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Pop: Bubbly for the New Year

Good news, bubble lovers; this is your year. Champagne imports are down: shipments of

Champagne to the United States

plummeted 41.2 percent from January to August, according to the Champagne Bureau. Why should you care? Because it means prices are dropping. High-end Champagne isn't cheap, mind you, but when the price of Cristal drops below $200 you know something is amiss. If you stay away from the better-known brands like Veuve Clicquot there are plenty of bargains: Gosset and Delamotte (two of my favorite Champagne producers that don't have the marketing budgets of the bigger houses) can be found for between $30 and $35 - a steal. And this is the time of year to buy bubbly anyway; bubbly producers always drop their prices when there's this much competition.

Sparkling wine is another great option; the term refers to any bubbly made outside the Champagne region of France. Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy, Sekt from Germany - they're all bubbly at a bargain price. And don't forget the excellent sparklers from California (including Schramsberg, J, Domaine Chandon, Iron Horse, and Scharffenberger).

Final tip: A fun way to liven up that New Year's party is by serving individual bottles (187mL) or even cans of bubbly: POP by Pommery (a Champagne producer) offers Champagne in small blue bottles, while Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs (from California) comes in little pink cans; straws optional.  Happy New Year!