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‘Tis the season for holiday parties—and we say there’s nothing more festive than popping open a bottle of bubbly. But how do you choose the perfect one? We asked Michael Klauber, wine guru and owner of Michael’s On East and Michael’s Wine Cellar, to share his best tips for choosing a Champagne or sparkling wine.

Know your wine. “Champagne comes only from the Champagne region of France,” Klauber explains. “Everything else is sparkling wine. And the French fight to make that distinction known!” Sommeliers and wine shop owners, like Klauber’s team, are happy to explain more about the variations between types of wines.

Don’t worry about price. “There are so many great values today,” Klauber says. “I happen to love a sparkling wine from a South African proprietor called Graham Beck—it’s under $15 a bottle and it’s awesome.” For those on a budget, Klauber also recommends Prosecco, a sparkling wine from Italy “that’s a little bit sweeter with a peach nectar quality to it.” If price is no object, you could consider one of the luxury cuvees, like Dom Perignon, which can be in the $200-per-bottle range.

Taste test. “Going to a tasting is the perfect way to try Champagne and sparkling wine,” says Klauber, whose annual Champagne tasting at Michael’s Wine Cellar is wildly popular. But if you can’t make that, he recommends trying out by-the-glass options at restaurants or wine bars to discover what you like best.

Keep food light. “You don’t want to have heavy food with Champagne because of its delicate flavors,” Klauber says. “Go with lighter foods, like seafood.” Fresh caviar is a classic pairing, and Klauber says smoked salmon is also a great match. “You don’t want to overpower the wine,” he says. “You want to be able to taste the wine and the food, so neither one steps on the other.”

Enjoy. You want to love the wine you choose, so go with what tastes best to you—whether that’s a vintage Champagne or a domestic sparkler from California. “There are such wonderful values out there,” Klauber says. “You don’t have to spend a fortune to get something great—and it’s only getting better.”

 

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