By Rick Riozza

What’s more festive than the pop of a Champagne cork and the fizz of the bubbles as everyone gathers around with fun antics while you pour liquid sparkles into holiday flutes!

And the party continues onto the holiday table where the bubbly we’ve been pouring will also work as well as a wonderful choice to match the impressive meal spread before us.

With the season upon us and New Year’s Eve just around the corner, now’s the time to look at some stylist selections for those wishing to toast family, friends and guests with a nice bottle of sparklers. And I’m sure we’ll have plenty of bubbly to write on next month—so stay tuned!

In the brave new world of wine, Champagne and sparkling wines come in all colors, especially in white, rosé and red (as with the Sparkling Shiraz from Australia we bring up below). And generally speaking, sparkling rosé and red wines are richer—or bolder, and most often pair very well with food from every corner of the earth.

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In our last columns or so, we’ve all acknowledged the spectrum of wine prices from the very high to the discount low. It’s great to have the availability to choose from whatever one is happy to celebrate with. So whether you’re selecting from the luxury aisle, or from the more reasonably priced section, have fun and consider some of the choices below:

So, let’s start with “the big dogs” or shall we say in French, “les Grands Chiens”. Yes—I know, this column loves Champagne, so we shall first frolic with festive French.

Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut 150th Anniversary Limited Edition ($39.99) This Champagne is a double treat at a great price! It carries fame & pedigree and with the impressive designed bottle—how cool is your bubbly party! Celebrating the 150th anniversary of this wine, first created in 1869 and named Impérial in honor of Napoleon, a close friend of the Champagne House’s Moët family.

For this Champagne House, it’s a big deal and they wish you to share the feeling, as they’ve priced the bottle so reasonably. To mark the 150th anniversary of Moët Impérial, their website states, “Moët & Chandon has unveiled a limited-edition bottle with a redesigned logo that erects the “I” of “Impérial” into a new symbol for its most emblematic champagne.

I think this Anniversary edition is one of the best Impérial Bruts. It’s so well balanced with aromas and flavors of light toast, Gala apple, honey & ginger, and hints of pineapple, lemon and tangerine; great texture, juicy acidity with nice mineral notes. It will be the hit of the party

Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2012: ($75): While we’re at it, let’s also talk about the Grand Vintage 2012 which is labeled Extra Brut. This wine delights with its maturity, complexity and charisma with 41% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Noir and 26% Meunier making up the blend. For you “brut” fans, this one is the classic Champagne whose quality can match the champagnes costing three to four times more.

Grand Vintages are reserved for grape harvests which stand out as exceptional. The Grand Vintage 2012 is only the 74th such release in the brand’s 276-year history. The talk going around is that this new Vintage is close to the 1996s and 2002s. For those in the know—now’s the time to buy.

The 2012 opens with hints of fresh white flowers moving to inviting aromas of tropical fruit, sweet pastry, and walnuts & hazelnuts and on to a palate of grilled nuts and blackberry tart. Very creamy in texture; juicy and complex; balanced, clean, and rich with a firm backbone of citrus acidity and minerality with a zippy finish that includes pink grapefruit.

Last year for Thanksgiving we recommended the Champagne Henroit Blancs de Blancs at $59. Ditto for this year with its 100% Chardonnay bubbly! Champagne Henriot Rosé Vintage 2012($125) is a brut rosé is made from 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay exclusively sourced from Premier and Grand Cru vineyards. Champagne Henriot Rosé is elegant, luminous, intensely flavored with a fresh and delicious red fruit palate.

Changing French geographic terroir to Alsace, we are always a big fan of the Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut and Brut Rosé, both sell for around $22. The Brut is produced from 100% Pinot Blanc and shows refreshing touches of lime and lemon zest on the nose. The palate adds a mellow ripe-apple note, helped along by a creamy texture. The long finish is clean and dry.

The very popular Brut Rosé is pure Pinot Noir with a panoply of aromas and flavors of dried fruit, apricot, citrus, orange peel, and herb notes. It’s got good acidity and of course is bolder and more lush than its brut sibling. We carry the Crémant Brut Rosé, at Ralph’s market, but not the Pinot Blanc Brut—I’ll look into it.

As promised above, I’d like to recommend a very tasty sparkling Syrah from down under. This bubbly is pretty commonplace in Australia, and, pretty much is the wine it sounds like—a sparkling version of the popular red produced in Australia. These Aussie sparkling red combines the best qualities of a good red Shiraz: juicy berry flavors and tannins, along with bubbles and chill—goes perfectly with any leftover turkey, ham and cheese.

Bleasdale Longhorn Creek Sparkling Shiraz ($18). Amazing or not, there are a lot of high-end sparkling Shiraz selling for around $50! This Bleasdale is the nation’s best value sparkler. It’s versatile too, suiting not only grilled beef but Christmas plum pudding too with its mix of prune, cranberry, licorice, spice and leather. Who’ll be the first one on the block to find this wine around town? Cheers!

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