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Champagne and sparkling wine sales are rising like, well, bubbles in a glass of bubbly this year—U.S. fizz-fans are on line to down about 900 million glasses of the stuff, about four percent over our consumption in 2006 (so says the 2007 Impact Annual Wine Study, by way of this article in USA Today). Do your part and hit the local liquor mart before New Year's arrives and you panic at the sight of an empty ice bucket. And if you want real Champagne—that is, the famous bubbly wine that comes specifically from the Champagne region in France—here are a few that I think are winners:
Oudinot Cuvée Brut NV ($35)
This small brand is part of the much larger Laurent-Perrier empire, though it started out at the end of the 19th century, when Jules Edouard Oudinot started making Champagne from his family vineyard in Avize. A floral scent and creamy, peachy flavors define this Brut.
Gosset Brut Excellence NV ($46)
Gosset, a small but very high-quality producer, was founded in the town of Aÿ in 1584. Unlike most other Champagnes, Gosset's wines-like this citrusy Brut-do not undergo malolactic fermentation (a kind of secondary fermentation that helps soften the wine), making them bright and remarkably zesty.
Deutz Brut Classic NV ($49)
The Deutz style is delicate and aromatically complex, as in this subtle, blossom-scented bottling. It's blended from equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, largely sourced from the Marne subregion.
Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut NV ($56)
Bollinger, which owns an unusually high percentage of estate vineyards for a Champagne house (about 60% of its production) is known for its full-bodied density of flavor. This biscuity, luscious bottling is a great example of the Bollinger style.
Taittinger Prelude Brut NV ($75)
Taittinger's Prelude, an equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinto Noir, is sourced only from grand cru villages, making its price a bit higher but adding finesse to its peach-and-orange-inflected flavors. It's luxuriously creamy at first, and finishes with mouthwatering acidity.