There is a vast universe of fizz between the $100-plus bottle and the sugary plonk that you drank on New Year's in your twenties. Sparkling wines are among the most versatile around – equally fun to drink in the summer and winter alike, they pair well with everything from sushi to poultry to cheese. And now, in California, Spain, Italy, and parts of France, there are scores of interesting sparklers that have the added virtue of offering great value.
Chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier are the grapes used for champagne. But a number of other varieties can be given a shot of effervescence, and more than a handful work well with bubbles. Prosecco, Italy's signature sparkling wine, has gotten a lot of play in recent years – maybe a little too much. It is a category rife with pillowy, insubstantial wines and the occasional outstanding bottle (like the one below). Some of the most exciting sparklers now are cavas from northern Spain: pleasantly lean wines with a freshness and purity about them. Even better, though, are sparkling Vouvrays, from France's Loire Valley. Made of chenin blanc, the most protean grape on the planet, Vouvrays are lithe and elegant, with the same chalky minerality you find in champagnes. But these are just a few of the many distinctive sparklers out there. It's time we start treating bubbly as everyday wine and consume it throughout the year, with the regularity that we drink others. Launch Gallery >>
Photograph by Jamie Chung
Vouvray: Huet Vouvray Pétillant 2007
Domaine Huet, located in France's Loire Valley, turns out a sensational sparkler that has all the depth and complexity of a top champagne at a third of the price. Made from chenin blanc grapes, this wine has unique notes of quince and honey. [wine-searcher.com]