Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut Rose ($20): We're betting that you've probably pounded your fair share of Prosecco, Italy's most famous sparkling wine. Now it's time to get hip to the wide array of bubbly alternatives that represent the best of Italian wine grapes produced in an oh-so-delectable spumante (aka sparkling) form. Start your year-end fete (or any other evening, for that matter) with this juicy, sassy, pink Pinot Nero-based sparkler from the Lombardy region. As pretty as it as drinkable, it's full of tightly wound bubbles and flavors like tart pomegranate and freshly picked cherries. In short, it'll taste fantastic, and your friends will thank you.
Scarpetta "Timido" Rosato ($25): Just because you are one of the most celebrated sommeliers in the country, never mind co-owner of arguably the best restaurant in the state, doesn't mean that wines from your private label project will be worth their weight in cork. That is, unless you are Bobby Stuckey, and that eatery is Frasca Food and Wine. Don't be fooled by the name "timido," though: There is nothing at all bashful about this wine. Instead, you'll be treated to lip-smacking acidity leading to lush, gorgeous mouthfuls of strawberry Creamsicle love. If up to this point you've managed to avoid becoming obsessed with pink bubbly, prepare to be converted. Two words: Supercalifragilistically good.
Charles Bove Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2007 ($15): We've been gushing about uber-grape chenin blanc for most of 2011, so we thought it only appropriate to include one more at year's end. This white variety typical of France's Loire Valley can be produced in virtually every style imaginable; its bubbly expression is exceptionally delightful. Get ready for some goodies, people -- we are talking about all kinds of grapefruit peel, followed by exotic spice elements like crystallized ginger and anise seed. The finish is toasty and seemingly endless -- like that batch of freshly-baked shortbread cookies you scarfed last week -- and tastes far more pricey than the receipt will prove.
Chateau de Lavernette Cremant de Bourgogne ($15): Here's another sleeper bottle for you to blow your friends' minds with this weekend. Featuring two of our all-time favorite sparkling wine qualities -- you know, ridiculously tasty and incredibly cheap -- we fell head-over-heels for the rich texture (buttermilk biscuit dough, vanilla yogurt) and sunshiny fruit profile (lime zest, lemon curd). In fact, you could say that this 100-percent chardonnay-based sparkler exploded across our palate like a New Year's firework display. And if that weren't enough, the history of the Lavernette house, whose vineyard sites nestled between Burgundy and Beaujolais date back oh, around five hundred years, is maybe even more romantic than a midnight New Year's kiss.
Gaston Chiquet Brut "Special Club" 2002 ($55): Have you ever wished for your own in-home wine keg? If it were up to us, ours would pump out this one, 24/7. Gaston Chiquet (pronounced "shee-kay") is a poster child for one of the biggest wine geek trends of the year -- which is officially about to go mainstream in 2012 -- grower Champagne. This is a movement you are going to want to take part in, being that it's all about supporting the most unbelievably delish, Champagne terroir-driven wines (and their independent winemakers) you've never heard of. Note the tasting cues provided by the label: "Brut," your warning that this wine is going to be dry (in this case, quite); and the words "Special Club," the winemaker's way of telling you this some really good ish. Move beyond the ubiquitous Yellow Label and step your Champagne game up as you say goodbye to 2011.