Photo: Sergey Melkonov, Flickr
Here are four sparkling wines from around the world, all $50 and under and all sure to impress your date. If good food is going to be part of the Valentine's Day celebration, take special note of our pairings suggestions, too. If red-meat dishes are on the menu, and you must have sparkling wine, choose one made from red-wine grapes, such as the Mumm Napa Bru Rose below. (Also see our "Bargain Bubblies" post on sparkling wines.)
Saint-Hilaire 2007 Blanquette de Limoux White Sparkling Wine, Limoux, France ($14)
More than 450 years ago, Benedictine monks at the Abbey of Saint-Hillaire created France's oldest sparkling wine, 100 years before the very first bottle of Champagne was produced. Approachable and yet very complex, this is also a good bottle to open during a new relationship -- you'd be surprised how many people are turned off by bad wine -- or to kick off a fabulous meal. Green-apple notes slide effortlessly into a soft finish.
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte 2004 Brut Blanc de Blancs Millesime, Epernay, Champagne, France ($50)
With a toasty, creamy finish, this brut is very clean and confident. Notes of bright, white fruit are right-on for a food pairing with chicken, especially if your favorite chicken recipe contains lots of lemon or butter.
Domaine Chandon California Brut Classic, California ($18)
On the drier side, this sparkling wine -- which is very balanced -- expresses juicy-apple notes and eases into subtle pear flavors on the finish. For fish dishes that are accompanied by a sweet sauce (perhaps one with Caribbean flair?) this would be a nice match.
Mumm Napa Brut Rose, Napa Valley, California ($22)
Wild-strawberry and bing-cherry notes, along with herbaceous accents, evolve into excellent mouthfeel. Whether you're slicing into a rich cheesecake or a cake-y brownie, a flute of this will create a very sweet ending.
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