New Year's Eve is a complicated holiday, says Boston Wine School's Jonathan Alsop. People who normally never drink, do. And sometimes the people who drink, stop. It's a lunar holiday that can fall on any night of the week- like this year's Monday night misfit. 

The anticipation of a champagne toast at midnight overlays the whole night: special wine, special glass, special opening technique, special timing. Often all this special-ness compounds to disaster, or worse: disappointment. Alsop stopped by the Boston Public Radio studios to give us some affordable bubbly alternatives, and look at the year's best wines:

Champagne Alternatives: Lowering the Ante

Sparkling wine from any place other than Champagne, France occupies a profoundly lower price range. Is a $15 Spanish Cava as good as a $75 Champagne? Maybe not, but five bottles are almost always better than one bottle.

Sampled on the Show:

2012 Wine Year in Review:

January: An Excellent Month for the Grapes Down Under:

The perihelion- which is when the earth is closest to the sun by a little less than 5 percent-is around January 3. Five percent may not sound like much, but it makes a big difference in grape ripeness. This is why Australia and South America are so famous for darkly intense red wines - Shiraz, Malbec, Carmenere. These same grapes are not nearly as powerful when grown in the Northern hemisphere, at least so far.