On New Year’s Eve, the world will celebrate with Champagne. The preferred wine of royals and rappers (Jay-Z loved Cristal then dissed it), prime ministers and James Bond, it is used to christen ships and toast grand prix winners, and is universally associated with celebration, victory and success.
Throughout history, from Napoleon to Mariah Carey (a former ambassador for Angel Champagne), the image of Champagne remains paramount. Even those who dislike white wines are happily willing to sip it, and when served to guests, it begins the evening with relaxation and sets a festive mood. Guests assume you consider them worthy of such an expense. Because most Champagne is relegated to special occasions, the rarity of it being offered at other times impresses guests even more.
Champagne is a sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. While most wine with bubbles is referred to as sparkling wine, only wine from the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne. Because of its small growing area, true Champagne is limited in production and therefore costly, running from $50 a bottle to several hundred dollars. Since this scarcity limited their market to only the wealthy, the major Champagne producers created sparkling wine in California under names such as Roederer, Mumm and Chandon, most costing under $20. Roederer estate is my favorite. In addition, there are sparkling alternatives from Spain (cava) and from Italy (prosecco) which have become very popular.
There are a couple of points to consider in buying any sparkling wine. Most of them are non-vintage, so there is little difference year to year. (Vintage Champagne is very costly.) The style of wine varies from brut (very dry) to extra dry (actually somewhat sweet) to demi-sec (sweeter). Also, it’s the one wine that really needs its own glass. The saucer type was prevalent for many years, but now the flute glass is de rigueur. Not only does it show the wine better, but it enhances the stream of bubbles.
Whichever sparkling wine you choose, enjoy it this New Year's Eve in moderation. Happy New Year.
Wine writer Bob McGinn can reached at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.