Tiny bubbles 

Tiny bubbles

The common term in our vernacular is champagne, but the French get a little pissy about us genericizing their name like Kleenex. Spanish speakers call them cavas, the Italians call them spumante, the French outside of the Champagne region call them crémant, so let's just stick with calling them sparkling wines.

No matter what country they hail from, the quality of sparkling wines is rising, and it's now hard to argue that the "real French thing" is the best for the money. With your wallet in mind, I've assembled a motley crew of labels under $30 per bottle, most under $20. Cheers and Happy New Year.

Barefoot Cellars Chardonnay Champagne Extra Dry Apricots and raspberry flavors make this inexpensive California bubbly taste like fruit cocktail without the heavy syrup. Great balance of sugar that will please most palates. $8.

Grandin Brut Loire Valley From another great region for sparkling wines in France the Loire Valley. Full-bodied that smacks of smooth almond butter. If you like them less tart, this one's for you. Amazing value. $10.

Lindauer Brut New Zealand Damn, those Kiwis can make fantastic wine. Just as good as the French, at one-third the price. This is the best deal out there for dry sparkling wines this year. Very dry with firm acids, citrus, and a gorgeous creamy mouth-feel. $12.

Argyle 1999 Brut Willamette Valley From Oregon comes a refreshingly citrus, toasty, minerally sparkling wine. Has some great oomph to it and finishes clean. $14.

Codorníu Pinot Noir Brut Cava This pink Spanish sparkler bears the earthiness of a pinot noir, mixed with a crisp, tart strawberry. Very light-bodied and easy to drink. $14.

Jean Baptiste Adam Crémant d'Alsace Brut This French sparkling wine comes from the Alsace region, making it a bargain. Toasty citrus, with plenty of fizz. $18.

Mumm Napa Cuvée 'M' For the sweeter sparkling-wine fans out there, here comes a doozy. Rich and fruity with strawberries and peaches. Hints of vanilla and caramel as well. $18.

Prestige Mumm Cuvée Napa Valley Clean and spicy, smelling coolly like wet slate. Citrus and mineral define the flavor. $18.

Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley From California. Full of toasty yeast, lemon, and green apple. $20.

Mumm Cuvée Napa Blanc de Noirs Brut Zesty and tangy sparkling wine with fresh strawberries coming to the party. Crisp and light. $22.

Duval Leroy Brut Champagne A French, full-bodied, tangerine-y, citrus number. Great deal. Yeasty and floral too. $26.

Oudinot Cuvée Brut Refreshing raspberry with loads of action on the tongue. Kick-ass fruity finish. Quite yummy. $29. •

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