Fizzy wine is usually saved for special occasions: a new year, a celebratory toast, a romantic Valentine's Day dinner.
But with the growing popularity of prosecco, an affordable sparkling Italian wine, a glass of bubbly doesn't have to break the bank — and you don't have to save it for a few nights a year.
Laurie Wolford, owner of Spirit World, said more Omahans have come into her store over the last couple of years searching for prosecco, an Italian white wine — generally dry or extra dry — that has a light, fruity flavor. It's become popular as a less expensive substitute for Champagne.
"They see it on the "Today" show or on another television show or read about it and want to try it," she said.
Prosecco is less expensive than Champagne because it's not made with the labor-intensive method used for Champagne, and it's not made in the specific region of France that the name requires.
"Many people can't tell the difference between Champagne and prosecco," she said. "So it's a more cost-effective alternative."
Prosecco sales have been growing since the early 2000s. Dan Matuszek, owner of Brix, said his sales of prosecco are growing in double digits each year.
At Spirit World, the best-selling prosecco is one made by Astoria, retailing for $12.99. A comparable midrange bottle of Champagne will run shoppers around $50 a bottle, Wolford said.
Most bottles of prosecco at Spirit World run between $10 and $25. At Brix, in west Omaha, the price range is similar: $12 to $20 per bottle.
Prosecco is the base for lots of cocktails, most notably a Bellini, made with sparkling wine and peach nectar. Prosecco works better than Champagne in many cocktails because it has a milder flavor.
Wolford suggested mixing prosecco with Chambord, a raspberry-flavored liqueur; with orange juice; with Canton, a ginger-flavored liqueur; or with St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur that's recently become another popular selection at Spirit World.
Matuszek seconded the idea of pairing prosecco with St. Germain.
"You can go to the cordials section and pick out all kinds of things and they'll all mix well with prosecco," he said.
Though Brix doesn't dispense prosecco in its wine machines, it does play host to sparkling wine tastings: An event last year brought in 180 people.
"Prosecco is bridging the gap between a sweeter sparkling wine like Moscato and a drier one, like Champagne," Matuszek said.
When Brix pairs sparkling wine with food, Matuszek said, the restaurant tries to keep it light: hors d'oeuvres that might contain things like mushrooms or shrimp, or a light salad. The wine doesn't go as well with heavy proteins or large portions and works better as an apertif, he said.
Robi Henry, a bartender at the House of Loom and Urban Wine Co., said he's also seen more Omahans asking for prosecco-based drinks.
"They're really popular among ladies," he said, laughing.
At House of Loom's craft cocktail bar, prosecco has made its way into a handful of drinks, including the "Jalisco Flower," which includes tequila, grapefruit juice and prosecco, and the "Death in the Afternoon," absinthe and prosecco.
"Prosecco is so light and refreshing," Henry said. "It adds a whole new dimension to any cocktail — a fizzy, carbonated, tingly sensation — which is definitely an attractive concept."
Martha Stewart Living has an iPad app devoted to cocktails which retails in the iTunes store for $2.99 and includes many recipes for sparkling cocktails, including one made with Creme Yvette, a violet-flavored liqueur. A new add-on to the app called the "Girl's Night Bundle" features 20 new cocktail recipes, many sparkling, and accompanying snack ideas. The add-on is $.99.
Wolford, from Spirit World, said the thing she likes most about the rise in popularity of prosecco is that people won't just save something sparkling for special occasions.
Customers at her shop buy it for the holidays, but she also sells it for baby showers, birthday parties, weddings and throughout the summer.
"I would say more people are drinking it on, say, a Tuesday, than they used to," she said. "I always keep a bottle cold in my fridge, because any day is a good day for prosecco."