The Best Sparkling Wines under $15
The 5 Best Bargain Bubblies
We sipped 100(!) sparkling wines -- all $15* or less -- to pick the best for every holiday occasion. These 5 picks bubbled to the top of our list.
*All product names and prices accurate at time of print in the December 2012 issue.
The Best for Toasting
A balance of fruity yet crisp flavors makes this Spanish sparkler, Freixenet Cava Carta Nevada Semi Dry ($9), perfect for enjoying on its own. Crafted from a blend of three grape varieties and aged for up to nine months, it's not too sweet and not too dry. "Toasty -- with touches of apple and peach!" said one satisfied sipper.
The Best For Cocktails
With subtle nectarine notes and a clean, lemony finish, this dry white Italian prosecco, Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco D.O.C. ($14), is ideal for sparkling up cocktails! Think mimosas (half bubbly, half OJ), or pour it into a punch bowl with cranberry juice and brandy. Cheers!
Best With Hors D'oeuvres
Made with muscat grapes, this refreshing pink wine, Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato California Champagne ($10), has peach, honey and citrus accents, and a light sweetness that pairs pleasingly with salty appetizers. "It reminds me of cotton candy, in the best way!" praised one taster.
Best With Dinner
This Australian-made wine, Yellow Tail Bubbles Rose ($10), impressed the entire panel. Dry but with a fresh strawberry-cherry flavor, it stands up to rich foods such as ham, duck and salmon.
Best For Dessert
Cap off your night with this sweet Italian sparkler, Cinzano Asti D.O.C.G. ($13). It has "a ripe apricot taste," said one drinker. "Mmm...it smells like honey and flowers," commented another. Its slight tartness cuts through creamy cheeses, cakes and even chocolate.
3 Tips on Bubbly Basics
Shop -- and sip -- smarter with our cheat sheet!
1. COUNTRY: Sparkling wines come from all over the world. Champagne is French, cava is Spanish and prosecco is Italian. And American bubblies? They're simply called sparkling wines.
2. COLOR: Sparklers range from almost clear to deep pink hues. To infuse the booze with color, winemakers can blend a small amount of red wine into white wine, or make the bubbly from red grapes, whose skins tint the wine.
3. FLAVOR: Dry (aka not sweet) bubblies may be labeled "brut" or "extra brut." As the sweetness increases, you'll see terms like "demi-sec" or "semi-dry."
How to Throw a Champagne Cocktail Party
You don't have to wait until New Year's Eve to bust out the bubbly! Build a cocktail party around bubbles and bubbly, and conversation won't be the only thing that sparkles.