Large champagne houses buy grapes from growers and vinify themselves, making “house styles” that are divorced from the time and the place from which they came. Small-scale growers farm their own grapes and make their own wine, allowing them to pay closer attention to each bottle. Paradoxically, the price you pay for one of these small-scale projects is often less than what you would pay for a similar quality bottle of Veuve: when you purchase a “luxury” yellow label bottle, you’re paying as much for the label as you are for what’s in the bottle.
So this Valentine’s day buy small. We’ve got a great selection of small-scale sparklies: Philipponnat and Serge Mathieu from Champagne, but also some lovely Moscato d’Asti, Raventos i Blanc Cava from Spain, and many more.–John Herbstritt of Cheese Plus