Beautiful Bubbles 

click to enlarge champaign_glassses200.jpg

Bill Robinson of Grape and Cheese says you can't buy a decent bottle of French champagne for less than $20. That would be champagne made both in the Champagne region of France and by the traditional méthode champenoise, involving twice fermenting the wine in its bottle. Under French law, no other wine can officially claim the "champagne" designation.

Nonetheless, for the holiday merrymaker with a strong streak of risk aversion (that would be most of us), there are a lot of good sparkling wines made in different parts of the world that are easy on the budget.

Bodegas 1+1=3 Cava

River City Cellars, $15.99

Most of the cheap stuff we drink, like Cordoniu or Freixenet, is a sparkling wine called cava that's made in Spain. For a few extra bucks, this far superior cava sparkles with the smaller bubbles its more expensive cousins sport, and rings in the New Year with a crisp, lemony finish.

Graham Beck Brut Rosé

Grape and Cheese, $17.99

Flavorful, dry rosés made a big splash this year, and the sparkling variety is equally good. This strawberry-blond South African sparkler wears its fruit proudly without veering toward the sweet.

Grotta del Sole Asprinio d'Aversa

River City Cellars, $15.99

It's a mouthful to say and a mouthful of bold, peachy flavor. Not a prosecco but a spumante, this Italian sparkling wine from Campania is like a big bouquet of dried flowers, tangy but still fragrant.

Gruet Blanc de Noirs

River City Cellars, $15.99

Sparkling wine from New Mexico? Are they kidding or what? Fortunately, they aren't, and this unusual wine, made by the traditional méthode champenoise does its state proud, with a Granny Smith bang tempered by a lick of honey.

Val D'Oca Prosecco

Once Upon a Vine, $11.99

Like an almost forgotten summer night at the beach, breezy proseccos are my personal favorite. Silver-blond and delicately floral, this ever so slightly sweet wine bubbles up assertively and then shyly kisses you with a breath of sunshine.



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