Happy New Year’s Eve! As we ready ourselves for tonight’s festivities, let’s agree that a glass of Champagne is on the menu tonight. Bubbly is certainly my tipple of choice as we bid adieu to 2014 and whole-heartedly welcome a new year. How about you – will you partake?
Champagne’s golden sparkle and audible pop lend to its reputation as a purely celebratory wine, but in fact it is super versatile and pairs well with almost any cuisine. I’ve long been a fan of Champagne and I recommend it for any event, even the average night in! It took a few years of drinking sparkling wines to wrap my head around how & when they could be enjoyed, to learn what I liked, and to incorporate them into my life (beyond the token special occasion). Finding value can be a fun game to play, since admittedly Champagne can come with an inflated price tag. I’ve witnessed many a wine-loving friend try to spot the mis-price on a NYC restaurant list! But not all bubbly is so precious, as evidenced in this article. Beyond the namesake French region of Champagne, you can find excellent value in sparkling wines from all over the world: Spain (cava), Italy (prosecco, spumante and frizzante), Germany (sekt), California, Washington, and Australia among others. Check the label for “méthode Champenoise”, “méthode traditionelle” or “fermented in this bottle” for a wine that will best emulate the classic. There are many options on the market that can turn this drink into an everyday luxury.
Over the years I’ve figured out that my favorite sparklers do hail from the namesake Champagne region of France. I prefer ones with toasty brioche notes (versus, say, fruit or citrus). A glass of champagne is the best apertif for me – it’s refreshing, elegant and whets your palate for whatever meal you’re about to enjoy. Here is a short list of my top bottles and tasting notes:
1. Bollinger La Grande Annee Brut (here) – our wedding day Champagne, toasty, round and complex
2. Krug Grande Cuvée Brut NV (here) – creamy, toasty perfection
3. Laurent Perrier Cuvee Rose Brut NV (here) – an elegant salmon-pink rosé, the color of ballet slippers
4. Salon Cuvee ‘S’ Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs (here) – a savvy gent introduced me to this small producer
5. Henriot “Souverain” Brut (here) – roasted hazelnut, brioche, smoke
6. Gruet Blanc de Noirs (here) – made in the USA, creamy-vanilla notes, superb value
Finally, I’ve rounded up few links below to pique your interest. Perhaps I can turn you into champagne lovers, too:
1. Did you know Sir Winston Churchill was mad for Champagne?! His motivation to his troops in WWII was, “Remember, gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” He was such a massive fan that Pol Roger named their prestige label after him, Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.
2. Champagne Saber time: master a daring way to open a bottle
3. WSJ’s Guide to Champagne Cocktails
4. NYT Wine School: Champagne
5. The Guardian solves the great debate: which glass should we drink it from?
6. Food and Wine’s Top 10 Affordable Champagnes