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Updated Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 04:03 PM

Pop, pop, fizz, fizz: Get the party started with bubbles

By Paul Gregutt

Special to The Seattle Times

ALL YOUR favorite retailers will be featuring sparkling wines these next few weeks, and much as I would love to taste them all, well, let's just say I'm not the man I used to be. So be confident that any wine shop or beverage department with an on-site professional will be able to answer your questions about the wines they stock.

Champagne remains the best of all sparklers, and this year a spiffy new label adorns one of my favorites, the Brut Reserve from Charles Heidsieck. Priced around $60, this is certainly a special-occasion bottle, but it rewards you with a pleasing toasty character and well-ripened, autumnal fruits.

Plenty of other well-made, party-friendly bubblies are available at much lower prices. Many of the most exciting are coming from northern Italy.

Ferrari is based in Trento, in the foothills of the Alps. These are immaculately crisp sparkling wines done in several styles. Look for the Brut NV (non-vintage), made entirely from chardonnay in an elegant, restrained style reminiscent of a French blanc de blancs. The Ferrari Perlé is essentially a vintage reserve of the same wine, aged in the bottle for five years, and showing particular finesse. Most popular is the Ferrari Brut Rosé, a pinot noir/chardonnay blend, scented with rose petals, wild berries and a whiff of brioche. These three wines are priced comparably to the less expensive Champagnes.

Riondo is at the low end of the pricing spectrum, but the wines are cleverly packaged and the styles clearly aimed at a youthful audience. Even a codger like me can't help but enjoy these wines; they simply shout "let the good times roll." The three mentioned here are sealed with screwcaps, and why not? A screw cap is much easier to open and far less dangerous than the traditional champagne cork. And it goes right back on to keep the bubbles fresh.

Riondo Frizecco is lightly sparkling, fruity and clean, with a bit of sweetness. Riondo's pink Spago Argento would make an excellent mixer, but all by itself it has enough flavor to set up simple appetizers, and just a bare hint of sweetness. Its companion, Spago Nero, is as fine a Prosecco as you will find in the $10-to-$12 range. The vintage-dated Punto Rosso Prosecco is a few dollars more, but has a cage and cork seal along with considerably more flavor appeal.

The best value from our Northwest wineries remains Domaine Ste. Michelle, and the Brut NV ($10-$12) is the one to ask for. It's just slightly sweeter than the Blanc de Blancs, with good focus, density and length. Quite honestly, it's every bit as good as the winery's fancy-schmancy Luxe bottling, which costs twice as much.

Paul Gregutt's blog is www.paulgregutt.com. Email: paulgwine@me.com.

Pick of the week

Secco Italian Bubbles; $12

SECCO'S BRUT Bianco and Brut Rosé were an instant success when introduced a couple of years ago, and now they are joined by Secco Moscato and Secco Moscato Manzoni. The Moscato is especially fine for sipping, with pretty orange blossom scents and flavors, and a sweet finish. (Distributed by Noble)


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