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Time to choose a sparkling to usher in 2014

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We have six more days left in 2013. Six days to do whatever you have left on 2013's to-do list. Six days to come up with some New Year's resolutions you might actually keep in 2014. Six days to find the perfect bottle of bubbles to toast to the new year! Here's a little guide to help the you through the bevy of bubbly options before you.

You will see bubbly labeled as several things...prosecco, cava, sparkling wine, cremant, and, ultimately, champagne. All of these are created (more or less) equally. The difference in name is indicative of the country or region in which it is produced. Prosecco is from Italy, Cava from Spain, sparkling wine typically from anywhere but France, cremant is from France but not from Champagne, France, and champagne is from a very specific region of France - Champagne, to be exact. Still confused? Bottom line is this - if it is not produced in the Champagne region of France, under a specific set of rules, it cannot be labeled and sold as Champagne.

This all translates to price. Not to say that ALL true French champagne is expensive, but it will generally be pricier than it's counterparts. Deciding on your bubbly budget may help to determine which version of bubbles you buy. Many of the proseccos and cavas available in places like BevMo and Total Wine, and even liquor stores and grocery stores are very reasonably priced (between $8.00 and $15.00), as are most American sparkling wines. There is a spark of truth to the adage, "You get what you pay for," and in the world of bubbles it truly applies.

Following is a list of some of my recommendations to consider across all budget (and party) lines. I will give you the name of the producer and an approximate price rating, as noted by one ($10.00 and under), two ($10.01 to $20.00), or three ($20.01 and up) dollar signs.

  1. Veuve Clicquot, several versions to choose from, all in the $$$ range. Highly recommend this if the budget allows.
  2. Perrier Jouet, $$$. Another true French champagne that is well worth the money if it won't break your bank.
  3. Piper-Heidsieck, $$$. Again, another true Champagne and worth the dollars spent.
  4. Gloria Ferrer, $$$. This is a lovely sparkler made in Carneros, California, with it's roots in Spain. If you find a bottle of this fits your budget you will not be disappointed. Try the blanc de noirs or the rose.
  5. Domaine Carneros, $$$. While produced in the heart of the Carneros region in Sonoma County, it is an arm of Champagne Taittinger in France. A very tasty bottle of bubbles to celebrate January first, or any day for that matter!
  6. Weibel Family Vineyards and Winery, $ - $$. A well-made bottle of bubbles suitable for everyday celebrations. Visit their newly opened tasting room in Lodi, on School Street.
  7. Barefoot Bubbly, $. Here is a fun bottle of bubbles to bring to any party, with a range of options to suit all tastes, from dry to sweet to flavored. At this price, pick up three or four bottles!
  8. Freixenet, $-$$. A Spanish sparkler that fits most bubbly budgets. While the bubbles may not be as fine as a true French Champagne, it is a perfect accompaniment to a variety of foods and occasions.
  9. Korbel, $ - $$. A variety of styles to choose from, not all available in store. The Korbel Rouge, for example, is rarely found outside the winery (or on-line), but well-worth the effort to try a rare red sparkler.

If you are not a true sparkling wine aficionado, choose a brut version of anything in the $9.00 to $15.00 range and you should be okay. It will please most palates and fit into most wine budgets. Over the next few days, and going into 2014, keep reading for more fun and in-depth articles about Champagne and sparkling wine.

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