If you only drink sparkling wines during the holidays, then here is some homework for you — 14 bubblies from several different regions and countries.
Remember, don’t pop the cork and spew the wine, but release it with a gentle, distinctive sigh. Hold the cork down and steady with your right hand and slowly twist the bottle counter-clockwise with your left. One, two, three — "ahhh!"
Here we go:
The NV (non-vintage) "Anna de Codorniu" cava brut ($15). This wine from Spain has fine and rich bubbles with good lean-ness and acidity to match its tart apple flavors. Quite nice for the price.
The NV Pierre Sparr "Marquis de Perlade" Crémant d’Alsace blanc de blancs brut ($13). Rich and intense bubbles, apple crispness, clean, good acidity without being too tart — this bubbly from Alsace is ideal to serve with appetizers that have buttery pastry.
The NV Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace brut rosé ($19). Complex flavors — candied fruits and apricot skins — with good bubbles, pleasant tartness, if just a tad heavy in the finish.
The NV Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace brut reserve ($18). I could — and might — drink many flutes of this, especially as I do not use flutes but a white wine glass for sparklers. It’s very refreshing, moderately full, with green fruit flavors but with candied fruit in the finish.
The NV Domaine Chandon California blanc de noirs ($16). I’ve long been a fan of the consistent qualities of this pioneering Napa sparkling winery as well as its diversity of offerings. Here is a simple but satisfying one — fruity, full, but with a crisp finish.
The NV Domaine Chandon California brut classic ($19). Rich, intense bubbles with mellow apple flavors and a hint of fruity sweetness.
The NV Domaine Chandon California extra dry riche ($16). Usually I don’t pay much attention to label recommendations for food pairings, but this one would go well with the touted match of crème brûlée. It’s lightly sweet with hints of vanilla, caramel, and apricots, very clean, well-balanced, and refreshing.
The NV Domaine Chandon California rosé ($16). This would go with a variety of table foods — pastel red-fruit flavors with a little meatiness thrown in and with a great texture.
The 2005 J brut ($48). For a long time I wasn’t a big fan of J, but recent bottles have won me over. This one has the complexity of about eight years in the bottle — rich, medium-bodied, lots of citrus, especially orange, and a good finish of metallic minerality.
The 2003 J Russian River brut late disgorged ($67). Actually quite fresh for a 10-year-old RD — rich and creamy with lees flavorings, but not overpoweringly so.
The NV Enza prosecco extra dry ($14). Another clean-flavored refresher — light savory spices, flavors of grapefruit peel, rich bubbles, good fruit-acid balance.
The 2010 Gérard Bertrand Crémant de Limous brut ($14) From the south of France, this one is mainly chardonnay with some chenin blanc and mauzac added. It has a clean, lightly and pleasantly gamey nose with creamy, mellow apple flavors and a pleasant lingering flavor of sautéed apples in the finish.
The 2010 Gérard Bertrand Crémant de Limous brut rosé ($14). Again, mainly chard with a little chenin and a touch of pinot noir for color. Crisp and assertive, clean and lean, hints of quince with a mild tang in the finish. Quite enjoyable.
The NV Biltmore Estate blanc de blanc brut ($21). This North Carolina winery has an interesting story — for another time — about the large amount of wine it makes from its own and purchased grapes, many from California, the suspected provenance here. It’s crisp and compact, almost elegant, a touch metallic in a pleasant way. Of all the sparklers noted, this would be the one I would want with fresh shellfish.