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Those of us who enjoy sparkling wines at any season, but especially on a sultry summer evening with lightning crackling over the gulf, ignore Spanish Cavas at our peril. One of the best - and a best buy at about $10 - is Segura Viudas Cava Brut Reserva from Penedes on the country's Mediterranean coast, a region renowned for three grapes (macabeo, parellada and xarel-lo), all of which are blended in this wine.

The first great pleasure of this Cava is watching micro bubbles swarm upward in a column of platinum wine as you pour. The first burst is spectacular, but the lively bubbles persist right through the last glass owing to a brilliant execution of the methode champenoise, in which the wine is naturally fermented and aged on the lees in the bottle for a minimum of three years.

When you tear yourself away from the fizzy overture, your nose will be greeted by a cool and yeasty tease. When finally the bubbles burst in your mouth they flood the palate with a creamy, lemony, toasty complexity that is remarkable - and not only in a wine at this price but also in wines that cost much more. The effervescence persists through the finish, on which a welcome note of stony minerality is unmistakable.

What to eat with this superior sparkler? Anything your heart desires, from pungent soft cheeses to medium-rare grilled steak to ceviche to birthday cake.

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