THE BUBBLES - jewels of optimism for a new year - defy gravity and bloom into a delicious fizz of festive sparkling wine. Champagne. Crémant. Prosecco. Cava. Spumante.
Whatever you call it, or whatever you want to spend for it, there is a world of bubbly options to suit your cork-popping pleasure. Here are eight to consider in a wide range of prices and styles. Only wines with PLCB codes are available for retail in Pennsylvania.
* Scharffenberger Brut Excellence, $19.99 (code 1475): California's Anderson Valley has a blend of sunny days and cool morning fog off the Pacific that makes for stellar pinot and chardonnay.
This bottle is a blend of both, and a fine example of what Mendocino County can produce for around $20, a lithe and complex sparkler that shows good fruit and creaminess on the nose framed by ginger spice with a dry and crisp citrus finish.
* Domaine La Grande Côte Crémant de Bourgogne NV, $19.99 (99251): I lived for a year not far from this part of northern Burgundy, where some of France's best non-Champagne sparklers are produced. This great-value crémant shows that region's classic terroir, with a nose like wet stones and lemon, and a dry, forceful fizz. On its own, it's a bit austere. But it's absolutely perfect for a Kir Royale blushed with a kiss of cassis.
* Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee 2007, $21.99 (78349): I've seen this predominantly pinot blend from one of California's best sparkling producers for as much as $40. So this Chairman's Selection is a really great value on a wine that shows some lushness and complexity, with grape-forward and golden dried-fruit flavors and superfine bubbles that ride to a bracing, crispy finish.
* Santa Margherita Prosecco DOCG, $22.99 (code 5268): There are plenty of solid Proseccos in the $15-$20 range (like Zardetto), but this slightly pricier rendition from Santa Margherita, better known for its pinot grigio, was impressive.
The bubbles were on the larger side, but they brought so many little bursts of interesting spices along for the ride - cinnamon, anise, and vanilla - without getting too sweet. A pithy but juicy Meyer lemon finish keeps it sharp.
* Segura Viudas Heredad, $24.99 (29707): There's a sort of outsize medieval grandeur to the pewter-crested handblown bottle that makes a splashy gift - especially considering the reasonable price of this Spanish cava.
But this blend of Macabeo and Parellada grapes grown outside Barcelona also happens to be delicious, weaving hits of smoke and minerally dryness into a juicy citrus body that reminds me of clementines.
* Bollinger Special Cuvee, $69.99 750 ml (code 4793); $39.99 375 ml (code 99263): When it comes to the big Champagne houses, Bollinger may be my favorite (especially for its pricier Grande Année vintages) because it embodies the gold-plated luxury of a rich, indulgent, mouth-filling toasty complex bubbly.
Its nonvintage Special Cuvee is a nice compromise that's still a splurge, with the tiniest of bubbles cascading across a deeply golden and yeasty wine that makes me think of ginger biscuits. A blend of pinot, chardonnay, and meunier, it also shows glints of red fruits, lime, marzipan, and nuts.
* Champagne Ulysse Collin Blanc de Blanc Les Pierrières, $82.99 at Joe Canal's West Deptford, N.J.: This unique "grower Champagne" comes from one of the region's rising stars, Olivier Collin, in the off-the-beaten path village of Congy. Collin farms this chardonnay sustainably in the vineyard of Les Pierrières and ferments with native yeast and with almost no extra sugar. The result is a golden wine with a coppery glint, the tiniest of racy bubbles, and a mineral-rich flavor that spirals up bright-green kiwi tartness, ripe quince, and a lustrous finish that reminds me of candied orange peels.
A special sparkler for the wine geek in your life, it's available for retail only in South Jersey, but it's worth a trip across the bridge. (Also on lists at a.Kitchen, Vedge and Townsend.)
* Cavicchioli 1928 Spumante, $10.99 (code 6789): I'm rarely a fan of cheap, sweet sparklers, but I have loved ones to consider. And they were thoroughly charmed by Cavicchioli 1928 Spumante, and not simply because of the cheery flowers blooming across the bottom of the bottle.
This 100-percent malvasia Modena lands with a sugary, big-bubble buzz but pirouettes just before cloying on notes of stone fruit and a squirt of citrusy tartness. As a gateway sparkler for lovers of Sprite (and not much more expensive), you can do worse.