The Grape Escape: Tiny bubbles, in my wine

The entire world, it is said, is divided into two groups of people. I propose that one such division falls between those who love bubbles in their beverages and those who do not.

Sparkling water, fizzy beer or the bubbly wine that reaches its peak of price (and maybe quality) in the French region called Champagne: I’m with the 17th century French Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon, who, legend holds, made the first sparkling wine by accident, then exulted, “I’m drinking stars!” Bubbly is festive, quenching, palate tickling and bright, and it goes great with good food.

Anti-fizzers call bubbles evil. They whisk alcohol straight to the brain, they say (there’s something wrong with that?), and, as Dorothy Parker merrily put it about beer, bubbles make them burp.

Let the haters rant. There’s more for me, and you, and the rest of us who love the festive sound of a popping cork, the rush of foam that follows, and the crisp flavor that bubbles add to a flat drink.

What’s more, when your mouth is burning and sweat is breaking out on your brow after a five-pepper Thai curry, Jamaican jerk chicken or something spicy from Sichuan, here’s a useful secret: Second only to an icy lager or, counter-intuitively, a tall glass of milk, there’s hardly a better way to douse the flame of fiery fare than a ration of sparkling wine.

I wouldn’t spend big bucks for real champagne to accompany a Sichuanese or Moghul meal. Let the budget-conscious turn to Cava, the modestly priced bubbly from Spain; or better still, Prosecco from northeastern Italy for a fizzy wine at a price that won’t hurt. One good example: Caposaldo non-vintage Prosecco Brut, $13.99 at The Wine Rack (2632 Frankfort Ave., 721-9148).