Liz Roach: A New Year’s Guide to Champagne

ProseccoWhat is it about Champagne that so aptly embodies New Year’s Eve? Is it the effervescence, the silky luxury of a liquid that personifies decadence?

Is it the exoticism of a wine that most reserve for special occasions?

As surely as sequins and “Auld Lang Syne,” you will see gallons of the beverage imbibed on this night.

Perhaps it’s because New Year’s provides one last chance to indulge in a spell of revelry before settling into the quiet sobriety of winter resolutions.

Whether you’re hosting a New Year’s dinner party or just want a toast-worthy drink to pour before hitting the bars, it’s a good opportunity to brush up on your bubbly knowledge.

Of course, legitimate “Champagne” only originates in the region of France by the same name.  All other bubblies are actually sparkling wines, and there are many interesting choices. California makes some excellent versions, as do Washington state and Virginia.

Liz RoachFor inexpensive but lively European sparklers, try a Spanish Cava or a German Sekt. The Italians offer an array of fabulous sparkling wines, from the dry Prosecco to the sweeter Asti. There are also fizzy Shirazes, Rosés, and Lambruscos, all of which set a festive tone for merrymaking.

Sparkling wines are famous for their versatility with food pairings.  A dry type complements everything from foie gras to spicy curry to apple pie.  It’s also wonderful on its own.  Save the sweeter kinds for before or after dinner, as they can overwhelm the palate and diminish the taste of many dishes.

As you’re perusing the Champagne aisle of your local wine shop, keep in mind the dryness vocabulary. From driest to sweetest, the range is Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Sec, Demi-Sec and Doux.

Ready to rollick? Here are a few picks to kick-off this boisterous night.

For a semi-sweet Italian sparkler, try: Martini & Rossi Asti.

For a fruity, Californian sparkling wine, try: Schramsberg 2009 Brut Rosé

For less than $10, this dry Cava is an absolute steal: Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut.

For classic French Champagne from a storied brand, go for: Taittinger Brut Reserve NV.


Cheers to a fantastic year and to many new memories in the making!



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