Sparkling wines outside of Champagne are a good holiday alternative

courtesy photoQuarticello’s Despina wine is dry yet aromatic and makes a great aperitif.

Sparkling wines made outside of Champagne, France, are usually thought of as an alternative, as in a less expensive substitute for the “real thing.” And, while I do think Champagne is unparalleled in its potential for complexity and ability to age, sometimes I opt to drink other sparkling wines because I am seeking qualities that are unique to their locations.

With the holiday season now in full force, I’m sure lots of you are going to be looking for bubbles to bring to parties, as gifts and for your own enjoyment. Since there is so much to choose from, I’m going to split it up into several parts over the next few weeks. Here are some of my 2013 favorites from Spain and Italy.

Montsarra Cava, NV (Penedes, Spain): I loved this wine back in the days when it sold for $15 or less, but even at $17 it is a pretty good deal. A typical blend of 70 percent macabeo with the rest being roughly equal parts xarel-lo and parellada, Montsarra tastes like a crisp, juicy green apple. Suggested retail: $17

Quarticello Malvasia Emilia I.G.T. Frizzante, Despina, 2012 (Emilia-Romagna, Italy): Quarticello is known for lambrusco, but its malvasia is stunning. Dry, yet aromatic —but not too perfumed — with floral, stone-fruit and pear aromas and flavors, it makes a great aperitif or dessert. Suggested retail: $19

Suriol Cava Brut, 2010 (Penedes, Spain): One of the rare certified organic producers of cava, Suriol was founded in the 1990s but the family has been making wine on this land since the 15th century. A lot of cava smells more like petrol than wine, but not this one, which is more like green apple and quince, spliced with a chalk-like minerality. Suggested retail: $21

Bohigas Cava Brut Nature, NV (Penedes, Spain): The Bohigas family has occupied and worked off of the same land since the 12th century. Today, it is a medium-sized winery producing numerous cavas and still wines. Made from the three traditional cava grapes — macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada — this is, as the term “brut nature” dictates, a very dry sparkling wine, with hints of nuts and citrus. Suggested retail: $21

Casa Coste Piane Prosecco Frizzante Naturale, 2012 (Veneto, Italy): Much of the Prosecco you find is mass-produced, and while many are innocuous, few are exciting. Enter Casa Coste Piane. Among the qualities that separate it from the pack is that it is bottled without being disgorged first. It is cloudy, in the way an unfiltered white wine has a murky appearance. But don’t let that scare you off, as on the palate it is like no other Prosecco I’ve tried, with hints of buttered bread crumbs and red apples. Suggested retail: $27

Deltetto Spumante Rosé, NV (Piedmont, Italy): This is some pretty gorgeous juice from Roero, a region known for its white wine made from arneis. Equal parts nebbiolo and pinot noir, Deltetto spends four years on its lees and is treated in the same manner as many vintage champagnes. With hints of pastry dough, raspberries and floral notes, this multidimensional sparkler is one of the most memorable Italian wines I’ve tried over the year. Suggested retail: $34

Some of these wines can be found at Blue Fog Market, Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, K&L Wine Merchant, Ruby Wine Merchant, San Francisco Wine Trading Company, Vin Vino Wine in Palo Alto, Whole Foods, Terroir, Solano Cellars, Vintage Berkeley, Bi-Rite, WilliamCross, Vintage Wine Merchants and Wine Vault.

Pamela S. Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.ChampagneFeaturesFood & DrinkFood and WineSpainsparkling wines

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