Sparkling secrets

Sparkling wines should be in your wine repertoire every week, not just holidays or special events. To encourage that, some sparkling wine insights:

• Champagne is great, but there are sparklingly wonderful alternatives that typically cost significantly less. Start with crémant, sparkling wine made in France using the same technique as Champagne, but not made in the Champagne region. Also Spanish cava, made with Champagne technique, but made in Spain and available for very significantly less.

• Sparkling wines are extraordinarily versatile with food. Most have superb acidity, which is key to wine-food pairing. You can pair sparkling with Kentucky Fried Chicken, prosecco with cheesecake, cava with grilled artichokes. What other wine can do that? None.

• While versatile, not all sparkling goes with dessert. Many sparklings now are brut—dry wine. If you pair sparkling with sweet dessert, then pair with sweet sparkling: demi-sec, doux (sparkling wine sweetness definitions are completely different from still wines). Better yet, count the sparkling as dessert.

• A flute is not the de rigueur glass to drink sparkling. If you lust for lots of bubbles, use a flute. If you want to experience the aromas and still enjoy some bubbles, a standard wine glass works fine.

• Champagne can only be made with pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier grapes, right? Nope. Champagne rules also allow petite arbanne, petit meslier, pinot blanc, and fromenteau. These are rare grapes, but they also contribute to some of the most interesting bottlings from Champagne.

• If it is not Champagne, cava, or prosecco, then it is not worth drinking, right? Nope. The Loire Valley and Burgundy in France, Northern California, New York, and even New Mexico make sparklings that are delicious and amazingly affordable.

Tasting notes:

• Ruffino Prosecco Extra Dry DOC: Extra dry—touch of sweetness. Coquettish flirtation with sweet makes this appealing to wide range of palates. $10-13 Link to my review

• Perlage Sgàjo Extra Dry Vegan Prosecco DOC Treviso: Delicious, organic, and vegan; clean, direct on the palate. $10-13 Link to my review

• Mumm Napa Blanc de Blancs Sparkling NV: Creamy with good acidity and minerality, a fun easy drinker without the austerity of a brut or drier sparkling. $18-25 Link to my review

• Argyle Vintage Brut Sparkling Willamette Valley 2013: Rich in the mouth, precise, correct for a sparkling made in Champagne style and method. $19-26 Link to my review

Last round: Don’t drink sparkling wine and drive. You might his a bump and spill it. There are very significant other reasons, but spilling clearly is one of them.