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Wine Novice: Bubbly Bounty

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For many years, I was a Veuve girl. As in, Veuve Clicquot. But that's so obvious now and it's expensive. Then I became a Heidsieck (Charles or Piper) girl. Much nicer, less obvious, but still pricey for the good stuff. With the holidays mere seconds away (and with all my "wine novice" locations shutting down their wine tastings until next year) I thought it would make sense to tap into the one area of the wine industry I do know something about - bubbly! The challenge? Finding good bubbly at a very good price. At a price so good, I'd buy cases. Here's what I found:

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Bocciolo Grasparossa - At their champagne/sparkling wine tasting earlier this year, the excellent folks at Silver Lake Wine introduced me to Bocciolo Grasparossa, an italian sparkling wine that is a deep ruby red and bursts with cherry and raspberry notes, but isn't sickeningly sweet. I've shied away from the whole "pink champagne" thing (except for the pink Piper Heidsieck, which is very yummy) so I was skeptical about this wine when they poured it and passed it around. But my goodness, is this a winner. At $16.95/bottle it's a steal and is a nice alternative to champagne. When we open a bottle at home, we drink it so quickly that we invariably have to open another poste haste because everyone wants more.

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Gruet - Silver Lake Wine also introduced me to this lovely sparkling wine from New Mexico. At the tasting, I tried the demi-sec. Nice and dry, not too fruity. None of the bitterness of lesser wines. It was so good at the tasting, that I worried about how expensive it would be. I need not have worried! At $13/bottle, Gruet is definitely case-worthy. My sommelier-like brother, however, turned me on to the Blanc de Noirs version which is just as dry but slighly smoother with a hint of strawberry. (See that! I snuck in a "tasting note!" The wine novice is a quick-study!) It's now my favorite. You can get Gruet at Silver Lake Wine and BevMo.

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Schramsberg Cremant - On my brother's recommendation, I picked up a bottle of this yummy goodness at Wally's. While not cheap at $34/bottle, this is very good stuff. The fancy man at Wally's told me it had notes of spice, rum and rhubarb pie. As the wine novice, I can tell you straight away: I didn't taste any rhubarb pie. But it is creamy in the best way. A special wine to bring to a special party, to give as a gift, or to drink alone in the tub while listening to christmas tunes before getting ready to head out into the festive night. (Not that I've ever done that. Ever.)

Sure you could stick with the standards this holiday season - your Doms, your Veuves, your Bollingers and Tattingers and of course, your Krugs. Depending on the year and the type, you could be drinking brillant stuff or just overpriced so-so stuff. I've tried it all. But wouldn't it be cooler (and so much cheaper) to bring something new to the party that no one else has tried?