Keep three things in mind when you're picking sparkling wine and champagne for New Year’s Eve.
First, there is plenty of quality wine from places other than France, especially from the New World, Spain and Italy. There is also plenty of quality wine from France that isn't the same old stuff. Please, please try something other than Veuve Clicquot and Nicolas Feuillatte.
Second, vintage isn't especially important. NV on the label stands for non-vintage – that is, the grapes used to make the wine come from several years instead of just one. It’s a common practice, even for the most expensive brands, to ensure quality.
Third, only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can be called champagne, thanks to a 2005 trade agreement (though some California brands, like Korbel, are grandfathered in). But if the label says methode champenoise or méthode traditionelle, it was made in the Champagne style
And cost? There is more than acceptable bubbly at almost every price, and even some expensive wines are good values.
• Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blancs NV ($12). Washington state bubbly of consistent quality and price. Best yet, it's available in many grocery stores.
• Gruet Brut NV ($13). One day, the wine snobs will discover this, and the price will double. Until then, enjoy a New Mexican wine made in the style of Champagne.
• Zardetto Prosecco NV ($13). Italian sparklers are sweeter, and some of them tend to 7-Up. But the Zardetto, though sweet, is crisp and balanced.
• Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad NV ($20). It would be easy for the bottle, with its pewter facings, to overwhelm what’s inside, but the Spanish have more pride than that. This is dry in the Spanish style, but with a bit of fruit and even some caramel.
• Taltarni Brut Tache 2005 ($20). Tasmanian wine, anyone? It’s a rose, made by adding red wine liqueur (a process called tache) to the almost finished product. It’s a fruity, interesting wine.
• Crémant d'Alsace Brut Lucien Albrecht NV ($20). Sparkling wine from Alsace delivers fine value, and this is no exception. It’s lively and well-balanced, with wonderful bubbles.
• Roederer Estate L’Ermitage 2000 ($47). See if you can taste the barrel-aged chardonnay in this one, which gives it an almost bread-crust flavor. One of the top bubblies made in California. This wine has beem struck out because the Wine Curmudgeon is boycotting all Roederer products.
• Delamotte Brut NV ($50). Delamotte makes some incredible vintage champagnes, which cost upwards of $200 if you can find them. This is a more than an adequate substitute.
• Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV ($70). This is one of the Wine Curmudgeon’s weaknesses, a champagne that, dollar for dollar, may be the best in the world. The definition of an elegant, sophisticated wine.