A Road Map to Your Holiday Bubbly

If you’re gonna spend $10, be sure to do it wisely.

Buying bubbly this time of year is a common mission—and one fraught with peril. You will be confronted with an infernal wall of crap bubbly wine from which you have to sniff out the talent. Over the years, trial and error has led me to a handful of trustworthy foil-topped bottles, some for every size wallet. There are a few things in life, such as sparkling wine and sandwich meats, on which you can only skimp so much. Sometimes, though, $7 is the budget, so a $7 bottle must do. Of the under-$10 set, Cristalino Cava ranks among the most popular, but it suffers from a common cheap-wine malady: an almost metallic taste in the mouth. Try to find Segura Viudas Cava on sale; then, to hit your best cheap option, buy a case of it for a further discount. To put a shine on this drink, pick up a tiny airline bottle of Drambuie or Grand Marnier to dash into each glass, or just add a pinch of sugar. No such seasoning should be necessary for a $10 bottle. By definition, a $10 bubbly should be more than tolerable; it should have tart fruit, lasting flavor, and an effervescence that registers beyond carbonated. For consistency and amount of pleasure derived, Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut is my $10 steady, in part because it's widely available—I can find it almost anywhere I duck in for booze. Sure, it's no $50 syrah, but then again, it's no $50 syrah. Expect fresh, snappy fruit with an almost frothy bubble if you swish it around your mouth a little bit. Between $10 and $20 lies a wasteland of overpriced Eurotrash: wines marked up due to the cost of importing them or the business plan of the winery making them. Many bottles exist in this price range, and none particularly dominates the market. The stunner around town, a sleeper of a wine, is Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne. In regular and rosé, this wine employs the same grapes used in Champagne, except they're grown in Burgundy. You know, that other place they make really expensive stuff. Cremant de Anything usually stands out among sparkling wines in this price range, and the Bouillot tops them all. I embarrassed the pants off a snotty friend by letting him go on and on about the rosé and how "there's just nothing that can compare to rosé Champagne." Except this stuff, at a quarter of the price. If you can afford it, 20 bucks can buy you a stylish bottle of bubbles that's a bit of a splurge. California's Roederer Estate Brut reigns as the most reliable in this category. Bright, citrus-laced, and clean, the Roederer Estate tastes like more: more effort, more better grapes, more wider range of flavor. The Roederer also introduces your tongue to that sexy, paradoxical sparkling wine adjective: creamy. Think buttermilk, berries in cream, or biscuits. Science is neat; I still marvel that a wine can be fizzy and creamy at the same time. mdutton@seattleweekly.com

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