Monday, December 31, 2018

Champagne Serenade: A New Year’s Toast

~Doc Lawrence

A single glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced; the imagination is stirred; the wits become more nimble.” Winston Churchill

The Champagne ritual has an exalted place in celebrations including the christening of a new aircraft carriers. Few events transcend the joys from crystal flutes overflowing with bubbly on New Year’s Eve. Each tiny rising bubble suggests optimism, a welcoming of yet unknown events during the next 12 months.  Abiding faith that we will enjoy the gift of life.

The word Champagne conjures up unfounded fears of burdensome expense. Because it is a sparkling wine-albeit a regal one-the more affordable choices are too often overlooked. Well-intentioned hosts opt for what is called grocery store wine, and open up bottles misleadingly labelled that promise no romance but are guaranteed to give everyone a stemwinding hangover.

The pleasures of Champagne and wonderful substitutes can be enjoyed for a very fair price. For those who don’t worry about costs (I’m not one of them), there are many smart choices that will add to the moment.

For a casual New Year’s Eve party, consider Lambrusco. The rustic Lini 910 Lambrusco from Emilia Romagna, Italy is widely available, affordable at $15, has bubbles galore and will be a big hit when burgers, wings or barbecue is served. 

This time of year, good people want to get tickled with bubbles. Spain’s wonderful Cava has that wonderful Champagne taste. Montsarra, a quality label will cost around $16 a bottle. Primarily made from three grapes, Macabeo, Xarel.lo and Parellada, a little Chardonnay provides kinship to the famous bottles from France.

Consider a sparkling wine from Burgundy. Cremant de Bourgogne is produced methode Champenoise, and is as celebratory beyond what we expect. For less than $25, you can enjoy a few bottles NV Parigot Rosé made from 100% Pinot Noir that will make the occasion one to remember.

As the midnight hour approaches, after a full evening of cocktails and good food, something softer and friendlier like Prosecco should receive a big welcome. For $12, Riondo Prosecco, a popular Italian sparkler features abundant fruit, soft carbonation and a surprising lively, crisp finish. 
California’s Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noir, is bone dry and classically crisp. With every glass it becomes more enjoyable, a near-perfect companion to salty small bites and elegant canapés. A steal at $22.

For those who struck it rich in 2018, who light their cigars with hundred dollar bills, splurge with a bottle of Krug NV Champagne for a mere $150. This will comfortably accompany a rich dinner with a prime rib roast entree.

Instead of mass-produced supermarket sparkling wine, try an affordable estate-bottled delight like the Ariston Carte Blanche Brut Champagne for around $20. Likewise, there are so many elegant, smaller production grower-producer Champagnes. One, Franck Bonville Brut Millesime Blanc de Blancs Champagne is bright like a clear winter morning and recalls little green apples and toasted cinnamon bread.

Sparkling wines from New Mexico like Gruet, North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate and Georgia’s Wolf Mountain are genuine bargains, priced fairly and delicious. They’re out there. Try Whole Foods, the Dekalb Farmer’s Market (near Atlanta) or a top wine store.

Toss those plastic glasses into the rubbish bin. Fill crystal flutes with the good stuff. Toast to a better world, peace on earth, a healthy planet, the awesome power of love and the gift of good health and life. 

                                                     HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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