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Craves: Tiny Bubbles, Big Celebrations

Popping the cork on one of these bubblies is reason to celebrate.
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The distinct pop of a cork heralds good times: a New Year's Eve countdown, a toast, a party. We asked entrepreneurs in the wine industry for their favorite bubblies and found standouts in a range of prices. Though it's innately festive, sparkling wine (it's champagne only when it comes from the Champagne region of France) doesn't have to be saved for a major event. "My favorite time to have bubbly is Friday night with my husband, in jammies," says Eileen Crane, president of Domaine Carneros, a Napa, California, winery. Most of these bottles are available at good wine stores and through a number of online retailers.


Taittinger Brut La Française
Taittinger, a family-run Champagne house since its 1734 founding, makes crisp, elegant champagnes with very fine bubbles and a delicate, acidic finish. For those who prefer a fuller wine, another standout at this price is Bollinger's Special Cuvée Brut, which retails for about $38. It's toasty, nutty, and rich. ($37) wine-club-central.com

Savia Viva Brut
This Spanish sparkling wine, called cava, is simple and citrusy. Cava is a great bargain--pick up a case for a party, and don't worry about the brand, as the taste doesn't vary much. If your wine store doesn't carry cava, try the Italian sparkling wine Prosecco, another cheapie. ($9) astorwines.com

Fox Creek Vixen Sparkling Shiraz
This one will startle your guests--it's a bubbly red, made by Australian entrepreneurs. "It sounds kind of goofy," says Brian Snelling, owner of San Mateo, California's 750ml wine bar, "but it's hugely popular." Dry and dark, it's too heavy for all-night drinking, but serve it chilled as a welcoming quaff. ($20) thejugshop.com

Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs
An entrepreneurial couple revived this dying vineyard 40 years ago; the family still runs Schramsberg, the first California producer of sparkling wine. Pressed from red grapes, this is toasty and full, with notes of pear and peach and a clean finish. ($35) schramsberg.com

Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs
For a splurge, choose Salon, a small Champagne house that makes its blanc de blancs only in years when the grapes are deemed worthy. This tastes fresh and yeasty even after years in the bottle and has notes of creamed honey, with a lemony finish. (About $250 and up) wineaccess.com

Veuve Clicquot Rosé
Delicate and festive, this rose-gold champagne gets its color from a bit of Pinot Noir. It's dry, with touches of raspberry and strawberry. Peter Click, CEO of Click Wine Group in Seattle, calls it "elegant, lively, ethereal, and refined." ($50) sherry-lehmann.com




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