The holiday season is here, and this is the month when Americans buy the vast majority of sparkling wine sold in the United States. So throughout December, I will recommend a variety of bubblies from around the world, from good, inexpensive fizz to high-end champagne. Stock up: If you don't get to them all by New Year's, they'll help keep 2018 festive.
Michel Turgy Réserve Sélection Blanc des Blancs Grand Cru Brut
Le Mesnil sur Oger, Champagne, France, $48
Mesnil is an area in Champagne's Cote des Blancs, where chardonnay achieves its greatest expression. Wines from Mesnil are typically big and bold flavored (Krug being a prominent example), but Michel Turgy achieves a remarkable finesse and delicacy. And at this price, it's a relative value. Alcohol by volume: 13 percent.
Champagne Jean Michel Cuvée Cep Extra Brut
Champagne, France, $60
This wine is labeled "Champagne à l'état pur," or champagne in its pure state. That means no additives to the wine and no sulfur used at bottling. As a champagne for the natural wine movement, it is a bit rough-and-tumble, with delicious fruit and a chewy texture that shows more brawn than delicacy. Its honesty kept drawing me back for another sip. ABV: 12 percent.
Contratto Extra Brut 2011
The label says Contratto was the first Italian producer - about a century ago - to make sparkling wine in the traditional champagne style, with the second (bubbly) fermentation taking place in the bottle. It sports an over-the-top Belle Epoque label that promises hedonistic revelry, and it delivers. The wine bursts with delightful scents and flavors of raspberries, currants and white flowers. For bubbly fiends, it's single vintage, with no dosage of sugar added at disgorgement. It's not well known, but it is worth seeking out. ABV: 12.5 percent.
Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne
Burgundy, France, $20
"Cremant" is a term for most French sparkling wines made in regions outside Champagne. The most common are Burgundy (Bourgogne), Alsace and Loire. Simonnet-Febvre is in Chablis, the northern part of Burgundy known for chardonnay. This cremant crackles with crisp bubbles and refreshing acidity, making it an ideal aperitif for a toast or to wash down appetizers. ABV: 12.5 percent.
Cricova Blanc de Noirs Pinot Noir Extra Brut
Moldova boasts the world's largest underground wine cellar, as well as some really good, inexpensive bubbly. Cricova makes a basic brut called Crisecco that is a stunner for about $12. This slightly more expensive blanc de noirs is robust with flavors of red berries and ripe peaches, over spicy gingerbread. ABV: 13.5 percent.
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Three stars exceptional, two stars excellent, one star very good
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Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.