I've said earlier that my big advice and my hope for the holiday season is that you don't wait until New Year's Eve to pop open some bubbles. But the topic of sparkling wines scares many people. I say grab a mixed case of inexpensive (not cheap) bubbles and bring at least one bottle to every gathering you attend this month. To pre-empt a few questions:
1) Am I going to hurt myself or others when I open it?
Don't point it at your face or anything fragile, and just hold the cork while slowly twisting the bottle. Keep a firm grip on the cork, and in a few seconds it will just pull itself out. Better to practice on inexpensive bottles before you try to open a classic vintage Champagne.
2) Why should I pay $100 for a bottle of wine when $50 spills on the floor (or scantily-clad floozies, as music videos have taught me everything I know about opening bubbly)?
Keep the bottle vertical, and don't shake it, regardless of what you've seen on TV. Another good reason to get a lot of practice this month with inexpensive bottles.
3) Don't I have to wait for a really special occasion?
I often think of inexpensive sparklers as grape soda. Does grape soda need a special occasion? No. Have fun and let the bubbles tickle your nose.
4) You say avoid cheap wine, but I can find rounded bottles with foil caps for as low as $3 a bottle. Why not those?
They taste awful, even with lots of orange juice and Tom Collins mix to hide the flavor. There's drinkable stuff starting at $10. Which leads me to...
Barefoot Bubbly. It's fun, it's not expensive, and it's easy to find. Here are three that show off some standard types of sparkling wine. I don't have the alcohol percentages or grapes used in these wines, but I'm going to keep the reviews simple this time for the person that is still a little intimidated by sparkling wine. Start small, and in a year you'll be arguing with me about obscure grower Champagnes.
NV Barefoot Rosé Cuvée
Just because it's pink doesn't mean it's sweet. This is a fairly dry rosé that I found to be delightful with a grilled cheese sandwich (with some ham and sliced pears in there). Strawberry and lemon flavors, crisp and tangy like lemonade.
NV Barefoot Moscato Spumante
The sweet member of the trio, this is full of honey and musk and will appeal the most to those who almost never drink wine. Serve with some cheesecake and raspberries and feel guilty the next day.
NV Barefoot Brut Cuvée
The driest of the three. Dry just means "not sweet", and this one is crisp and toasty with good acidity. If you like inexpensive Chardonnay, you'll enjoy this wine. Serve with your salty appetizers like popcorn and bruschetta and pretzels.
Note: These wines were received as samples.