Exceptional   Excellent   Very Good

It’s never too soon to be scouting sparkling wines for your holiday celebrations. Here’s a beauty, but don’t tell your champagne-loving friends it’s from South Africa until after they’ve raved about it. Then show them the price, and they’ll be even more impressed. This week’s list also includes a stunning pinot grigio from northern Italy, a classic riesling from Alsace and two wines from the Balkans: an exotic dry white from Croatia and a light red charmer from Bulgaria.

Villiera Tradition Brut NV


South Africa, $28

Here’s a sparkling wine that punches above its price level. It’s “méthode cap classique,” the South African term for sparkling wine made in the traditional champagne method, with the second fermentation occurring in the bottle. The blend is pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, the traditional grapes of champagne. This hits the yeasty, full-bodied style, while retaining acidity to keep it lively. Delicious. Alcohol by volume: 12 percent.

Imported by Red Wolf Imports, distributed by Global Wines: Available in the District at MacArthur Beverages, Rodman’s, Wagshal’s Deli. Available in Maryland at Beers & Cheers Too, Downtown Crown Wine & Beer and Finewine.com in Gaithersburg; Belby Discount Beer & Wine and Gilly’s Craft Beer & Fine Wine in Rockville; the Bottle Shop in Potomac; Bradley Food & Beverage, Capital Beer & Wine, Cork 57 Beer and Wine, Georgetown Square Wine & Beer and Maple Beer & Wine in Bethesda; Lakefront Fine Wine & Spirits and Old Farm Liquors in Frederick; Snider’s Super Foods in Silver Spring.

Venica Jesera Pinot Grigio 2017


Collio, Italy, $25

Don’t think of your average pinot grigio, with its crisp refreshment and short attention span. This one is serious wine, with a fine perfume, mouth-filling texture and flavors of apricot and bread, leading to a finish that just won’t quit. Just be sure not to drink it too cold. And if you can cellar it for six months to a year, it will reward you — I recently tasted a 2016 that was fantastic. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Imported and distributed by Country Vintner: Available in the District at Cork Market, MacArthur Beverages, Rodman’s, Wide World of Wines; on the list at several restaurants. Available in Maryland at Balducci’s, Cork 57 Beer and Wine and Georgetown Square Wine & Beer in Bethesda; Rodman’s in White Flint; Wells Discount Liquors, Wine Source and Wine Underground in Baltimore; on the list at Black Market Bistro in Garrett Park, Monocacy Crossing and Toppings Pizza Company in Frederick, Sagamore Pendry in Baltimore. On the list in Virginia at AhSo in Ashburn, Girasole in The Plains, Trummer’s on Main in Clifton.

Mader Riesling 2017


Alsace, France, $22

This is classic-style Alsace riesling, round and full-bodied, with flavors of ripe peaches and apricots. Enjoy this with roasted or braised poultry, or semisoft cheeses. This vintage is new to the market, so availability should improve in coming weeks. ABV: 13 percent.

Imported and distributed by Elite: On the list in the District at Convivial, Siren. Available in Maryland at Jason’s Wine & Spirits in Ellicott City, State Line Liquors in Elkton, Wine Cellars of Annapolis, Wine Source in Baltimore, Wine World Beer & Spirits in Abingdon; on the list at Les Folies Brasserie in Annapolis. Available in Virginia at Once Upon a Vine (South) in Richmond, Whole Foods Market in Vienna, Williamsburg Pottery Factory in Lightfoot; on the list at La Côte d’Or Cafe in Arlington.

Trapan Ponente Istrian Malvazija 2017


Croatia, $22

This is decidedly a niche wine, but I like it. The various types of malvasia found throughout the Mediterranean vineyards can be sweet or dry, but they are invariably aromatic and fruity. The Trapan Ponente is dry, with tropical flavors of star fruit and guava. ABV: 13 percent.

Imported by Winebow, distributed by Winebow in the District, Country Vintner in Maryland and Virginia. Available in the District at DCanter, MacArthur Beverages, Potomac Wine & Spirits, Rodman’s; on the list at Ambar. On the list in Virginia at Ambar, Cosmopolitan Grill, Evening Star Cafe and Old House Cosmopolitan Grill in Alexandria.

Bulgariana Gamza 2015


Danube Plain, Bulgaria, $13

The heavy bottle connotes seriousness and heft, but this gamza, (the Bulgarian name for a grape variety known as kadarka elsewhere in Eastern Europe), is a light-bodied red, with bright cherry and berry flavors. It’s a fun red for sipping or snacking. ABV: 13 percent.

Imported by G&B, distributed by Global Wines: Available in the District at MacArthur Beverages, Rodman’s, Yes! Organic Market (various locations); on the list at Ambar, Bistro Bohem. Available in Maryland at Kielbasa Factory in Rockville, Maple Beer & Wine in Bethesda, Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-Op in Takoma Park, Total Wine & More (Laurel, Timonium), Wine Districts in Frederick, the Wine Harvest (Gaithersburg, Potomac). Available in Virginia at Streets Market (Alexandria, Arlington), Total Wine & More (various locations).

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.

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