Sparklers that deliver
Keep in mind that the French make lots of sparkling wine outside the Champagne region but, of course, do not call it Champagne. You can find delicious bubbly from the Loire Valley, Alsace and Burgundy (cremant de Bourgogne).

The Spanish and French have moved into California and set up shop in a serious way, producing some of the best Champagne method sparklers made in the U.S. My favorite remains Roederer Estate, in Mendocino County. Their three sparkling wines are marvels: the nonvintage brut; a delicious, perky rose; and the top of the line, L'Ermitage.

For my money, the best sparkling wine made in this country, however, comes from the most unlikely of places, near Albuquerque, N.M. Gruet is the name. A family moved there from Champagne and makes some astonishingly well-priced Champagne method wines, of many different sorts.


Nino Franco Prosecco Primo Franco, Valdobbiadene: Clean, bright, zesty, with tastes of melon, green apple and ripe pear; gravlax, pate, apple tart. $28

Adami Bosco di Gica Prosecco Brut, Valdobbiadene: Terrific for its delicate bubbles, snappy acidity and soft, peachy, melony flavors; pasta primavera, grilled swordfish. $18

Fitz-Ritter Riesling Extra Trocken Sekt, Rheinhessen: Like liquid Granny Smith apple with hints of citrus; snap-your-head-back acidity; smoked fish, sole meuniere, nuts and nibbles. $20

Jaume Serra Cristalino Rose Brut Cava: Rock-star rose, with gobs of strawberry and cherry aromas and tastes; a stunning pink color; bit of tasty character from Champagne method production. $10 — a steal.

Trapiche Extra Brut, Mendoza: Get this, an Argentinian bubbly; superdry, fine mousse, lean and cleansing; a dose of semillon rounds out the predominant, crisp chardonnay. $12-$15

If your wine store does not carry these wines, ask for one similar in style and price.

Bill St. John has been teaching and writing about wine for more than 30 years.

Defining the terms

Cava: Catalan for cellar.

Sekt: Shortened term for qualitatschaumwein: quality sparkling wine.

Spumante: Italian for sparkling.

Prosecco: Named for the grape from which it's made.

Source: The Wine Lover's Companion