Tiny bubbles titillate. There's something mesmerizing about watching them flood a tall, fluted glass, something intensely satisfying about the fizzy sensation that overtakes your tongue. It's hard to describe, but "sensual" comes close. Inexpensive sparklers double the effect, with the added pride of a bargain making for a perfect moment.
Thanks to the growing popularity of bubblies in other countries, decent deals are more available now. But finding them, besides relying on the stereotypical bottle shape, can be a little more difficult because of naming rights. The common term in our vernacular is champagne, but the French get a little pissy about us generalizing the name, a la Kleenex. Spanish speakers call them cavas, the Italians call them spumante, the French -- outside of the Champagne region -- cremant, and we should call them sparkling wines. No matter what country it hails from, bubbly is rising in quality and it's now hard to argue that the Real French Thing is the best for the money. With your wallet in mind, I've assembled a motley crew of labels under $30 per bottle, most under $20. Cheers.
Barefoot Cellars Chardonnay Champagne Extra Dry. SW = 6. HHH1/2I. $8. Apricots and raspberry flavors make this inexpensive California bubbly like fruit cocktail without the heavy syrup. Great balance of sugar that will please most palates.
Grandin Brut Loire Valley. SW = 3. HHH1/2I. $10. From another great region for sparkling wines in France -- the Loire Valley. Full-bodied, with a taste that smacks of smooth almond butter. If you like your sparklers a bit less tart, this one's for you. Amazing value.
Lindauer Brut New Zealand. SW = 1. . $12. Damn, those kiwis can make fantastic wine. Just as good as the snobby French, at a third of the price. This is easily the best deal out there for dry sparkling wines this year. Very dry with firm acids, citrus and a gorgeous creamy feel in the mouth.
Argyle 1999 Brut Willamette Valley. SW = 2. . $14. From Oregon comes a refreshingly citrus, toasty, minerally sparkling wine. Has some great oomph to it in the mouth and finishes clean.
Codorníu Pinot Noir Brut Cava. SW = 4. . $14. This pink Spanish sparkler bears the earthiness of a Pinot Noir, mixed with a crisp, tart strawberry. Very light-bodied and easy to drink.
Jean Baptiste Adam Cremant d'Alsace Brut. SW = 4. . $18. This French sparkling wine is a bargain from the Alsace region. Toasty citrus, with plenty of fizz to liven up the party.
Mumm Napa Cuvée 'M'. SW = 7. . $18. For the sweeter sparkling fans out there, here comes a doozy. Rich and fruity with strawberries and peaches. Hints of vanilla and caramel as well.
Prestige Mumm Cuvee Napa Valley. SW = 2. . $18. Clean and spicy, smelling coolly like wet slate. Citrus and mineral define the flavor.
Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley. SW = 2. . $20. From California. Full of toasty yeast, lemon and green apple.
Mumm Cuvée Napa Blanc de Noirs Brut. SW = 3. . $22. Zesty and tangy sparkling wine with fresh strawberries coming to the party. Crisp and light.
Duval Leroy Brut Champagne. SW = 2. . $26. A French, full-bodied, tangerine-y, citrus number. Great deal on the real deal from the old country. Yeasty and floral, too.
Oudinot Cuvée Brut. SW = 2. . $29. Light, refreshing raspberry with loads of action on the tongue. Kick-ass fruity finish, too. Quite yummy.
the wine list
Black Bear Tavern -- Bottles of red and white wines every Tuesday for $12. 1931 Peachtree Road. 404-355-9089. www.blackbeartavern.net.
Cafe at East Andrews -- Each week, the restaurant offers Wine Down Wednesdays, with bottles of wine for half price. Included in the promotion is the "Cellar List," so patrons have the chance to sample high-quality wines like Silver Oak and Opus One. 56 E. Andrews Drive. 404-869-1132. www.eastandrews.com.
Cheetah -- Wine, Women & Thong every third Friday of each month, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Executive Room. The $15 event includes front door cover, Executive Room admission, hors d'oeuvres and wine. The next tasting is Fri., Dec. 17. 887 Spring St. 404-892-3037.
D'Vine Wine Bar and Shop -- Come enjoy a wine event every day of the week (with the exception of Sunday). To mention just a few: Monday from 6-8 p.m. is D'Vine's Uncorked Night, where customers can sample all open bottles for $12. From 6-8 p.m. on Tuesdays, D'Vine has wine tastings of six to eight themed wines. Wine Knowledge Wednesdays include classes by expert Michael Bryant, trivia and a four-course dinner. 5486 Chamblee Dunwoody Road. 770-350-9463. www.atlantawinebar.com.
Eclipse di Luna -- Enjoy a wine tasting event the first Tuesday of every month from 6-7 p.m. For $10, it includes tapas and bottomless glasses of six to eight wines. 764 Miami Circle. 404-846-0449.
