Consumers are smartening up and getting more kicks from champagne bargains

“I get no kick from champagne.
Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all,
So tell me why should it be true
That I get a kick out of you”
Cole Porter

With all due respect, Cole, an increasing number of us do indeed get a kick from champagne. Or for that matter, from sparkling wines in general.

Particularly around that time of year when the confetti starts flying, the noise makers start making noise and New York’s Times Square holds its collective breath for the New Year’s ball to drop.

As this recent USA TODAY article proclaims: “Bubbles are back.”

Not since the buying frenzy of 1999, when people bought champagne in bulk to ring in the millennium, have U.S. champagne and sparkling wine sales been so high. Volume for 2007 is expected to hit 900 million glasses, up 4% over 2006, says the 2007 Impact Annual Wine Study.

Among the things driving the rise in sales is heightened consumer education about price, flavors and food pairings, according to the article.

So I thought I’d do my pre-holiday bit and bubble up a little know-how that could come in handy as you consider what sparkling wine to select.

A good place to start is this tempting list of bubblies — “from bone-dry and austere to very fruity to sweet” — brought to us by the San Francisco Chronicle. (Affordability alert: This NV Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut, from one of California’s several French-owned sparkling wine producers, rings up at only $23 but earned three stars.)

Speaking of affordability (or at least, relative affordability), Mike Steinberger at Slate reviews non-vintage champagne offerings, which unlike their vintage cousins are typically blended from wines from different years. Steinberger also cites the Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut, calling it “arguably the best-value bubbly on the market.”

At Food & Wine, Ray Isle continues the non-vintage thread with five of his favorites to look for this holiday season.

If you really can’t get enough of the stuff, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg at The Washington Post offer some decadently tantalizing instructions on how to have A Sparkling Toast for Every Course.

Concluding our educational focus:

Happy New Year!

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