Keep four things in mind when you shop for sparkling wine.
• Please, please try something other than the same old French labels like Veuve Clicquot and Nicolas Feuillatte. Quality bubbly is made in most of the world's great wine regions. Yes, it doesn't taste like Champagne, but it's not supposed to.
• 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. The other production technique, called charmat, generally produces less bubbly, sweeter wines. Most Italian sparkling wine is made in the charmat style
• Vintage isn't especially important. NV on the label stands for non-vintage –- that is, the grapes used to make the wine come from different harvests instead of just one. It’s a common practice, even for the most expensive brands, to ensure quality.
• Most bubbly sold in the U.S. says either brut or extra-dry. Brut means the wine is dry, while extra-dry means it’s sweeter than brut. Rarer are wines labeled sec, which is more sweet than extra-dry, and doux, which is dessert-style champagne.