This year in particular has been a fun one in the sparkler-sphere. I've had more than one reason to celebrate - and have to admit, many more seemed to emerge out of thin air as Dan and I continued to find sparkling wines that were unique AND affordable. Long story-of-2011-bubbly short, while I'd never turn down an opportunity to enjoy a few gorgeous Champagnes (that is, from the Mothership of Champagne, France itself) if you travel outside this elite sparkling region you can find some real (delicious!) values.
Now of course, when it comes to the traditional time of year to pop a few corks (namely New Year's Eve), we're super psyched to have several of these options available for you to choose from before you head over to your friend's to toast a happy, healthy and memorable 2012. Here are a few that have caught my fancy in particular (I hope you're ready for this, because these are some seriously killer wines!):
Finca Flichman Extra Brut ~ Malbec is the sure-fire winning grape of 2011. But we wine nerds can't forecast a reason to make a change in 2012! This trend has every right to carry on with gusto, particularly when we can also find it in an everyday celebratory (and affordable) package. Finca Flichman serves up a pretty bubbly, with terrific florals, snappy cherry and even a dash of blueberry and black raspberry fruits on the palate. This dry, redish sparkler (a blend of Chardonnay and Malbec) certainly intrigues and delights every sip of the way. And yes, for $9.99 it over delivers on quality!
Dom. Collin Cremant de Limoux ~ This is a sparkling wine (aka Cremant) with pedigree and pizazz from the Loire Valley of France. The pedigree part is that they man behind the magic has a Champagne project, but he thought it would be fun to dabble in the Loire as well. A blend of mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (two of the three grapes permitted in Champagne) with a little Loire-tastic Chenin Blanc thrown in for good measure, the winemaking behind the wine ensures a toasty, brioche-like flavor and texture to the wine. Tiny bubbles deliver clean fruit notes (apple, lemon pith and pear) a touch of bitter almond, plus a whopping of cleansing mineral notes bringing the dry finish all the way home. Take this bad boy home for only $13.99. A party-pleaser for sure!
Selim Spumante Brut NV ~ This is perhaps the rarest sparkler I've ever encountered. Hailing from Campania, Italy it is no Prosecco – rather it is a blend of three grapes, one white (Fiano) and two reds (Aglianico and Barbera). Such a blend delivers a white sparkler with an intriguing and delicious flavor profile and texture: its smooth mousse offers up pink roses and lemon curd aromas and then delivers lifted, delightfully nuanced flavors including citrus, raspberries and bing cherries. A touch of talc provides a welcome and balancing minerality. Selim is a complex yet approachably delicious crowd pleaser for any occasion. Grab a bottle and discover what I'm so excited about! $20.99
Oriel "365" Prosecco NV ~ If you want something that offers a little something more in the traditional Italian sparkler-sphere, Oriel has just the thing. Their idea is to bring you an affordable Prosecco vehicle that is affordable enough you can enjoy bubbles ALL YEAR LONG, as Prosecco should be. (And yes, to answer your question, Prosecco is an Italian sparkler made from grapes of the same name.) This not-so-simple, but oh-so-satisfying, lightly moussed wine with ample pear, lemon cream and yellow apple fruit takes a familiar experience up a notch. $17.99
Domaine Rolet Cremant du Jura Brut 2007 ~ For a non-Champagne sparkler, even with such great competition found this year in the marketplace, this wine might be the go-to Show Stopper for a pseudo Champagne. An offering from the off-the-beaten-track of Jura, France, this wine is a blend of Chardonnay, the indigenous Savagnin, and Pinot Noir. It has a luscious, rich texture yet fine bubbles and clean fruit. Specifically, quince and honeydew melon flavors offer a nice balance of tart/clean and savory/fleshy. A tangerine zip of acidity delights to no end. This bugger comes in just under $20 at $19.99. Happiness!
If you aren't on the bubbly bandwagon just yet, this is the weekend to jump on. Grab something fun and live it up! But please, have a safe, happy and healthy New Year!