The Champagne province of France (just northeast of Paris) may bottle the world's most famous sparkling wine, but dozens of other regions also turn out some seductive versionsoften at more affordable prices.
Bone-dry wines (often marked brut) are perfect paired with savory foods. Sweeter, off-dry styles such as demi-sec, spumante and many German Sekts match well with not-too-sweet desserts. As with still wines, the grapes matter too. Sparkling wines are made from all types other than a classic Champagne's Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. German Sekt, for example, is often produced from Riesling and is usually lighter and juicier than Champagne, whereas sparkling wines made from Muscat often have a flamboyantly fruity, blossomy character.
Opening the Bottle
There are two ways to do this: Shoot the cork at the ceiling, which is dramatic but dangerous, or slowly twist the bottlenot the corkwithout letting it pop.
10 Top Bottles
Bartenura Prosecco NV ($12) This light, dry and easy-to-drink sparkling wine is made north of Venice in the Veneto region. Marked by notes of yellow apple and peach, it also happens to be kosher.
2001 Domaine Carneros Brut ($25) Vibrant and elegant, this sparkling wine comes from the cool, windswept Carneros district at the southern tip of Napa and Sonoma.
La Gouzotte d'Or Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Blanc de Blancs ($18) Winemaker Christine Rossignol makes this delicious, gently effervescent all-Chardonnay sparkling wine with grapes from her family's vineyards in Burgundy.
Jaillance Cuvée Impériale Clairette de Die NV ($15) This sparkling wine from the south of France, made mostly from Muscat, is light, low in alcohol and moderately dry, with a wonderful, slightly honeyed taste.
J. Lassalle Préférence NV ($39) The mother-daughter winemaking team of Madame Jules Lassalle and Chantal Decelle-Lassalle grow all their own grapes and produce limited quantities of this full-flavored Champagne.
Murgo Brut NV ($20) The Barone del Murgo and his three sons grow the grapes for this wine on the slopes of Sicily's Mount Etna. Medium-bodied and just off-dry, it offers lively flavors of peach and apricot.
Seaview Brut NV ($9) This Australian sparkler is off-dry but not cloying, with an appealingly fruity, not-too-serious character that makes it a great party wine.
2000 Kanzemer Berg Brut Sekt ($35) The Saar River Valley is the cradle of top-quality German sparkling Rieslings, and this famous producer has turned out one of its finest. It's a sophisticated wine: refined, pure and very dry.
2000 Wölffer Brut ($29) Bon vivant Christian Wölffer has created a sparkling wine in the Hamptons of Long Island that he can proudly serve his fashionable friends: It's dry and beautifully balanced.
2001 Schramsberg Brut Rosé ($35) Made by Napa Valley's venerable Schramsberg vineyards, a top producer of sparkling wine in America, this lovely rosé displays a rare intensity of red-fruit flavor from its predominantly Pinot Noir base. There are expansive flavors of blackberry and cherry too.