It's definitely time to get those bubbles, people. New Year's Eve should sparkle, and for less than $20, you can celebrate with the dependably fine Chandon Blanc de Noirs, a fruity and easygoing Californian; and the crisp Piper Sonoma Brut. For $12: very modest Barefoot Cellars Barefoot Bubbly Extra Dry and Moscato Spumante.
Italy's proseccos are excellent alternatives, many less than $15. Zonin Prosecco is especially good, as Ca'Montini, Lunetta, Mionetto, and Martini & Rossi, better known for its sweeter bubbly, Asti.
Spain's cavas offer well-priced flair. Consider the $15 CodorniuPinot Noir Rose Brut, the $13 2007 Tarantas Cava Extra Brut, and the fruity $13 Poema Cava. Australia contributes with the $18, scarlet-hued Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Sparkling Shiraz. Yes, Shiraz, big red, here made festive and fizzy.
To stay French, but not buy Champagne, sample a fruity, delicate Cremant d'Alsace. In the $18-$28 range are commendable cremants from Ruhlmann, Aubrey et Christian Binner, and Albert Mann.
Vintage Champagne gets pricey. Nonvintage Champagnes, however, are an option. Charles Heidsieck Brut RéserveChampagne - lively, graceful, harmonious, for about $50; and the elegant, inviting Taittinger Brut La Française, about $45.