Champagne is an iconic, celebratory symbol on New Year’s Eve; at midnight all around the world corks will pop while people laugh, kiss and sing to usher in 2007. But despite its lighthearted persona, bubbly tends to intimidate even the most seasoned drinkers. Choosing the best producer and vintage, and then opening and serving the wine, should never be complicated. We’ve broken down the basics for you to make sure your New Year’s Eve celebration is a stress-free night to remember. In addition, we’ve included our editors’ picks of 15 great sparklers for under $30—perfect for ringing in 2007 with finesse.
CHAMPAGNE VERSUS SPARKLING WINE
“Champagne” refers to sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of France. By law, this is the only wine that can bear the prestigious Champagne name. Otherwise, it is referred to as “sparkling wine.” Sparkling wines that get their carbonation from the traditional method of bottle fermentation are labeled méthode Champenoise or methode traditionelle.
Sparklers from all over the world are becoming more popular: there’s Spumante or Prosecco from Italy, Sekt or Schaumwein from Germany and Cava from Spain. Great sparkling wines from nearly everywhere in the world can be found.
HOW TO SERVE:
Sparkling wine should be served at about 43 to 48Â°F so the aromas and tastes can be fully appreciated. You can achieve this by refrigerating your bottle for about 4 hours. For a quick chill, put the bottle in an ice bucket filled with a mixture of half ice and half water for 20 minutes. Serve in flutes, which help to preserve those famous tiny bubbles. Pour slowly so it does not fizz over the glass.
HOW TO OPEN:
Take the foil covering off of the cork.
Remove the wire cage, keeping your thumb on top of the cork as you unwind it. Champagne/sparkling corks can loosen over time, so you should keep your thumb over it just in case it decides to pop off.
After the foil is removed, you should proceed by wrapping a towel around the top of the bottle over the cork. This will help control the cork and buffer the blow should it pop off.
Hold the bottle firmly from the bottom with your dominant hand and the cork with the other.
Point the bottle away from anything breakable (this includes your guests!). Slowly twist the bottom of the bottle (while still grasping the cork).The idea behind slowly twisting the base of the bottle and not popping off the cork is that you want to keep in as much bubbly in the wine as possible. That means that a big “pop” sound (while creating a dramatic effect) is no good while a small “poof” sound is better for the carbonation.
WHAT TO DRINK:
Below is our list of 15 great sparklers for under $30—the perfect price point for those looking to ring in the New Year without breaking the bank. For more great Champagnes and sparkling wines, check out our Buying Guide wine reviews.
|92 Domaine Chandon NV Reserve Brut Champagne Blend (Napa-Sonoma); $24. Editors’ Choice.|
|92 Gloria Ferrer 1997 Royal Cuvée Brut Sparkling Blend (Carneros); $28. Editors’ Choice.|
|92 Mumm Napa 2001 Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Blend Napa Valley); $25. Editors’ Choice.|
|91 Pacific Echo 1998 Brut Rosé Sparkling Blend (Anderson Valley); $24. Editors’ Choice.|
|91 René Muré 2000 Champagne Blend (Crémant d’Alsace); $20. Editors’ Choice.|
|90 Astoria 2001 Extra Dry Prosecco (Prosecco di Valdobbiadene); $9. Best Buy.|
|90 Bisol NV Crede Prosecco (Prosecco di Valdobbiadene); $12. Best Buy.|
|90 Domaine Chandon NV Brut Classic Sparkling Blend (California); $18. Editors’ Choice.|
|90 Marques de Monistrol 1999 Brut Reserva Privada Sparkling Blend (Cava); $15. Best Buy.|
|90 Bisol NV Crede Prosecco (Prosecco di Valdobbiadene); $18. Editors’ Choice.|
|90 Simonnet-Febvre NV Champagne Blend (Crémant de Bourgogne); $13. Best Buy.|
|90 Gran Gesta NV Brut Sparkling Blend (Cava); $14. Best Buy.|
|90 Schild Estate 2004 Sparkling Shiraz (Barossa); $24. Editors’ Choice.|
|90 Mionetto NV Cartizze Prosecco (Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze); $24. Editors’ Choice.|
|90 Segura Viudas NV Reserva Heredad Sparkling Blend (Cava); $20. Editors’ Choice.|
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