Champagne, being synonymous with celebration, is the clear drink of choice to bring in the new year. Which type of bubbly being poured is often contingent on preference and pocketbook. After all, those bubbles aren’t going to pay for themselves.
Serving or drinking a decent bottle of sparkling wine can save a host a new year’s worth of ridicule and a wicked hangover as well. The first rule to know is champagne is not champagne unless it’s from the region of Champagne, France. Otherwise it is sparkling wine; a minor detail to the layman drinker, but to the French this is scripture.
And credit must be given where credit is due. Krug, Perrier-Jouët, Moët, and so on, bottle the best stuff in the world. It also comes with a price tag of $150 plus per bottle and up. It’s difficult to find any bottle of champagne for anything less than $40. It must be noted that when purchasing good champagne you are not just buying a fancy bottle of fermented grapes. You are also buying into the identity, royalty and history — better known as really good marketing.
Cheaper alternatives are abound. Buyer beware — just because you save money on a bottle does not mean that you won’t be paying a heavy price the morning after. One reason for bad hangovers is drinking too much. But another culprit is residual sugar. Bottles labeled “brut” tend to have less than 1 percent of the sweet stuff. So leave the Korbel on the shelf because the middle ground has a bevy of options.
There are many varieties of prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) to suit your palate. Unlike champagne, where secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle, prosecco’s secondary fermentation occurs in the vat. It’s a less tedious and subsequently cheaper process. There are prosecco’s such as “spumante” that are made like champagne, giving it that fizzier finish.
Champagne may be the best, but not all of us have the wherewithal nor care about New Year’s Eve that much to uncork such special stuff. Locally speaking there are very good options from a grand celebration to the casual pop. Vertuze is sparkling wine bottled in the Arroyo Grande Valley around San Luis Obispo County. They bottle a brut as well as a rosé that is readily available in the area. It’s a very good local option and for around $20 a bottle it’s reasonable too.
On the cheaper side but still out of the “swill” zone is Gruet brut. New Mexico apparently makes some good sparkling wine. Pull this out at a party and save some cash and show the world that you have cool, unexpected wine knowledge too.
I can go on forever, but alas the year is almost over and there is some bubbly that has to be bought. New Year’s Eve is an obstacle course laden with bad decisions and regret. Where or whom you wake up with is none of my business, but please keep the vehicles at bay unless you have a designated driver.
Best of luck and may a good vintage find its way in your glass to ring in the new year.
Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike burning calories so he can eat more food, or on CityTV hosting his own show, “Tour de Feast.” To reach him visit his website at tourdefeast.net or follow him on Twitter @TourDeFeastSM.