My guess is that more corks are popped around midnight on New Year's Eve than any other time of the year. But sparkling wines are too often relegated to celebrations. It's a shame, really, as they're some of the most versatile wines around. Here are a few outstanding offerings that won't break the bank.
Bella Finca Prosecco, $11.99
This is an amazing value on a delicious little sparkler from Northern Italy. This wine is on the dryer side of the prosecco spectrum and on the lighter side when it comes to bubbles. It opens with lively floral aromas and a crisp array of fruit flavors, including apple, pear and peach. This wine weighs in at a modest 11 percent alcohol.
Scharffenberger Brut Excellence, $17.99
The winery went through a name and owner change--and a dip in quality--but it's back in the family with delicious results. Two parts chardonnay to one part pinot noir, this wine is rich and creamy, full-bodied and boasts ripe citrus flavors and touches of ginger and yeasty fresh-baked bread. A California classic.
2010 Le Rocher des Violettes Petillant Originel, $21
A startlingly good pick from France's Loire Valley, this natural wine is made with native yeast and nothing but grape juice--no added sugar or dosage. It's an intense wine with deep fruit flavors, amazing bubbles and a touch of black walnut on the finish.
2010 Raventos i Blanc de Nit Rose, $24
This wine takes Spanish cava to a new level. Made from classic Spanish varieties that are farmed biodynamically, this is a lovely, pink-hued wine with fresh red fruit flavors and crisp acidity on the finish. This is an exceptional bottle of bubbles at half the price of most entry-level champagnes.