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WHEN WE think of the holidays and year-end celebrations, we naturally turn to sparkling wine. In fact, producers of sparkling wine spend their whole year gearing up for December sales.

It’s kind of a shame, because bubbles are fantastic all year long and are among the most versatile wines for pairing with food. They range from bone dry to super sweet, with flavors to fit every palate and opportunity.

In preparation for the holiday season, The Seattle Times reader wine-tasting panel gathered in late September to sip through six sparkling wines made primarily in the dry “brut” style. About 25 of us gathered at Wine World & Spirits in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, and the group got to hear from Wine World’s Arnie Millan, perhaps the most knowledgeable wine expert in Seattle.

All of these wines are made from traditional Champagne grapes, which primarily mean chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, though pinot blanc also is allowed (and one of the wines included that white grape).

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Of the six wines, three are from Washington, one is from Oregon, one is from Champagne, and one is a rare Champagne-style bubbly from Italy.

In some cases, the dryness of these bruts was stark. While this will not fit every palate, it is what makes these wines so exciting. The dramatic acidity brings out flavors of fresh, yeasty bread, bright orchard fruits and, in the case of pink wines, berry notes.

Dry sparkling wines are perfect with shellfish such as scallops, oysters (raw or baked) and crab, as well as smoked salmon, sushi, soft and hard cheeses or Cornish game hen.

Andy Perdue is a wine author, journalist and international judge. Learn more about wine at