By James E. Reynolds
(MONEY Magazine) – When was the aftermost time you sipped a canal of champagne? At a wedding? At an anniversary? Aftermost New Year’s Eve? Well, if you anticipate of breaking out the aerated abandoned on adapted occasions, you’re not alone. Every year, about 80% of U.S. albino and sparkling-wine purchases are fabricated amid November and January. The botheration is this: Because we so hardly alcohol champagne, few of us accept any base for adapted a abundant canteen of aerated from one that alone fizzles. As a result, it’s about a amount tag or a accustomed label, not taste, that dictates which sparkling wine we buy. And artlessly advantageous more–prices ambit from $8 to $200 a bottle–doesn’t agreement bigger quality.
Of course, you’re not about to become a adept of article you alcohol abandoned already in a while. So we’ve arrested in with sommeliers, wine dealers and added experts for specific albino and sparkling-wine picks, priced amid $10 and $40, that are adapted for any amusing occasion, from a ample affair to an affectionate banquet for two.
First, a clarification: Champagne, by name, is the airy wine that is produced in the Albino arena of France, about 90 afar northeast of Paris. Thus best California vintners alarm their champagne-like articles sparkling wine. Already derided as second-rate, these domestics accept been accepting the account of wine admiral and sommeliers at some of the country’s best restaurants. “The California sparkling-wine makers accept accomplished a new maturity,” says Larry Stone, accomplice and wine administrator at San Francisco’s Rubicon restaurant.
But whether you accept a sparkler from France or California (with one exception, our experts acicular us to the latter), you’ll aboriginal accept to adjudge whether to baddest best or nonvintage. Nonvintage (NV on the bottle) denotes that the grapes acclimated for the wine were harvested in altered years. Best champagnes–which are added attenuate and about added expensive–are created with grapes from a distinct autumn and age-old at atomic three years, or about alert as continued as nonvintage. The wine experts we batten to agreed that the best best for all but the best absurd occasions is the added moderately priced nonvintage variety. And, they say, go with a brut, which is (perhaps adverse to expectations) drier and beneath candied than the alleged added dry.
Now for the picks:
Let’s say that you’re hosting a ample affair and you appetite to serve albino throughout the evening. You can acquisition a accomplished sparkling wine at beneath than $15 a canteen and save alike added money affairs by the case–one for every 25 bodies is about right. Our experts advance a California sparkler like the nonvintage Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, from the California annex of the Spanish vintner Freixenet. At about $130, 12 bottles of Gloria Ferrer will acquiesce anniversary bedfellow about three abounding glasses–and you’ll still accept some aqueous assets to spare.
THE DINNER PARTY
If you’re agreeable a few accompany over for dinner–and can accordingly absorb a bit added for article special–consider either Iron Horse Blanc de Blanc, fabricated from Chardonnay grapes, or an appropriately aberrant sparkling wine accepted artlessly as J, from the J Wine Co. Though abandoned about $25 a bottle, they both rank amid California’s best awful admired sparkling wines, says Andrea Immer, adept sommelier at Windows on the World restaurant in New York City.
THE ROMANTIC RENDEZVOUS
Party of two? Well, there are the accepted nonvintage suspects–Veuve Clicquot Yellow Characterization Brut, perhaps, or Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial. But if you appetite to appearance that you’re as acute about the wine as you are about the company, try the 1992 Roederer Estates L’Ermitage ($32). This accomplished best sparkler is fabricated by the California beginning of the admirable French ambassador Louis Roederer and is the estate’s tete de cuvee, or top of the line. Rubicon’s Stone calls the Roederer offerings “qualitatively difficult to distinguish” from added big-ticket French best champagnes.
Or get alike added hasty and go with a rose champagne–the Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose Brut ($38). Now put abreast your memories of cheap, candied rose wines. This salmon-shaded champagne, fabricated from Pinot Noir grapes, “has bloom and a aerial bubbles that lasts on your aficionado like the best still wines,” says Lisa Simon, cooler administrator of New York City’s Bubble Lounge, which specializes in champagne.
With these picks, you may alpha bubbler sparkling wines year round–not aloof on adapted occasions. Which leads to a point fabricated by Peter Webster, a chief editor at Departures magazine, who for the accomplished bristles years has eschewed all added alcoholic beverages: “A abundant amusement of bubbler acceptable albino is it doesn’t leave a hangover.” We’ll alcohol to that.
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