Eno -- Blind tasting special offered every Tuesday. Those who correctly identify an unknown wine receive a complimentary glass. Restricted to Tuesday bar hours, at the bar only. Every Wednesday, Mediterranean wine and tapas. $5 a glass, $3 a plate. 6-8 p.m. Also, Eno presents a wine tasting special every Thursday. Admission of $25-$35 includes three to five wines from different regions around the world served like a flight. 6-8 p.m. 800 Peachtree St. 404-685-3191. www.eno-atlanta.com.
Flying Biscuit Cafe, Candler Park -- Take advantage of the Fabulous Fixed Price Friday Wine Tasting Dinner every Friday. The $25 event includes a three-course meal and paired wines. 1655 McLendon Ave. For info and reservations, call 404-687-8888. www.flyingbiscuit.com.
Gilbert's Mediterranean Cafe -- Every Thursday, Gilbert's offers a tasting of three half-glasses of featured wines with a full glass of your favorite pick, along with a cheese platter, for $15, from 6-11 p.m. 219 10th St. 404-872-8012. www.gilbertscafe.com.
The Grape -- Grape Crush every Wednesday, 5-7 p.m. Wine specials and complimentary appetizers. Saturdays, noon-3 p.m., sample six featured wines. 4300 Paces Ferry Road, Suite 244. 770-803-WINE.
Haven -- Come enjoy D'Vine Sundays at Haven when the restaurant offers $29 bottles from the entire wine list. 1441 Dresden Drive. For more info, call 404-969-0700 or visit www.havenrestaurant.com.
Imperial Fez -- Taste wines from around the world paired with Moroccan appetizers the first Wednesday of every month. $15. 5:30-7 p.m. 2285 Peachtree Road. 404-351-0870.
Inman Park Patio -- Every Monday night, wines by the bottle are half-off. 1029 Edgewood Ave. 404-659-5757. www.inmanparkpatio.com.
Java Monkey -- Wine tasting every other Thursday on the patio. The next tasting -- which includes music and chair massage -- will be Thurs., Dec. 23. Sample featured wines and complimentary hors d'oeuvres. $15. 7-9 p.m. 425 Church St. 404-378-5002.
Murphy's -- Wine tasting Tuesdays start at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $10 for tasting, with $5 off any entree. 997 Virginia Ave. 404-872-0904. www.murphysvh.com.
Sage -- Come enjoy the revival of Wednesday night wine tasting, 6:30-8:30 p.m. For $13, the event includes light hors d'oeuvres, live jazz and a raffle. Reservations recommended. 121 Sycamore St. 404-373-5574. www.thebistros.com.
SoHo -- Every Wednesday night is "flight night." Beginning at 5:30 p.m., bar manager J.D. Doyle leads participants on a tasting tour of regions. For December and January, SoHo embarks on a "Wine Tour Down Under," featuring wines from Australia and New Zealand. Prices range from $17-$19. 4300 Paces Ferry Road. 770-801-0069. www.sohoatlanta.com.
Spice -- Half-priced bottles of wine every Tuesday, 6 p.m.-closing. Choose from more than 100 wine varietals. Also, "Sipping from the Vine" wine tasting and complimentary hors d'oeuvres every Thursday, 6-8 p.m. $10 per person. 793 Juniper St. 404-875-4242. www.spicerestaurant.com.
Star Provisions -- Wine tasting every Wednesday, 7-8 p.m. Reservations required. 1198 Howell Mill Road. 404-365-0410, ext. 1111.
Tierra -- Bottles of half-priced wine every Tuesday to celebrate its fifth anniversary. This special is limited to bottles under $40. 1425 Piedmont Ave. 404-974-5951. www.tierrarestaurant.com.
Twist -- Every Monday, Twist offers half-priced bottles for every item on the wine list, including Dom Perignon. 3500 Peachtree Road. 404-869-1191.
Vine -- Each Monday, the complete wine list of more than 160 wines by the bottle and 40 by the glass is 50 percent off. Every Wednesday, the restaurant offers a tasting of at least six wines from 6-8 p.m. Cost is $10, which can be applied to your dinner check to receive $10 off, rendering the wine tasting free. Every Sunday, Vine holds a three-course wine pairing dinner for $27.95. Reservations are encouraged. 404-892-2393. 1190 N. Highland Ave. www.vinerestaurant.com.
Vinocity -- Exotic dinners paired with bottomless glasses of wine from a specific region every Sunday, starting at 5:30 p.m. Prices vary by the week. And Mondays, $5 wine tasting from 6-11 p.m. Three or four selections presented like a flight. 36 13th St. 404-870-8886. www.vinocitywinebar.com.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or fax information to 404-420-1402 at least two weeks prior to event.
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