Friday, November 21, 2014 · 5:16 a.m.

Uncorked: Cheers to the New Year!

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Cheers! (Photo: Staff)

Well, another holiday has come and gone. New Year's is quickly approaching, and so are the parties. So, what are you going to drink on this festive occasion? One word: Bubbly!

Bubbly is a necessity to ringing in the New Year, and it doesn’t have to break the bank. There are a lot of affordable sparkling wines that are produced throughout the world. Here are a few of my favorites.

Italy
If you have met me, you probably know that Italian wine is among my favorites. Contrary to popular belief, Italian wine is not just pinot grigio or chianti. Italians make amazing wine, and that does not exclude sparkling. Two in particular are prosecco and franciacorta.

Prosecco is made from glera or “prosecco” grapes and is great for sparkling cocktails or even pairing with food. Typically, prosecco is dry with a nice fruity bouquet. On the palate, there are dried fruit flavors as well as white peach and honeysuckle.

If you want to stay on a budget, prosecco is the way to go. If you want to splurge a little, franciacorta would be perfect. Franciacorta is the only true rival of champagne in Italy. The grapes are similar to champagne (pinot noir and chardonnay). However, in Italy, they also use pinot blanc, whereas the region of Champagne doesn’t allow it. 

Here are some choices of each:
—Lunetta Prosecco NV
—LaMarca Prosecco NV
—Bellavista Franciacorta Brut
—Ca’del Bosco Franciacorta NV

Spain
Cava, cava, cava. It is fun to say and even more fun to drink. Even though you may have never heard of cava, it is the world’s leader in sparkling wine production. According to the Guild of Sommeliers, “Cava has even contributed certain innovations to the houses of Reims and Épernay in Champagne.” Cava comes from the region of Catalonia and is made from the grape varieties parellada, xarel-lo and macabeu, predominately. However, traditional grapes like chardonnay and pinot noir are allowed and provide more of an earthy flavor to the wine. A noteworthy producer of cava is Recaredo. Recaredo makes a variety of cavas that are relatively inexpensive and are quite delicious. It is the perfect bottle to bring to a party if you are wanting something different from everyone else.

France
When I think of French sparkling wine, I immediately think Champagne. However, there are many other wine regions within France that produce sparkling wine, like Burgundy. In Burgundy, they title their sparkling wines as Crémant de Bourgogne, and they are made from chardonnay, pinot noir, gamay or aligoté. The producer Bailly Lapierre makes affordable wine in this region, and they can be found here in Chattanooga.

I know you have been waiting patiently for me to finally talk about champagne, so here it is. In order for sparkling wine to be called "champagne," it has to come from the Champagne region of France. So champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne. Got it? Good! The grape varieties are chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. Champagne can be quite complicated to understand, but so worth it. In my opinion, it is the ultimate beverage. Even though it does come with a price tag, there are some champagne houses that are priced less than $100.

Champagne favorites ($100 or less)
—Taittinger Brut La Francaise 
—Moet & Chandon Imperial NV 
—Ayala Brut Majeur
—Vueve Cliquot Yellow Label
—Duval-Leroy ‘04 Clos des Bouveries

There are many other regions of the world that make great sparkling wine; these are simply a few of the offerings.

Happy New Year's, and cheers to Bubbly!

Michelle Richards is a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Along with hosting wine tastings for local organizations, she serves up wine goodness at St. John’s Restaurant. Your can contact her by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees. 

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