Ring in the New Year With Fine Sparkling Wines

A beverage expert picks out his favorites.
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Champagne is a must for ringing in the New Year -- and as it's almost time to welcome 2008, we have some selections of great champagnes and sparkling wines perfect for the occasion.

"There's no better way to celebrate the holidays than with sparkling wine, in my opinion," says Jerald O'Kennard, of the Beverage Testing Institute and

Tastings.com. "If you're going to do it I think you need to start out with a champagne." If you're on a bit of a budget or you want to try some different things, Jerald recommends picking up a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte NV Brut Blue Label Champagne or Contadi Castaldi NV Brut.

Liquid Assets: Champagnes and Sparkling Wines for New Year's

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Tastings.com lists Nicolas Feuillatte NV Brut Blue Label as retailing for $30, and describes its flavors containing "honeyed lemon and apples, dried apricot, and delicate brown spices."

Contadi Castaldi, which the site rates slightly higher than Nicolas Feuillatte, has a fuller body and flavors of "lemon marmalade, buttered toast points, and spicy, dried tangerine peels," according to Tastings.com. The site calls the selection "a must for shellfish."

If you're hosting or attending a dinner party this New Year's Eve, O'Kennard's recommendations of sparkling wines are especially good if you know there will be spicy fare. "Spicy foods are great with sparkling wines because the bubbles actually clean your palate and get rid of all the spicy oils and things," O'Kennard says.

For alternatives to champagne, O'Kennard recommends some U.S. sparkling wines. "If you're on a budget and you're looking for the maximum bang for your buck, but yet you want to have good flavor,

I really recommend these," he says.

Tamayo Vineyards in Napa County, Calif., offers a sparkling brut that O'Kennard says has a unique taste. "They oak-age their sparkling wine -- which is different -- so it has a richer, buttery, creamy feel. If you like U.S. chardonnay from California, you'd probably like this." Tastings.com prices the selection at a retail price of $30, and urges you to drink it now, as it is currently at its peak.

O'Kennard also recommends a blanc de noirs from Robert Hunter as an alternative to champagne. "This is a real small ... producer that makes an intense sparkling wine," he says. "You'll twist a lot of heads, they'll say 'what is this?' and you'll pour it and they'll remember it. It's that kind of experience." Tastings.com gives the blanc de noirs an exceptional rating, and prices it at $35.

O'Kennard says you can't go wrong with the domestic line of sparkling wines from Gruet Winery. He calls it "one of the best sparkling wineries in the country, and they do a great job across the line."

Among great Gruet selections is the NV Demi-Sec -- rated a best buy on Tastings.com at $13.50 a bottle. "Demi-sec

means a little bit of sweetness, although this one's really not sweet like a dessert -- it's just got a little more sweet fruit to it."

Gruet's rose is always a great way to celebrate, according to O'Kennard. The pale pink shade of the rose brings a fun element to any party, and O'Kennard adds, "I think it's really classy, it makes a big impression, ladies love it." Retailing for approximately $32, Tastings.com describes its flavors as containing, "fresh watermelon, berry, and spice flavors."

According to O'Kennard, any of these selections will be perfect for ringing in the New Year... or for any celebration in 2008!

Brittany joined TheStreet.com TV in November 2006 after completing a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers College. Previously, Brittany interned at the local ABC affiliate in New York City WABC-TV 7 where she helped research and produce On Your Side, a popular consumer advocacy segment.