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Wine of the week: Cristalino, brut cava, Spain

Years ago we astonished a friend by taking her out for one of those then uncommon wood-oven designer pizzas and ordering a sparkling wine to drink with it.

"You drink Champagne with pizza, on a weeknight?" She was floored.

Well, not all the time. Champagne is pretty pricey, especially for a Tuesday night takeout pie, but Cristalino, a brut Cava from Spain that goes for $7 to $9 a bottle, is the perfect alternative and a real bargain.

This medium-bodied nonvintage sparkler, made by the traditional Champagne method, has plenty of tireless tiny bubbles to tickle your nose, smooth notes of apple and fig in the drinking, and a clean, dry, lemony finish. You may never have heard of the grapes from which it's blended (macabeo, parellada and xarello), but with casual fare you'll love the balanced, fruit-forward style that Catalonian producer Jaume Serra achieves with grapes from its own Mediterranean vineyards and a few selected regional growers.

In addition to pizza, we like Cristalino with tangy tarragon chicken salad, with simply grilled fresh Coho salmon, and with shrimp sauteed in lots of garlic, lemon and white wine. It's equally delightful before dinner or with a cool fruit dessert.

Next up: a budget-minded alternative to pinot noir.

By Colette and John Bancroft. Colette Bancroft is the Times' book editor. John Bancroft is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.

Wine of the week: Cristalino, brut cava, Spain 10/14/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 16, 2008 10:37am]
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