HOLIDAY BUBBLES 

It's a shame people save sparkling wines for special occasions. They are among the most versatile wines in the world, working well with a wide variety of foods. Champagne shines with dishes that aren't considered wine friendly including spicy Asian cuisine. It even works with asparagus and artichokes. Of course, it also goes great with caviar, and any New Year's celebration would be incomplete without it.

And while Champagne can be extravagant, a nice bottle of bubbles doesn't have to break the bank. Here are some of my favorites:

Charles de Fere Brut, 10.99

Surprisingly elegant with nice apple and citrus fruit flavors and an appealing yeasty quality like fresh bread dough. Just a bit of vanilla comes through, especially on the finish.

Trevisiol Prosecco, $11.99

Italian Prosecco is all the rage right now, and this one helps demonstrate why. Subtle flower and fruit aromas with white peach and apricot flavors in a deliciously light sparkler that tickles the palate. The finish is long and smooth and flecked with a hints of mineral. Simple, fun and priced right.

Scharffenberger Brut, $16.50

Originally Scharffenberger, then Pacific Echo, now Scharffenberger again and back on track with this worthy sparkler. Opens with tropical aromas backed by nice cherry and plum fruit flavors. A rich and creamy wine with notes of fresh baked pastry dough and touches of hazelnut and caramel.

1999 Argyle Brut, $19.99

This vintage sparkler from Oregon offers a rich and creamy texture with nice, tight bubbles that last and last. The pear and citrus fruit flavors are light and delicate, the finish, very clean and long lasting. A well-deserved 91-point scorer in Wine Spectator.

Duval-Leroy Brut, $28

A definite Best Buy when it comes to true Champagne, and very good bubbly, indeed. A medium-bodied blend with the emphasis on Pinot Noir, the Duval-Leroy has nice touches of toast and vanilla to complement the smooth peach fruit and the long, crisp finish. At under fifty bucks, the magnum is an even better buy.

Pommery Brut Rosé, $50

Though the color in the glass doesn't make you think rosé (there's just a light hint of peach to the hue), the rich and creamy red fruit flavors are spot on. This is an exceptionally well-balanced wine, elegant in style with lively bubbles and a long, citrus tinged finish. An exceptional Champagne well worth the price.

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