Break Out the Budget Bubbles 

Versatile and food friendly sparkling wines

I've said it before and I'll say it again--sparkling wines are so versatile and food friendly, it's a shame most people think of them as special-occasion bottles. But the simple fact is that bubbles (especially champagne) will always be connected with celebrations. I'm guessing more corks fly on New Year's Eve than any other day of the year. Here are three of my favorite sparkling wines that won't break the budget.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, 1.5 Liters, $16.99

This is a bargain-basement big bottle from Spain--a true methode champenoise, or wine that's been aged two to three years in the bottle. A magnum is the perfect format for bubbles, and this one is surprisingly elegant. There's none of that stemminess you often get with inexpensive Spanish cava, just a graceful array of light citrus and apple flavors backed by spice and mineral. It's a no-compromise, budget-priced choice that's looking for a party.

Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Brut, $21

A blanc de blanc from the Alsace region of France, this wine's back label states it is 100 percent pinot blanc, but the blend often includes pinot auxerrois and chardonnay. This wine opens with aromas of fresh-baked bread with candied citrus, apple and touches of nut and mineral. Creamy ripe apple and melon flavors are backed by crisp citrus on the palate. The tiny bubbles last and last in this delightful charmer.

2009 Raventos I Blanc de Nit, $22

Another Spanish entry, this rose over-delivers for its price point. This beautifully hued sparkler is a blend of the traditional cava grapes macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada from 30- to 40-year-old vines, along with 5 percent monastrell for color and an appealing cherry flavor. This delicately structured wine is crisp and impeccably balanced. Money no object, it's still one of my all-time favorites.

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