The countdown ends. Toy horns blare. Revelers kiss. The glass they lift at midnight is filled with ...
Bubbly. Of course. The wine of celebration.
It makes you happy. Oblivious for a few minutes of life’s cares and woes.
Champagne, like many of life’s good things, was invented by mistake. It was Aug. 4, 1693, at a Benedictine abbey northwest of Paris. A monk named Dom Perignon, the abbey’s cellar master, was given the task of ridding the cellar’s wine of the pesky bubbles caused by a flaw called uncontrolled refermentation.
But legend says he stole a little sip and proclaimed, “I am drinking the stars.”
Probably not even true. But his bubbles have become the world’s most famous wine. It’s called champagne only in France’s Champagne district northeast of Paris. In California it’s sparkling wine. In Italy it’s spumante. In Germany it’s sekt. In Spain it’s cava.
Too many names. So I like to call it all simply bubbly.
Bubbly’s finest use is to sip it all by itself, after watching its bubbles rise regally through a tall champagne flute.
But it’s equally wonderful with food. It comes in so many styles that it can be served with every course of a multicourse meal.
Just to name a few, the lightest bubbly is called blanc de blancs — white of whites, meaning it’s made mostly of white chardonnay. That’s for the hors d’oeuvres or the seafood course.
Next is blanc de noirs — white from black, meaning it’s made mostly from the dark red grape pinot noir, with the juice removed from the skins before it picks up much color. This is good for the fish or chicken course.
Then comes brut champagne, often made of white chardonnay and red pinot noir. Good with ham, duck, pork, pasta with tomato sauces and such.
Then comes rose champagne, with enough red juice in it to turn it 50 shades of pink. This can be wonderful with not-too-sweet desserts like fruit tarts.
But of course in this season, champagne’s finest use is to raise it high at midnight and toast the world. Happy New Year!
▪ Nonvintage Veuve Clicquot Brut “Yellow Label” Champagne, Reims, France (pinot noir, pinot meunier, chardonnay): tiny, persistent bubbles, aromas of golden apples, citrus and brioche, crisp acids, creamy body, long, tart finish; $50.
▪ Nonvintage Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, Napa Valley, California (45 percent chardonnay, 45 percent pinot noir, 10 percent pinot gris/pinot meunier): fine bubbles, aromas and flavors of lemons, apples and cinnamon; $22.
▪ 2007 Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee Brut, Carneros, California (67 percent pinot noir, 33 percent chardonnay): soft bubbles, aromas and flavors of lemons and sweet cherries, hint of minerals, long finish; $37.
▪ 2011 Schramsberg Vineyards Crémant Demi-Sec, Napa Valley (85 percent flora, 6 percent chardonnay, 9 percent pinot noir): soft, gentle bubbles, fairly sweet, aromas and flavors of ripe oranges and pineapples, rich, long finish; $40.
▪ Nonvintage “Anna de Codorníu” Brut Cava, Penedes, Catalonia, Spain (30 percent parellada, 70 percent chardonnay): delicate bubbles, crisp and lively, aromas and flavors of mangoes, lemons and limes; $15.
▪ Nonvintage Piccini Prosecco DOC Vino Spumante Extra Dry, Treviso, Italy (100 percent glera): soft bubbles, aromas of camellias, flavors of golden delicious apples and pink grapefruit, hint of sweetness, tart finish; $16.
▪ Nonvintage Mumm Napa Brut Rose, Napa Valley (80 percent pinot noir, 20 percent chardonnay: deep pink hue, aromas and flavors of red raspberries and lemons; $24.
▪ 2012 Schramsberg Vineyards Blanc de Blancs, North Coast, California (100 percent chardonnay): lively bubbles, crisp and dry, with aromas and flavors of lemons and limes, peaches and spice, long, crisp finish; $41.
▪ Nonvintage Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs, Carneros (92 percent pinot noir, 8 percent chardonnay): light pink hue, black cherry and vanilla aromas, creamy finish; $22.
▪ Roederer Estate Multi-Vintage Brut, Anderson Valley, California (60 percent chardonnay, 40 percent pinot noir): light and lively, fine bubbles, aromas and flavors of golden delicious apples and cinnamon; $24.
▪ Nonvintage “White Knight” Prosecco DOC Spumante Brut, by The Other Guys, Treviso, Italy (100 percent glera grapes): long-lasting bubbles, aromas and flavors of flowers, peaches and tangerines, crisp finish; $15.
▪ Nonvintage “Cote Mas” Cremant de Limoux Rose Brut, St. Hilaire, Languedoc, France (70 percent chardonnay, 20 percent chenin blanc, 10 percent pinot noir): soft bubbles, aromas of ripe peaches, flavors of oranges; $16.
▪ 2007 Ferrari Perle Trentodoc, Trento DOC, Italy (100 percent chardonnay): fine, long-lasting bubbles, bread dough aromas, flavors of pineapples and ripe apples; $38.