pale greenish gold in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, white flowers, and unripe apples. In the mouth, a silky mousse delivers wonderfully aromatic flavors of white flowers, Asian pears, and hints of white peaches. Excellent acidity and length. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.

2012 Avinyó “La Ticota – Gran Reserva Brut Nature” Cava, Penedes, Spain
Pale greenish-gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of peanut brittle and honey. In the mouth, a velvety, voluminous mousse delivers flavors of honey, toffee, baked apples, and seawater across the palate. Hints of toasted bread linger in the finish along with apple pie and a hint of herbs. Slightly disjointed. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $38. click to buy.

NV Lucien Albrecht Brut Cremant d’Alsace, Alsace, France
Pale greenish-gold in color with medium bubbles, this wine smells of baked apples and citrus peel. In the mouth, crushed nuts, citrus peel, and baked apple flavors have a toasty bread and saline quality as a billowing mousse expands on the palate. The salty quality of this wine makes it hard to take just one sip. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.

NV Paula Kornell Brut Champagne Blend, Arroyo Grande Valley, Central Coast, California
Light gold in the glass with medium bubbles, this wine smells of candle wax, burnt citrus peel, and stewed apples. In the mouth, dried and toasted citrus peel mixes with fresher citrus pith, apples, and a light saline quality as a moderately coarse mousse fill the mouth. Citrus notes linger in the finish along with the salinity. On the riper side. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2018 Paula Kornell “Blanc de Noirs” Brut Sparkling Wine, Napa Valley, California
Light gold with bronze highlights and medium bubbles, this wine smells of citrus zest, apples, and white flowers. In the mouth, a soft pliable mousse delivers flavors of gardenia, Asian pear, apples, and lemon pith across the palate. Excellent acidity with lemon pith and grapefruit lingering in the finish. Quite delicate and pretty. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $54. click to buy.

NV Bruno Paillard Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Champagne, France
Palest greenish gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of sea air, unripe apples, and grapefruit pith. In the mouth, a velvety mousse delivers flavors of lemons, white flowers, pastry cream, and a touch of macadamia nuts, all mixed with a sea air salinity that is quite compelling. Aged for 4 years on the lees in the bottle, and then after disgorgement, another 10 months. The reserve wines blended with the recent vintage go back to 1985. Disgorged August 2019. 5 g/l dosage. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $80. click to buy.

NV Bruno Paillard “Première Cuveé” Brut Champagne, Champagne, France
Light gold in the glass with moderately fine bubbles, this wine smells of apples, sea air, and pomelo pith. In the mouth, a velvety mousse buoys up flavors of apples, grapefruit zest, and seawater with a hint of toasted sourdough. Tangy appley notes linger in the finish along with that lovely salinity. A blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, and 22% Pinot Meunier, 20% of which was barrel fermented. 50% of the final blend consists of reserve wine going back to 1985. Aged for 3 years on the lees, and then 5 more months in bottle after disgorgement. 12% alcohol. June 2020. Score: around 9. Cost: $52. click to buy.

NV Lanson “Le Black Label” Brut Champagne, Champagne, France
Light gold in the glass with a hint of green and medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of bruised apples and sea air. In the mouth, a silky, voluminous mousse delivers salty flavors of toasted sourdough, baked apples, fresh apples, and a touch of candied citrus peel. The saline qualities linger with citrus zest in the finish. A blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 15% Meunier, and 25% Chardonnay primarily from the 2015 harvest, with 30% reserve wines from roughly 50% Grand and Premier Cru sites. Aged 4 years on the lees and disgorged in September 2020. 8 g/l dosage. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

NV Lanson “Le Rosé” Brut Rosé Champagne, Champagne, France
A light coppery gold in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, citrus zest and raspberries. In the mouth, a nice savory blend of raspberry, wet leaves, citrus peel and seawater borne on a soft mousse leaves the mouth watering. Notes of citrus and raspberry linger in the finish with that saline kick. A blend of 53% Pinot Noir, 15% Meunier, and 32% Chardonnay primarily from the 2015 harvest, with 30% reserve wines from roughly 50% Grand and Premier Cru sites. Aged 4 years on the lees and disgorged in February 2021. 8 g/l dosage. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

NV Legras & Haas Rosé Champagne, Champagne, France
Pale ruby in color with coppery highlights and very fine bubbles, this wine smells of sea air, citrus peel, and cranberries. In the mouth, a soft, silky mousse delivers flavors of dried orange peel, crabapple, raspberries, and a touch of wet leaves wrapped in a saline blanket. Good acidity and length, with a nice citrus zest kick in the finish. A blend of 54% Chardonnay, 12% Pinot Noir, 19% Meunier, and then 15% still red Pinot Noir mostly from the 2017 harvest. Disgorged April 2020. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.

NV Lucien Albrecht “Brut Rosé” Cremant d’Alsace, Alsace, France
Pale baby pink in color with moderately-sized bubbles, this wine smells of rosehips and hibiscus. In the mouth, red berries, watermelon, and rosehip flavors have a faint aromatic sweetness to them and just the barest hint of herbal savoriness. Excellent acidity and a silky mousse make for a pleasant mouthful. Made entirely of Pinot Noir. There’s a reason this is a popular wine by the glass around the world. it’s a consistently great value. 100% Pinot Noir. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $19. click to buy.