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Bubbly wines that won't burst your budget

Trying to sate Champagne tastes when you're stuck with a beer budget can be a problem, but there is frugal fizz to be had, wine experts say.

Champagne, to be precise, generally is considered to be only sparkling wine from the region of France of the same name. And quaffing bottles that bear that name comes at a premium.

But there are lower-priced options, including U.S. and Australian sparkling wines, Spanish cavas and Italian proseccos.

"As the years go on, they're getting better and better because the technology and the skill of making these products is increasing," says Wilfred Wong, cellar master for the Beverages & More chain with stores in California and Arizona.

This is the time of year when sparklers are at their most appealing, says Leslie Sbrocco, author of Wine for Women, and a frequent judge at wine tastings. "Everybody wants to have a party and nothing says party better than bubbles."

So here are some sparklers generally available for around $10 (prices may vary by region).

Wong's suggestions

Cristalino cava brut

"Very fresh and it's good. It's been consistent for a long time, but every year they get better."

Domaine Ste. Michelle blanc de blanc

"Elegant, tart and rich, but also wonderful flavors."

Freixenet cordon negro brut

"Very consistent, a little drier. The black bottle's very sexy."

Yellow Tail sparkling white

"It's easy drinking."

Segura Viudas Aria

(This one may bust the budget, but discounted versions do go for under $10), "a little cleaner, crisper, it's very appealing."

Dolce Vita prosecco

(Also sometimes found at above $10, but often available for less on promotion), "fresh and bright, a soft prosecco."

Sbrocco's suggestions

Barefoot Cellars

Barefoot Bubbly Chardonnay Champagne, "not overly complex, but a refreshing crowd-pleaser that pairs perfectly with party fare, such as popcorn or potato chips."

Crane Lake Brut

"Fruity and straightforward but a good pick for making holiday cocktails with a splash of cranberry or pomegranate juice."

Last thoughts

From Natalie MacLean, of the Nat Decants wine Web site (nataliemaclean.com), two wines around the $10 price point:

Ricossa Moscato D'Asti

"A lovely frizzante (slightly sparkling wine) with aromas of ripe peaches and limes. Drink as an aperitif or with mildly spiced Thai or Indian dishes, biscotti or fruit desserts."

Banrock Station Sparkling Chardonnay

"A generous, fruity bubbly with notes of green apples and white peach. I pair it with Chinese takeout, almonds, Brie cheese, sushi and potato chips."

Bubbly wines that won't burst your budget 12/27/08 [Last modified: Saturday, December 27, 2008 3:30am]

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