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N.V.-Scharffenberger, Pacific Echo, Rosé, $22.99 at Whole Foods: An American beauty
Iron Horse Rosé, $25.79 at Richard's: America's best rosé
Houston, TX 77006
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Richard's Liquors and Fine Wines, 2124 South Shepherd (and other locations), (713)529-4849. Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Whole Foods, 2955 Kirby Drive (and other locations), (713)520-1937. Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé First Cru N.V., $27.99 at Spec's: 100 percent pinot noir, a great value
Lanson Brut Rosé N.V., $42.99 at Whole Foods: Toasty and complex
Taittinger Cuvée Prestige Rosé, $43.79 at Spec's: A real stunner
These sparkling wines are made in regions outside the Champagne district with grape varietals not usually associated with champagne. French Cremants aren't quite as bubbly as champagne, so they don't hold their fizz as long, but they are excellent bargains.
Willm Cremant d'Alsace, $11.99 at Spec's: Citrus and yeast flavors
Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace, $13.49 at Richard's: Alsatian pinot blanc
Labet Cremant de Bourgogne, $12.99 at Spec's: Chardonnay from Burgundy
Spanish cava, Italian spumante and sparkling wine from other parts of the world can be quite impressive -- especially for the money. Cava, the Spanish variety of sparkling wine, is very much in vogue. It is made by the same labor-intensive method as French champagne, but with grapes native to the east coast of Spain. Some Spanish cava producers use strains of yeast imported from Champagne.
Italian spumante is not very popular lately, but some other Italian sparkling wines from the Trentino region are selling well. The Australians have also gotten into the business lately with a sparkling chardonnay.
Segura Viudas Brut Riserva, $7.99 at Spec's: A good Spanish cava
Cristalino Cava Brut, $7.99 at Whole Foods: Another quality cava
Rotari Brut Arte, $8.89 at Richard's: Italian sparkler made with the Champagne method
Marques de Gelida, $9.48 at Spec's: A step up in Spanish cavas
Albet i Noya Cava 1995, $13.27 at Spec's: A top cava with real depth and complexity
Banrock Station Sparkling Chardonnay, $9.99 at Whole Foods: Straight from Down Under
Blanc de blancs: Literally "white from whites," which, in Champagne, means 100 percent chardonnay.
Blanc de noirs: "White from blacks," a white wine made with a dark grape. In Champagne the dark grapes are pinot noir and pinot meunier.
Brut: It literally means "natural," but in the case of champagne, it really means dry. Brut is drier than "extra dry."
Charmat bulk process: A process to make less expensive sparkling wine by speeding up the traditional champagne production method.
Méthode champenoise: Made by the expensive champagne process.
Cremant: French sparkling wines, generally with fewer bubbles (about two-thirds the pressure of champagne) produced outside of the Champagne region.
Cuvée: The blend of wines used to make a champagne.
N.V. or nonvintage: Champagnes made by blending wines produced in several different years. Nonvintage champagnes are consistent in taste from year to year.
Vintage: Champagnes made from wines produced in a single exceptional year. These vary widely in character from one vintage to another.