Pair this refreshing $12 lambrusco with burgers, pizza or charcuterie

LINEUP: From left, Cinta Lambrusco Dell'Emilia Rosso, Cantina della Volta Brutrosso Lambrusco di Sorbara 2017, Quinta do Ferro Tinto Bruto, Roederer Estate Brut, Horton Vineyards Súil Sparkling Viognier. Scott Suchman/For The Washington Post 

In October, I wrote about a possible holiday shortage of popular champagne labels because of supply chain issues, reduced supply and surging demand. While we'll still be able to find lesser-known champagnes (and I'll have some great examples next week), this holiday season is a chance to go rogue and explore some alternative bubblies. Why not some red sparkling from Portugal, or Lambrusco from Italy? Or go local. Wherever you are, your local wineries are producing sparkling wines from unconventional grape varieties or unconventional methods such as pétillant-naturel. If you're feeling conservative, there are always reliable bubblies from California that put American flair on the traditional model.

Cinta Lambrusco Dell'Emilia Rosso

Two stars (Excellent)

Emilia-Romagna, Italy, $12

Slightly sweet, refreshingly carbonated and straightforward with its deep, dark-cherry flavors, this inexpensive red bubbly would be a good match for your holiday smorgasbord, especially if you load up on charcuterie and other savory, spicy snacks. It's also a worthy partner for burgers, pizza or barbecue. Alcohol by volume: 7.5%. Bottle weight: 435 grams (Light).

Cantina della Volta Brutrosso Lambrusco di Sorbara 2017

Three stars (Extraordinary)

Italy, $24

Made in metodo classico, the Italian term for the champagne method with the second fermentation in the bottle producing the bubbles, this light, delicate, almost diaphanous wine is more rosé than red. It entrances with flavors of maraschino cherries and mint. ABV: 12.5%. BW: 900 grams (Sparkling)

Quinta do Ferro Tinto Bruto

Two and a half stars (Excellent/Extraordinary)

Portugal, $27

Another red sparkler, from Portugal's Vinho Verde territory along the Douro River east of Porto and west of the Douro Valley region where port and some of Portugal's more esteemed table wines are grown. This is 100% vinhão, a grape also known as sousão, known for its deep-red color and high acidity. Made in the traditional champagne method with a second fermentation in bottle, and aged for 12 months on its lees, it produces a sprightly bubbly with bright flavors of pomegranate and tart cherry. It's a delicious wine for grilled or smoked meats, roast pork or pizza, and would be fun at casual holiday celebrations. ABV: 10.5%. BW: 780 grams (Sparkling).

Roederer Estate Brut

Three stars (Extraordinary)

Anderson Valley, Calif., $30

Roederer Estate, in California's Mendocino County, is the U.S. outpost of the Louis Roederer Champagne House. The winery grows its own grapes, using biodynamic practices (though certification is not mentioned on the label). The blend is about 60-40 chardonnay and pinot noir. In the champagne tradition, only about 120 gallons of the first-pressed juice from each ton of grapes is used to make the blend. (This is called the cuvée; the rest, called the taille – and there are gradations of this – is considered lesser quality.) Despite being made by a French-owned company in the French style, it's very American in its outspokenness. Aged at least two years on the lees, the result is a wine of impressive complexity, brimming with flavors of orange zest, lemon curd and verbena. The long finish makes it difficult for me to complete this sentence, as I wait for the next nuance to unfurl. ABV: 12.5%. BW: 840 grams (Sparkling).

Horton Vineyards Súil Sparkling Viognier

Three stars (Extraordinary)

Virginia, $35

Virginia wine pioneer Dennis Horton popularized viognier in Virginia back in the 1990s, and later introduced a sparkling version. Horton died in 2018, and the winery is now guided by three generations of Horton women: Sharon, Dennis's wife, continues to manage the vineyards, while daughter Shannon handles the winemaking, with help from her daughter, Caitlin. Rebranded as Súil, a Gaelic word meaning "hope," the sparkling viognier is still made by hand through riddling, disgorging and recorking, and in limited quantities. It is worth seeking out: Bone dry (with no dosage of added sugar at disgorgement), it has the honeysuckle and jasmine notes of viognier with a laser beam of freshness. This wine recently won a silver medal at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships in London, probably the first such honor for a Virginia bubbly. Brava! ABV: 12%. BW: 880 grams (Sparkling). Available at the winery or through

Check wine distributor or wine store

Prices are approximate. Check to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.


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