If there’s one question as important as who you’re going to kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve, it’s where’s the Champagne? What to buy, what to order, what to drink—it’s enough to make any partygoer’s head spin. Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. First, a little primer:
True Champagne only comes from that region of France (grammarphiles will note the capital letter that denotes a proper name). All other bubbly is referred to as sparkling wine.
Champagnes (and sparkling wines) are classified by their sweetness, and according to Ann Coppinger, owner of Pettyjohn’s Liquor in Boulder, which is driest is the question she hears most.
“I will answer that question probably every five minutes the week of New Year’s,” she laughs.
For the record: Brut is the driest and extra brut is actually slightly sweeter. Confused yet? Then you get demi-sec, sec and doux, which increase in sweetness accordingly.
“Europe is finding that the Champagne houses are drying up their Champagne because they have found that the world population is preferring dryer sparkling wines,” Coppinger says. “I haven’t seen it yet, but I was told that they are producing a product called brut zero, which has absolutely no sugar added.”
So what to choose?
Coppinger reminds us that some styles are better for aperitifs or desserts or with a meal.
“In my mind, the rule of thumb is the dryer, the earlier you drink it,” she says. “What you would like to have in a sparkling wine for an appetizer is not what you want to have at the end.”
And that’s another important thing to remember: Champagnes and sparkling wines are generally a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir.
“A Champagne that’s more pinot noir-based is a little bit more flavorful, has a bit more weight to it and can handle some food,” Coppinger says.
And for that all-important toast at midnight? Just go with what you like.
“I like sparkling wines that have a little bit of color to them,” Coppinger says. “Rosés are very festive. Or a little piece of fruit in the glass, like a strawberry or raspberry, makes it more festive.”
Thankfully, whatever style you choose, Coppinger’s picks for this year won’t break your budget.
“This year Mumm Napa Brut got 90 points and it was on the Wine Spectator top 100 wines of the year. So, that is, in my mind, the best seller,” she says. “I presented it at my holiday tasting and everyone loved it. It’s really full and yeasty.”
And it’s under $20 a bottle.
“For real Champagne, Veuve Cliquot is always a favorite. I personally prefer the Roederer Brut Premier. I like creamy, and it has a very creamy mousse (bubbly foam),” she continues. “And Roederer is the house that makes Crystal. It’s $39.99, but the quality definitely shows thru.”
Fun Facts About Champagne 1. The rule that only wines from the Champagne region can bear the name was actually written into the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I.
2. The pressure in a bottle of Champagne is 90 pounds per square inch, about three times that in a car tire, and the cork leaves the bottle at a velocity of approximately 38–40 miles per hour.
3. The CO2 bubbles in Champagne carry alcohol to the bloodstream faster.
4. The most expensive bottle of Champagne is the Leon Verres “Billionaire Champagne,” a nine-litre bottle with a diamond-studded cover, which retails for $2.74 million! The most expensive standard-size bottle is the 1907 “shipwrecked” Heidsieck, at $275,000, which is actually more expensive by volume.
5. In the James Bond films, Bond is seen drinking Champagne 35 times.