Nothing says New Year like sparkling wine

There's a reason we celebrate the New Year with sparking wines -- everything about them invokes gaiety and fun.

Let's look at some of the finer options for welcoming 2011 with good friends and family:

" Cava-Avinyó, about $15. Cava is Spain's sparkling wine, and like many large-production wines, comes in varying degrees of quality from many different houses. Most cavas are good but not great. Some exhibit harshness in the finish, so be careful.

This wonderful cava from Avinyó is a fine representation. The nose is fresh with a hint of spice, and you'll find good weight on the palate and a lovely sparkle throughout. It refreshes as well as has clean lines of definition and finish. I had this wine with cracked crab and hot French bread, and it was marvelous. Sparkling wine can accompany many different food offerings as long as it is well made, with good acidity and clean fruit. This is a very nice release from Spain and continues to define the high level of excellence to which cava can aspire.

" Proseccos from Italy, about $20. Over the last few years, Prosecco has received copious reviews, news releases and write-ups in wine magazines. This wine from northeastern Italy has taken the sparkling world by storm, as well it should. Prosecco, when made well, gives us the best of two worlds: good value and refined flavors.

Many years ago, I attended a Prosecco tasting in Venice and was amazed by how many fine sparklers there were. Over two days we tasted more than 40 wines, and we found that most were very good to excellent. This was a time when Prosecco was not on the American scene. I brought a few bottles home to the family wine store in Lafayette, Calif., and held a tasting on a Sunday morning. I remember receiving quite a few orders for the sparklers but, of course, I had nothing to sell. Some hard work, phone calls and relentless urging got results. Within a few months, I had the shelves stocked to the brim with really nice Prosecco, and it served me well for the next 30 years.

Prosecco is a charmer. One of the great attributes of this sparkling wine is its clean, crisp, thirst-quenching feel on the palate. The finish in many nice Proseccos comes from the silk in the aftertaste and natural acidity from the grapes in this cool region of Italy.

My favorite two Proseccos are Gasparini and Toffoli. These are two different styles of Prosecco, but each are quite stunning. The Gasparini holds forth with explosive fruit, fresh hint of lemon crispness and a beautiful balance between acidity and fruit. Dry and expressive. The Toffoli, which I served at my son's wedding some years ago, is not unlike the Gasparini, but offers a more creamy finish with a wonderful mouthful of bubbles. When I say "creamy, " this in no way means sweet. Cream can have a soft feel on the palate, which Toffoli expresses quite charmingly. Both offerings sell for about $20 and are well worth the price spent. They not only demonstrate generations of winemaking excellence, but offer a finesse and elegance one would expect from sparkling wines at twice the price.

" Prosecco rosé, about $20. New to the American shores are the wonderful rosé Proseccos. Toffoli has come across with a dry offering with a hint of raspberry that is simply delicious. I love the soft, almost pink hues of this sparkler, along with the light ruby fruit in the nose. If you are looking for a rosé sparkler, this wine cannot be beat. I placed this rosé in two tastings and it blew the doors off the competition. Truly a superb offering.

Lorn Razzano is owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland. Reach him at

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