Food & Drink

Tastings: CELEBRATING NEW YEAR'S

Before Thursday, many of us will make a mad dash to the store to pick up some bubbly. In addition to different styles and price points, you'll also want to consider that each country has its own name for and style of sparkling wine. Spain calls it cava; in California, it's sparkling wine; in Italy, it's mainly spumante; and in France, of course, it's champagne. Here are a few of the better sparkling wines I have tasted this past year.

- Barefoot Brut, California, $8

This drier brut has layers of yellow fruit and crisp green apple notes. This winery makes quality wines for exceptional value, and this brut keeps with the tradition.

- Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava, Spain, $10

This one is easy to spot in its classic black bottle. It is nice and dry with pear and golden delicious apple flavors and a nice creaminess on the finish. The acidity seems a little lower than in most bruts, making for an easier drinking experience. Another winner for the price.

- J Brut Rose, California, $38

This is one of my personal favorites. J makes exceptional still wines, but the sparkling wines are world class. A rose derives its color from longer juice contact with the pinot noir and pinot meunier grape skins, imparting a soft salmon-like hue to the wine. Aromas of cherries and violets mature into creamy strawberry and ripe pear flavors with a perfect amount of yeastiness and dryness.

- Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, California, $24

This is Mumm's signature sparkling wine, showcasing about 50 parcels of vineyards chosen each year to create a house style. Elegant and sleek is the best way to describe the flavors, with notes of vanilla beans, yeast and cantaloupe dissipating into a crisp and refreshing taste.

- Taittinger Brut La Francaise, France, $45

In this classic French champagne, aromas of pears and white peaches flow into a crisp taste with a balance of stone fruit and softer apple and vanilla notes. The finish is lively with a subtle bread crust quality, citrus zest and cream.

- Carvella Limoncello Orginale d'Italia, Italy, 64 proof, $22 750 ml

This treasure makes a perfect stand-alone drink on the rocks and also works in a variety of cocktails, ranging from cosmopolitans to a simple limoncello and cream mixture. Layers of sweet lemon juice and a subtle creaminess coat the mouth and mature into a tangy finish. After a few sips, this often overlooked drink will become a new best friend.

- St. Terese's Pale Ale, Highland Brewing Co., Asheville, 5.2 percent alcohol, $7 per six-pack

This beer has a honey-like brown color, with aromas of creamy vanilla and toasted hops. The flavors were not bitter or overpowering, with light notes of cedar and floral. This easy-drinking everyday beer is crisp and refreshing with a good body and flavor. Drink it with almost any menu or just enjoy it after a long day of work.

NOTE: FOR A LIST OF UPCOMING WINES TO BE REVIEWED, E-MAIL ADVANCE@WINETALK.ORG.

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