Six smokin' good bottles of bubbly that won't break the bank

We about lost our shit this past weekend when, while meandering the aisles of a downtown specialty store, we felt our ears assaulted with -- wait for it -- Christmas carols.

Despite the 75-degree temps Denver's seen lately, ready or not, the 2010 holiday party season is upon us, which means that invitations will soon flood your mail inbox. That, of course, is a great reason to have a few go-to bottles in your wine rack that are worthy of any soirée you might attend. Since it's anyone's guess as to whether your host or hostess loves white, red or something else, the right bottles to stock up on are the most festive of all -- ones that are sparkling!

Surely you're not one of those people, still convinced that Champagne is what makes up half of your Sunday brunch mimosa, or that it's not worth drinking if it doesn't cost a fortune. Here's the skinny on the best bubbles you've never tried, each of which can be had for plus or minus a twenty spot.

Charles de Fere Cuvée Jean Louis Blanc de Blanc NV ($10): Two words: cheap and tasty. Given that description, this is a prime candidate to become your favorite holiday-season mimosa-making bottle, tasting of ripe persimmon and juicy Granny Smith apple. If you're really, really smart, you'll scoop up a case of this wine and never get stuck arriving at a party empty-handed.

Nicholas Feuillatte Brut NV ($29): A nearly perfect Champagne, made all the more enjoyable by its recession-friendly price tag. Proof positive that a great bottle of bubbly needn't require extended payment arrangements, there's a boatload of smooth pear and subtle nutmeg-y flavors just waiting to entice you here. Just make sure you know how to pronounce it before you buy it: It's "foo-yacht".

Francis Coppola 'Sofia' Rosé 2009 ($15): When I first tried director Francis Ford Coppola's sparkling wine (named for his daughter and hipster movie-maker Sofia), it came in a dark burgundy-pinkish can that had its own straw attached to the side. (There's nothing like the ghetto-fabulous irony of sipping sparkling wine from packaging typically reserved for forty-ouncers and energy drinks.) Sir Francis has upgraded the packaging a bit, and the wine's as good as any he's ever made: a gorgeous cherry-blossom-pink shade with a taste that's crisp, classy and refreshing.

Domaine Carneros Taittinger 2006 ($25): A famous French Champagne house making insanely good domestic bubbly in the Napa Valley? How about a vintage bubbly that costs a paltry $25? Oh, yeah! Get ready to taste the wine that will officially get you hooked on the sparkly stuff once and for all. Save this bottle for a romantic dinner à deux, or bust it out for a few of your more civilized companions.

Segura Viudas Heredad Brut ($20): If you love scoring inexpensive bubbly as much as the rest of us, then you've likely consumed more than your fair share of this producer's entry-level cava -- the much-loved Segura Viudas Brut Reserva. While the SVBR is one bad-ass bubbly (that costs less than you paid for parking last week), you'd be remiss to overlook its exotic older brother, the Heredad Brut. When selecting a bottle of wine to present as a host[ess] gift, it's important to pay close attention to the BF. Not BF as in boyfriend; here BF refers to "bottle factor." The ornately decorative, hand-blown bottle with its decorative pewter base will surely score you cool points, but it's the fantastically rich, nutty-creamy flavor that will really make you popular.

Gruet Blanc de Noirs NV ($16): Check it: New Mexico-based Gruet produces some of the best domestic sparklers around, and this is without question the best one you'll ever hope to find south of $20. This particular cuvée (which is nothing but fancy wine terminology for "blend") showcases a sumptuous blend of red grapes (pinot meunière and pinot noir) that are used to make a white wine, hence the label term "blanc de noirs." The result? An elegant, fruity bubbly that offers a little more oomph than your typical chardonnay-based sparkler.

Bonus bubbly tip of the week: Every single one of these bottles is available at Cost Plus World Market in Cherry Creek North, so you can get your holiday gift and bubbly shopping done in one fell swoop.

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Kendra Anderson