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Don't delay, or you'll miss out on Champagne bargains

| Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Tribune-Review
Wine

Merry Christmas, 2013!

Enjoy the day's festivities. But resolve, starting tomorrow, to complete your wine shopping for New Year's celebrations as soon as possible.

At last check, PLCB shelves remained well-stocked with wines to fit every taste. Inventories will, however, deplete quickly as wild-eyed, wine-seeking consumers grow increasing desperate for a last-minute bottle.

Don't be one of them. Get going and try the following nifty buys:

PLCB French wine buyer, Jennifer Brown, previously worked with Champagne Henriot as well as Martine Saunier, the famed importer of Henri Jayer, Lalou Bize-Leroy and Château Rayas. Through hard experience, Brown has the savoir-faire and industry contacts required to unearth terrific French wine values.

This year, Brown worked her magic — and PLCB buying leverage — to deliver tremendous deals on authentic French Champagnes. Say what you will about the PLCB's myriad shortcomings, but ask yourself where but Pennsylvania can you scoop up terrific Champagnes for less than $35?

For your New Year's Eve celebrations, try the tasty NV Champagne Moutard Père et Fils Rosé de Cuvaison Brut, France (Luxury 48007; $29.99). The domaine's vineyards lie in Champagne's most southern Côte des Bar region, just over the border from Chablis in Burgundy. Pinot noir does well in the cool climate covering clay and limestone-rich soils.

Traditionally, the region's growers sold grapes to more famous négociant merchants who used the fruit for blending with northern Champagne's chardonnay dominated wines. But Côte des Bar wine growers such as François Moutard have grown increasingly confident of bottling their own fine wines while building the region's international reputation.

This tasty wine's fine beads of bubbles lace the dark-salmon color. Berry, honeysuckle and spice aromas open to fruity red-berry and citrus flavors. Fresh acidity carries through the clean and dry, yet frothy, finish. Recommended.

The N.V. Champagne Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, France (Luxury 39622; $32.99) provides another terrific sparkling offering.

The wine comes from a cooperative with over 500 grower-members who cultivate vines in the heart of Champagne's famous Côte des Blancs , a sub-region known for its incomparable chardonnay grapes.

Traditionally, much of the cooperative's Grand Cru grape production found its way into famous “premium” Champagnes made by the likes of Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin and Taittinger. Increasingly, under Gilles Marguet's expert leadership, the cooperative has vinified, aged and bottled its own outstanding Champagnes.

This tasty wine's golden color offers persistent, fine beads luring the nose to ripe-apple and freshly baked-bread aromas. Citrus and pear flavors lead to rich creaminess and yeasty notes balanced with refreshing, clean acidity. Round, fruity notes balance the dry finish. Highly recommended.

On New Year's Day itself, if your menu includes the traditional Alsatian sauerkraut baked with white wine, bratwurst, weisswurst, chopped apples and juniper berries, then try the tasty 2010 F. E. Trimbach Riesling, Alsace, France (6625; on sale: $14.99).

Unlike German rieslings made across the Rhine River, this wine finishes completely dry. The style derives from the Trimbach family's tradition of making wines in Alsace since 1626. Today, the 13th generation of Trimbach winegrowers manages the firm from Ribeauvillé, a picturesque village of half-timbered houses.

The wine's grapefruit, lime and apple aromas unfurl with beguiling floral notes. Crisp red grapefruit and apple flavors balance with zesty acidity and smoky mineral notes through the dry, yet fruity, finish. Highly recommended.

With beef and lamb dishes, try the delicious 2011 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbières, France (46985; $13.99). When you find an imported wine by noted wine merchant Kermit Lynch since the late 1970s, you're on to something good.

The wine blends carignan, grenache noir and syrah grown in silica, clay and limestone soils in the highly regarded Boutenac subregion. The vines sprawl on south-facing slopes providing plenty of sunshine and protection from biting north winds.

The nearby Mediterranean Sea's cool breezes lower nighttime temperatures to ensure slow, even ripening. The grapes retain freshness to balance the rich, ripe flavors.

The dark-ruby color that offers robust, dark-fruity flavors with meaty notes balance with refreshing acidity, soft tannins and a dry finish. Highly recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at ddesimone@tribweb.com.

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