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In France, non-champagne sparklers or Crémant are made in most areas although the most interesting and affordable usually come from Limoux and the Loire. The term Crémant is used across Europe to signal the wine is harvested by hand, aged for one year in bottle and, of course, that it is made using the méthode champenoise. If the wine is carbonated or made using other bulk methods it is simply tagged Mousseux, which is French for "sparkling wine."
In Germany, nearly all sparkling wines or Sekt are carbonated in huge tanks. In South Africa, Cap Classique designates sparkling wine made in the traditional French method, while in Italy Prosecco says it all as it describes the style of sparkling wine and the grape used to make it.
Remember sparkling wine should be served chilled (5º to 6º C) but not frozen. Put the bottle in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (the top milk shelf is the coldest spot), or plunge it into ice and water for 15 minutes before serving.
You can serve sparkling wine in any glass. The classic, tall thin glass called a flute does a great job of showing off the bubbles but the new tulip shaped flute that is slightly wider at the tip is also ideal.
Shaking the bottle and expelling the cork halfway across the room looks good in the movies but when you open sparkling wine it's best to grasp the cork in one hand and rotate the bottle with the other until the cork gently and quietly slides out. After that, it's up to you to make you own fun.
Here's a list of 10 excellent bubbles to get you started:
Codorníu Cuvée Raventos Brut N/V, Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, Penedès, Spain $20
Expect nutty, toasted floral flavours in a taut and nervous style. Heat some cheese sticks in the oven and you have a stellar pre-party pairing.
Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Noirs N/V, Columbia Valley, Washington, United States $20
Dry, taut palate with cranberry, strawberry, citrus, granny smith, floral flavours. This screams for tapas and pre-dinner appetizers.
Graham Beck Brut N/V, Breede River Valley, South Africa $25
This Cap Classique bubbler is made at the winery's Robertson facility and is packed full of citrus, green apple, honey, garlic, toasted nut flavours. A fine match for grilled prawns.
Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé N/V, Alsace, France $25