Taste Test Thursday: Sparkling Wine Under $15

The cheaper, the better.

My friend and co-worker Raya has been bugging me about a sparkling wine taste test for ages.

This week, after battling my desire to do bubble tea, I finally caved in.

Unfortunately, the only Texas winery I know that makes sparkling wine is completely out of stock. Maybe next year, McPherson Cellars. Maybe next year.

This taste test is for all those cheapos without dinero. There are two Spanish cavas, one Prosecco, one Chardonnay, and one Pinot Noir.  They’re all under $15. The awesome wine guy at Spec’s, named Rudy M., helped me pick some out. Don’t steal him away from me. I love him.

sparklingA. Freixenet’s Cordon Negro Brut (via Central Market for $8.83) – Spain

B. Jaume Serra Cristalino’s traditional brut method (via Central Market for $5.97) – Spain

C. La Marca’s Prosecco sparkling wine (via Spec’s for $11.57) – Italy

D. Barefoot Bubbly’s Brut Cuvée (via Sprouts for $7.99) – Modesto, CA

E. Gloria Ferrer’s Sonoma Brut (via Spec’s for $15.46) – Sonoma County

Cava. “The grape varieties used in the creation of the base wine for this cava are Macabeo (35%), Xarel-lo (25%) and Parellada (40%).” (via website.)

  • “This just tastes like booze bubbles. “
  • “Like I decided to blend a bunch of soft drinks.”
  • “Tastes more expensive than it is. Strong after-taste, though.”
  • “Pretty bland. Dry. Not sweet at all. Tastes like club soda.”
  • “Dry and not terribly flavorful.”



  • “Tastes like apples and rubbing alcohol.”
  • “Smells like apricots, but not in a good way. Slightly painful going down. Pungent.”
  • “This tastes like sort of organic flavorless fake Kool-Aid.”
  • “Smells and tastes like eggs.”
  • “Funky taste.”

Prosecco. Made from the white grape, Glera.

  • “Flat with a boozy finish.”
  • “Lighter carbonation, but syrupy.”
  • “Super gross, like rubbing alcohol.”
  • “Fruity. You can actually taste the flavors.”
  • “Delightful. Not too sweet or dry. Nice after-taste.”

Chardonnay blend. This is still technically sparkling wine, even though it’s labeled as Champagne.

      • “Apple notes, great clean finish. Smells oddly of eggs.”
      • “Tastes like a soda I opened and forgot in my fridge.”
      • “Smaller bubbles. Not as flavorful as C, but I’m digging it.”
      • “Figs? Super fruity.”
      • “Too artificial.”

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend

      • “Bitter, acidic finish.”
      • “Was like letting a balloon of rainwater deflate in your mouth.”
      • “Pinkish hue, apple notes.”
      • “Tastes like a Sunday hangover.”
      • “Not the best smell.”



4 votes for (C) La Marca
3 votes for (D) Barefoot Bubbly
3 votes for (A) Freixenet


Nancy was sick for two weeks, so she didn’t do the taste test. She did a sniff test, instead. Upon encountering E, she exclaimed, “This one’s yeasty!”

Unlike Nancy, none of the drinkers this week are wine experts, by any means. We just like what we like, and don’t like what we don’t like. Most of us probably don’t even know the difference between Prosecco and a Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blends of sparkling wines. I think that’s okay. That’s also why I picked a variety of wines to try.

La Marca’s blend won by one vote over Barefoot Bubbly for its distinct taste. It didn’t taste as dry as the others, although Rudy M. at Spec’s assured me it belonged with all the other brut-labeled wines.  It stuck out compared to the two Spanish cavas, which felt bitter and flavorless compared to the finished and round-mouthed-feel of La Marca.

Barefoot Bubbly, on the other hand, was almost like an apple cider. It was fruity. It was good. And quite a few of us, I’m positive, finished this tasting off in giggles.


  • jdtTX

    Nothing from Gruet?

  • TLS

    I had a stalker who gave me a bottle of Freixenet. I didn’t drink it as it was probably laced with Rohypnol. Thanks for reminding me of an awful time in my life.

  • Robert West

    I prefer Martini and Rossi, asti over anything I have ever had, but I am not a big sparkling drinker.

  • skm13

    Missed some really good ones under $15, Gruet Brut from New Mexico, I buy this for friends and they think it’s a very expensive champagne. $12 at Goody Goody. Another, Seguara Viudas, $10 a bottle. By far the best cheap champagne. Serve COLD!!