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Best bets for bubbly for that New Year's toast

Restaurateur and winemaker Joe Bastianich offers his recommendations for the best wines to serve when the clock strikes midnight.

New Year's Eve is almost here, and a big question for many folks is, which wine is best for when the clock strikes midnight? Restaurateur and winemaker Joe Bastianich was invited to appear on “Today” to share some of his recommendations for the best bubbly. Here’s more on the five selections he discussed on the show:

About 60 percent of champagne and sparkling wine consumed in America is sold in the last two months of the year, almost 25 percent between Christmas and New Year's alone. People everywhere love to celebrate at midnight with a little bubbly ceremony, watching TV to see the ball drop in Times Square, and listening to Guy Lombardo's "Auld Lang Syne."

Real champagne is only made in the Champagne district of France, which produces millions of bottles of champagne a year. Regions all over the world produce good sparklers too, and they are often made from the same grapes. Italy gives us Proseco. Spain, Cava. Brut appears on the label of many bottles of sparkling wine. Brut means that the wine is dry. Extra dry means it's a bit sweet.

All of these selections are best served chilled on ice:

Zardetto Proseco, Italy
This bottle is produced to be consumed as everyday wine, so it's available at a great price. Dry and effervescent, it tingles on the palate and finishes clean and dry. This and the cavas can be found for less than $10 a bottle.

Cordoniu Rose Brut, Spain
Sparkling from Spain is called cava. Made from Pinot Noir, this is a rose sparkler. Everyone is drinking pink this year. In fact, many great sparkling wines from around the world are made with red grapes. You can make white wine from red grapes by limiting the skin contact. It's the pigmentation in the skin that gives wine its color. $15

Next, Oregon and California are producing world-class sparkling wines, with grapes grown under colder conditions:

Argyle Brut, Oregon
Fancy and elegant, this wine represents a terrific value (about $20 per bottle) in a very elegant package.

Chandon Brut Classic, California
This started the tradition of classically made "champagne style" sparkling wines in California.  Made by the famous Moet Chandon family in the Carneros section of Napa Valley, this wine is the closest to a true "French" champagne. Nutty and toasty on the nose with apples and pears on the palate, this wine is very sophisticated and fancy. It's also our most expensive wine at $25.

Then the real French champagne:

Nicolas Feuillate Brut Champagne, France
Champagne can only be made in Champagne. It's the most creamy, rich and complex of the lot. This champagne delivers power and elegance. This you would sip and toast to, or drink with your dinner. $30

Sparkling wine cocktails:

Belllinis and Champagne Cocktails are a festive way to give a holiday toast and delight guests at a New Year's celebration. Bellinis are traditionally made by combining Proseco and peach nectar. Here's a twist on this Venetian classic with pomegranate juice for a holiday treat:

In a glass pitcher or decanter combine:

1 bottle sparkling wine (we'll use Proseco)8 ounces pomegranate juice2 tablespoons sugar

Stir ingredients together and set pitcher on ice for 20 minutes. Serve in a tall, skinny "flute" glass traditionally used for champagne.

(For a delicious, non-alcoholic alternative, substitute sparkling wine with sparkling apple cider or ginger ale, and adjust sugar to taste.)

Garnish each glass with several segments from a fresh pomegranate. 

A champagne cocktail will add style and sophistication to your New Year's celebration. The best part is that it's not really a "cocktail" and it's so easy to make:

Champagne Cocktail
-Pour any dry sparkling wine into a flute style glass. (We'll use the Chandon.)-Dash one sugar cube with 1/2 teaspoon Angostura Bitters and drop into flute filled with sparkling wine.-Garnish with lemon twist.

Joe Bastianich is co-owner of Babbo, Esca, Lupa, Becco and Otto, and the new Del Posto in New York City. He also is co-owner of Lidia's Pittsburgh with his mother, Lidia Bastianich. He owns a retail wine shop in New York City, and is the proprietor of a wine estate in northeastern Italy.