What's New Year's Eve without champagne -- or at least some kind of bubbly?
Champagne is hardly the only type of bubbly great for toasting a new year.
And on "The Early Show" Thursday, Food & Wine magazine Executive Wine Editor Ray Isle shared his top choices for affordable sparkling wines - and Champagne was only one of the five he selected.
Here are what Ray calls the best bottles in their price range and bubbly category (none costing more than $50):
Prosecco's become hugely popular. It's inexpensive, tastes great, and makes a super cocktail party (or brunch) pour. Mionetto's basic brut -- dry -- prosecco is classic: juicy peachy flavors, lively bubbles.
Avinyo Brut ($19)
Cava is the great sparkling wine of Spain, from the Penedes region near Barcelona. It's made the same way as Champagne -- the bubbles are produced by a second fermentation inside the bottle -- but with local Spanish grapes. Avinyo's got that citrus-earthy note that's very characteristic of Cava.
American Sparkling Wine
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs NV ($20)
There are some terrific sparkling wines from California, made with the same grapes as Champagne and in the same way, but quite a bit less expensive. Gloria Ferrer is a top-notch Sonoma producer; their blanc de noirs is made entirely from Pinot Noir, which gives it a bit more fruit and substance.
Lini 1910 "Labrusca" Rosso NV ($17)
Lambrusco's having a real comeback. It used to be all you'd see was Riunite -- sweet, fizzy, bleah. Now you're finding brands like Lini, which make a much drier, more red-wine-like style. I love this for dinner parties -- it's got the structure of a red wine, and goes great with food.
Taittinger La Française Brut NV ($45)
And then there's Champagne. The real stuff comes from one place -- the Champagne region in France -- and is usually a blend of three grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier. Taittinger is one of the great Champagne houses, and their Brut La Francaise hits all the right notes: citrus, green apple, that toasted brioche character. You pay more, but hey, elegance doesn't come cheap!
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