Holiday Sparklers to Suit the Season

Somewhere in the wave of sparkling wine to be opened this holiday season floats several really good bottles that won’t bust your budget but will definitely tickle your tastebuds.

It’s easy to buy prestige with the big names in Champagne, where luxury cuvees all carry triple-digit price tags. I’m talking Dom Perignon, Cristal, Krug and Salon — the wines you see on the tables of royalty and in the hands of rich rappers.

Got an unlimited budget?

It’ll take $3,500 to secure a bottle of the most exclusive champagne in the world, Krug’s $3,500 Clos d’Ambonnay.

Almost all champagnes are blends of wines from different vineyards, often dozens or even hundreds of lots of wine are used. The juice for this ethereal Krug wine, however, comes from a hallowed 1.3 acre pinot noir vineyard in the heart of Champagne.

Bubbles on a Budget

For that same outlay of cash, you could buy cases and cases of some really tasty sparkling wine. It just doesn’t say Champagne on the label.

California makes good sparkling wine, including some decent bargain bottles produced by French wine companies that have set up shop in Napa (Domaine Chandon, Mumm Napa and Domaine Carneros by Taittinger) and Mendocino (Roederer Estate). Entry-level sparklers from these companies are good and easy to find at prices from $15-$20.

European Bargains

When it comes down to real values, however, I look overseas at France and Spain for great buys in sparkling wines. I even found an interesting all pinot noir bubbly from Austria that delivers a great price-to-value ratio.

What’s a Hugo?

I wouldn’t normally look to Austria for sparkling wine, but Alameda Wine Company owner Karen Ulrich got me to try the Markus Huber Hugo rose’ ($15.50) and I was hooked from the first sip. This Austrian all-pinot noir wine was creamy with a touch of strawberry fruit that shone through a stream of small bubbles. I’d love to try it with a grilled salmon filet or anything in cream sauce.

Care for Cava?

I can also recommend a very nice cava (Spanish sparkling wine) that gives non-vintage champagne a real run for the money. The Barcino brut is characteristically dry and delightful. It shows pale straw colors with a lingering string of fine bubbles in the flute.

There’s just enough fruit to balance the acidity of this wine, which is made from xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada  — three traditional Spanish grapes. The Barcino is made in the champenoise method, meaning it’s fermented in the bottle like champagne. It sells for $16 at Alameda Wine Company.

Alsation Sensation

My personal favorite in European sparkling wines that are not champagne comes from Alsace.

The cremant d’Alsace rose is a non-vintage wine made by Domaine Allimant Laugner. You can find this all pinot noir offering at good wine shops for less than $20.

I’ve enjoyed multiple bottles over the years, and never been disappointed with this sparkling wine’s creaminess and its nice touch of pear fruit.

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