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Budget sparklers for holiday parties

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Prices are approximate. Check Wine-searcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.

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Last week, Dave McIntyre recommended splurge sparklers, arbitrarily defined as costing more than $30. For celebrations on a budget, look to sparkling wines from France outside of Champagne: Alsace, Bourgogne, Loire and Limoux. Italy offers prosecco and Franciacorta (though the latter can be pricey). Spain brings us Cava, many California sparklers still retail for less than $30, and winemakers around the world can't resist toying with bubbles.

A large-format bottle makes a nice present for the wine lover on your gift list. The Chevalier de Grenelle Saumur, a sparkling chenin blanc from France's Loire Valley, comes with a pewter label on magnums and holds the equivalent of two 750-ml bottles. At $40, it is available in the District at Central Liquors, Magruder's, and Paul's of Chevy Chase, and in Maryland at Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, and Frederick Wine House (Monsieur Touton Selection).

Willm "Cuvée Leon IX"

**

Cremant d'Alsace, France, $16

What a wonderful value in a sparkling wine. Cremant d'Alsace doesn't give the complexity or richness of champagne (or the sticker shock, of course), but this example from Willm is topnotch, with great balance and a core of red fruit flavors that yield to a clean, refreshing finish. The package is attractive, too, which means this wine looks and tastes more expensive than it is.

Monsieur Touton Selection: available in the District at Ace Beverage, Burka's, Paul's of Chevy Chase, Riverside Liquor, Subway Liquors II; on the list at the Jockey Club. Available in Maryland at Adega Wine Cellars in Silver Spring, Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington, Frederick Wine House. Available in Virginia at Balducci's in Alexandria.

Gussalli Beretta, Saten,

"Lo Sparviere" Brut

**

Franciacorta, Italy, $26


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