Maybe you loved 2014 and look forward to 2015. Maybe you want to say “good riddance” to the old year and hope the new one will be better.
Either way, you’ll need some bubbles for toasting when the clock nears midnight on New Year’s Eve.
And that’s fine.
But the talented, earnest people who make champagnes and sparkling wines lament the common idea that it is only for toasting, only for celebrating, only for spewing around the locker room after you’ve won the World Series.
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They want you to drink bubbly with food, too. It creates some of the finest wine-food pairings in the world, they say.
“I’d like to take away the idea that champagne is just bubbles to drink as an aperitif.” says Carl Heline, Moët & Chandon champagne educator.
“I’d like to encourage people to play more with champagne. You can drink it with risotto, carpaccio. It can handle the main dish — veal and lamb and pork chops, red meat.”
This is why many avid fans create dinners with a different champagne or sparkling wine for each course. A big reason bubblies go with so many foods is that they come in many styles.
The official language for describing bubbly is a bit confusing, but it’s easily mastered if one is motivated. And I always say the homework is a lot more fun than studying algebra.
First comes its sweetness level. From the driest to the sweetest, it goes like this: brut nature, brut, extra dry, sec, demi-sec and doux.
Yes, it means “extra dry” is sweeter than brut. Doesn’t make sense, but that’s how they named it.
Then there’s the grape blend. Brut is often a blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, another red grape. Blanc de noirs (white from black) sparkling wine is made primarily of red grapes, often pinot noir. Blanc de blancs (white from whites) is from white grapes, often chardonnay.
The more red grapes in the blend, the better it goes with red meats and powerfully flavored fish such as tuna, swordfish and salmon. The more white grapes, the lighter the bubbly becomes, so it’s good as an aperitif.
So raise a toast to the New Year with bubbly, but keep in mind it also will go well with that New Year’s Day brunch.
▪ 2006 Moët & Chandon “Grand Vintage” Brut, Epernay, France (chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier): myriad tiny bubbles, crisp and lively, with aromas of tropical fruits and spices and a long, fruity finish; $65.
▪ Nonvintage Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs, Carneros (chardonnay): lively bubbles, yeasty aroma, flavors of green apples and vanilla; $22.
▪ Nonvintage “J Cuvee” Brut, Sonoma County: (chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier): lots of delicate bubbles, aromas and flavors of ripe peaches and pears, citrusy finish; $28.
▪ 2011 Domaine Albert Mann Crémant d’Alsace Brut, Alsace (pinot blanc, pinot noir, pinot gris): soft bubbles, creamy texture, aromas and intense flavors of ripe pears and apples, long finish; $15.
▪ Nonvintage Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve, Reims, France (pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot meunier): tiny bubbles, yeasty aroma, flavors of black cherries, oranges and spice, long finish; $60.
▪ Nonvintage Champagne Pol Roger Brut Réserve, Epernay, France (pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot meunier): myriad tiny bubbles, toasty aromas, light and lively, flavors of ripe golden apples and citrus, long finish; $52.
▪ Nonvintage Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Brut, Reims (pinot noir, pinot meunier, chardonnay): light and lively, with floral aromas and black cherries, citrus and ginger, long finish; $45.
▪ Nonvintage Moët & Chandon “Imperial” Brut, Epernay, France (pinot noir, pinot meunier, chardonnay): delicate bubbles, yeasty aromas, flavors of lemon meringue, minerals and hazelnuts, long finish; $41.
▪ 2008 Franciacorta “Lo Sparviere,” Lombardy, Italy: Very small, long-lasting bubbles, yeasty aromas, flavors of honey and citrus; $28.
▪ Nonvintage Gloria Ferrer “Va de Vi Ultra Cuvée,” Sonoma County (pinot noir, chardonnay, muscat): pinpoint bubbles, aromas of black cherries, rich, ripe pear and vanilla flavors, mellow finish; $22.
▪ 2010 Schramsberg “Blanc de Noirs,” North Coast (pinot noir, chardonnay): aromas and flavors of red berries and citrus, crisp acids, full body; $40.
▪ Nonvintage Anna de Codorniu Brut Cava, Penedés, Spain (pinot noir, chardonnay): fine, long-lasting bubbles, aromas of mangos and lemons, very crisp; $15.
▪ 2010 Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec (flora, chardonnay, pinot noir): lots of bubbles, lightly sweet flavors of tropical and candied fruit and brown sugar; full-bodied, long finish; $39.
▪ Nonvintage Martini & Rossi Moscato d’Asti, DOCG Italy (moscato): lots of tiny bubbles, floral aromas, sweet-tart apricot and lime flavors, low alcohol; $15.
▪ Nonvintage Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne, Reims, France: lots of tiny, persistent bubbles, toasty aromas, flavors of vanilla and red raspberries, full and rich; $54.
▪ Multivintage Roederer Estate Brut Rosé, Anderson Valley (pinot noir, chardonnay): steady stream of bubbles, red berry aromas and flavors; $30.
▪ Nonvintage Barefoot Bubbly Extra Dry, Central Valley, California (chardonnay): yeasty aromas, lightly sweet flavors of ripe apricots, fruity finish; $10