Exceptional Excellent Very Good
My final recommendations for 2017 include two superb champagnes, a vibrant Franciacorta from Italy, a rich, sophisticated bubbly from Burgundy and a sparkler from Patagonia that just may turn your palate upside down. And for a holiday bonus: Let's add a fizzy sweet malvasia from Italy for your holiday brunch.
Ayala Brut Majeur
Champagne, France, $40
When first poured and cold, this wine was crisp and mineral, bracing and refreshing. As it warmed it became exotic, with the flavors of candied ginger, cardamom and cloves. Alcohol by volume: 12 percent.
Distributed by M. Touton Selection: Available in the District at A-1 Wines & Liquors, Cork & Fork, Eye Street Cellars, Georgetown Wine & Spirits, McReynold's Liquors, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor, Pan-Mar Liquor, Wine Specialist, Wide World of Wines. Available in Maryland at Bin 201 Wine Sellers, Columbia Palace Wine & Spirits in Columbia, Cork 57 Beer and Wine and Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer in Gaithersburg, Franklin's Restaurant, Brewery and General Store in Hyattsville, Hunt Valley Wine, Liquor & Beer in Cockeysville, Old Farm Liquors in Frederick, Rodman's in White Flint, Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington; on the list at Old Hickory Steakhouse in National Harbor, Old Maryland Grill in College Park. Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Wegmans (various locations).
Barone Pizzini Animante Brut
Franciacorta, Italy, $35
Franciacorta is made in the champagne method, with the second (bubbles-producing) fermentation in the bottle. But this is brighter and fruitier than champagne.
ABV: 12 percent.
Distributed by Country Vintner: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Rodman's; on the list at Bibiana, Masseria, Tartufo. On the list in Maryland at Tagliata and Wit & Wisdom in Baltimore. On the list in Virginia at Hank's Pasta Bar in Alexandria, La Favola in Fairfax, Rincome in Arlington.
Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Champagne, France, $54
Made by the producers of Salon, arguably the rarest, most sought-after champagne, Delamotte is more like champagne as we know it, and it is top-notch. It is on the richer side, with some toasty brioche flavors and a hint of ginger spice. ABV: 12 percent.
Distributed by Bacchus: Available in the District at Bell Wine & Spirits, MacArthur Beverages, Rodman's, Wagshal's Deli, Wide World of Wines, Zachys; on the list at Aperto, Fiola, DBGB Kitchen and Bar, Mastro's, Melrose, Plume. Available in Maryland at College Square Liquors in Westminster, Hunt Valley Wine, Liquor & Beer in Cockeysville, North Charles Fine Wine & Spirits, Wine Source and Wine Works in Baltimore.
Domaine de la Denante Blanc de Blancs Crémant de Bourgogne
Burgundy, France, $24
Elegant, with serious aspirations — plus depth, complexity and character. ABV: 12 percent.
Distributed by Simon N Cellars: Available in Virginia at Tastings of Charlottesville in Charlottesville, Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview); on the list at Commonwealth in Charlottesville.
Malma Cuvée Reserve Extra Brut
Patagonia, Argentina, $21
This vibrant blend of pinot noir and chardonnay is electric with bright flavors of orchard fruit and berries. ABV: 12.5 percent.
Distributed by G&B: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Georgetown Wine & Spirits, Grand Cata, Rodman's, Sherry's Fine Wine & Spirits, Streets Market (14th Street, Massachusetts Avenue), Wagshal's Deli. Available in Maryland at 5 O'clock Wines & Spirits in Owings Mills, Bradley Food & Beverage and Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer in Gaithersburg, Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op in Takoma Park, Viniferous and Wine Districts (formerly Westview Liquors) in Frederick, the Wine Harvest (Gaithersburg, Potomac).
Bonelli Malvasia Amabile Frizzante 2016
Colli Piacentini, Italy, $13
This slightly spritzy wine will appeal to anyone with a sweet tooth. Flowery and tropical, it is delicious on its own or with spicy foods or cured meats. Ideal for a holiday brunch. ABV: 8.5 percent.
Distributed by Well Crafted Wines & Beverage Co.: Available in the District at Eye Street Cellars, Wardman Wines; on the list at Cities. Available in Maryland at Cranbrook Liquors in Cockeysville, the Perfect Pour in Elkridge, Pinehurst Wine Shoppe in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at the Apple House in Linden, Cheesetique (Alexandria, Ballston, Shirlington), Market Street Wineshop (Downtown, Uptown) in Charlottesville, Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Swirl & Sip in Fairfax, the Town Duck in Warrenton, WineStyles in Montclair.
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.