Exceptional Excellent Very Good
The holiday season is here, and this is the month when Americans buy the vast majority of sparkling wine sold in the United States. So throughout December, I will recommend a variety of bubblies from around the world, from good, inexpensive fizz to high-end champagne. Stock up: If you don't get to them all by New Year's, they'll help keep 2018 festive.
Le Mesnil sur Oger, Champagne, France, $48
Mesnil is an area in Champagne's Cote des Blancs, where chardonnay achieves its greatest expression. Wines from Mesnil are typically big and bold flavored (Krug being a prominent example), but Michel Turgy achieves a remarkable finesse and delicacy. And at this price, it's a relative value. Alcohol by volume: 13 percent.
Distributed by Dionysus: Available in the District at Arrowine and Spirits, D'Vines, MacArthur Beverages, Rodman's; on the list at Kapnos. Available in Maryland at Balducci's and Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Wells Discount Liquors and Wine Source in Baltimore. Available in the Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese in Arlington, Balducci's (Alexandria, McLean), J. Emerson Fine Wines & Cheese in Richmond, Vienna Vintner, Wine Cabinet in Reston; on the list at Nostos in Vienna.
Champagne, France, $60
This wine is labeled "Champagne à l'état pur," or champagne in its pure state. That means no additives to the wine and no sulfur used at bottling. As a champagne for the natural wine movement, it is a bit rough-and-tumble, with delicious fruit and a chewy texture that shows more brawn than delicacy. Its honesty kept drawing me back for another sip. ABV: 12 percent.
Distributed by Bacchus: Available in the District at Cordial Craft Wine, Beer & Spirits (the Wharf), MacArthur Beverages. Available in Maryland at Remington Wine Company and Wine Source in Baltimore; on the list at Marie Louise Bistro and Pen and Quill in Baltimore.
The label says Contratto was the first Italian producer — about a century ago — to make sparkling wine in the traditional champagne style, with the second (bubbly) fermentation taking place in the bottle. It sports an over-the-top Belle Epoque label that promises hedonistic revelry, and it delivers. The wine bursts with delightful scents and flavors of raspberries, currants and white flowers. For bubbly fiends, it's single vintage, with no dosage of sugar added at disgorgement. It's not well known, but it is worth seeking out. ABV: 12.5 percent.
Distributed by Country Vintner: Available in the District at MacArthur Beverages, Rodman's; on the list at Fiola Mare. Available in Virginia at Unwined (Alexandria).
Burgundy, France, $20
"Cremant" is a term for most French sparkling wines made in regions outside Champagne. The most common are Burgundy (Bourgogne), Alsace and Loire. Simonnet-Febvre is in Chablis, the northern part of Burgundy known for chardonnay. This cremant crackles with crisp bubbles and refreshing acidity, making it an ideal aperitif for a toast or to wash down appetizers. ABV: 12.5 percent.
Distributed by M. Touton Selection: Available in the District at Best in Liquors, Burka's Wine & Liquor, Cairo Wine & Liquor, Capital City Wine & Spirits, Circle Wine & Liquor, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Eye Street Cellars, Freedom Market, Harry's Reserve Fine Wine & Spirits, Magruder's, McReynold's Liquors, Potomac Wine & Spirits, Rodman's, Sheffield Wine & Liquor Shoppe, Sherry's Fine Wine & Spirits, U Street Mini Mart, Virginia Market. Available in Maryland at Bethesda Co-Op in Cabin John, the Bottle Shop in Potomac, Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Cork & Bottle Liquors in Laurel, Eddie's Liquors in Baltimore, Hillandale Beer & Wine in Silver Spring, Kenilworth Wine & Spirits in Towson, Midway Discount Liquors in Joppa, Old Farm Liquors and Spin the Bottle Wine Co. in Frederick, the Perfect Pour in Elkridge, Pine Orchard Liquors in Ellicott City, Potomac Beer & Wine in Rockville, Preserve Wine & Spirits in Hanover, Rodman's (White Flint), Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington; on the list at the Kings Contrivance in Columbia.
Moldova boasts the world's largest underground wine cellar, as well as some really good, inexpensive bubbly. Cricova makes a basic brut called Crisecco that is a stunner for about $12. This slightly more expensive blanc de noirs is robust with flavors of red berries and ripe peaches, over spicy gingerbread. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Distributed by Salveto: Available in the District at Chat's Liquors, Cork & Fork, D'Vines, S&R Liquors; on the list at Ambar, Mintwood, Partisan. Available in Maryland at Dunkirk Wine & Spirits, Potomac Gourmet Market in National Harbor. Available in Virginia at Crystal City Wine Shop, Dominion Wine and Beer in Falls Church, Oakton Wine Shop in Oakton, Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Screwtop Wine Bar & Cheese Shop in Arlington, Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview), the Wine Outlet (Great Falls, McLean, Vienna), on the list at Ambar in Arlington.
Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be sold at additional stores. Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.