I’m sampling sparkling wines today – by which I mean there is champagne in my mouth right now – and I’m loving every minute of it. Perhaps it’s not the manliest of drinks, but I’ve always enjoyed a good glass of bubbly, even though it makes me swoon. Heck, I even enjoy bad bubbly, and I don’t think it gets much worse than Sovetskoye Shampanskoye, the post-Soviet plonk with the plastic cork that appears at every party east of Austria. But how can a drink be bad when every time I’ve had it I’ve had a good time? Anyway, tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, which is probably the biggest night of the year for champagne sparkling wine consumption, so it makes sense to rap about a few of our favorite bottles. Naturally, there are the über-expensive ones, like Dom Pérignon and Cristal. I’ve had Dom before, and it’s exquisite, and I’ll assume Cristal is as well. But with three-figure price tags, I won’t be brushing my teeth with them anytime soon. Better, then, to sample bubbly I can afford, like Moët & Chandon Imperial ($40), which I’m drinking out of a paper cup at the moment. Fancy wine writers might have a better description, but I call it yummers, with a mild sweetness, healthy bite, and delightfully smooth aftertaste. It’s “real” champagne, from Epernay, France, and it’s definitely good enough to impress friends and family. If someone looks down at you for bringing Moët, they’re not worth drinking with anyway. Plus, you get to say, “You’re drinking Moët and we got the champagne,” à la “Hold it Now, Hit It” by the Beastie Boys. A fine bottle.
Then, for the price conscious, there’s Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvée from California, which is a tremendous value at just $10 a bottle. A bit rounder and sweeter than the Moët, it nonetheless has a balanced taste, with delicate fruit notes, a pleasing smell bouquet, and notes of apple, pear, and grapefruit. This is a B+ booze if price isn’t factored in, bumping up to a solid A if it is.
I’m not drinking it right now, but I’ve always been a fan of Veuve Clicquot, which tastes rich, fun, and nuanced. Plus, you can show off your knowledge of French by informing your ever-loving that “veuve” means “widow.” This is the bottle I buy for people when the occasion calls for a bottle of champagne. At between $40 and $50 depending on the liquor store, it’s a good value, because if you don’t like Veuve, you don’t like champagne.
But you don’t need proper champagne, or even the American version, to have a celebration. Over the past couple of years, I’ve become fond of Prosecco, which is made in Italy, and the sweeter version, Muscato. They’re both cheaper than the French stuff, and, while not quite as refined, there’s the novelty value of being “Italian Champagne,” which is to say, less snobby and more fun.
One more thing before the bubbles penetrate my brain and I stop making sense: sure, New Year’s Eve is great for popping bottles, but champagne (I’m just going to use that word for all sparkling wines, sue me) has the magical power of making any event a special occasion. I just walked around the office with two bottles and a stack of cups. I stopped by everybody’s desk, said “I’m not asking,” and started pouring. I heard no complaints. Happy New Year.