By Colleen Walsh Fong
The popping cork and elegant effervescence of champagne have been associated with the hope and excitement of fresh starts since as long ago as the 17th century. European royalty began using and singing the praises of champagne around that time. Today we use the lively libation to toast weddings, births, new ventures, and to christen new ships by smashing bottles of bubbly across their prows. But champagne is probably most associated with ringing in the new year, and New Years Eve is coincidentally National Champagne Day. While some lament the passing of the old year and toast to “auld lang syne,” greeting the new year with the promise represented in a glass of champagne is decidedly more fun.
Real champagne comes from France’s Champagne region, and must be produced according to rules that govern the creation of its carbonation. Many sellers and purchasers of “champagnes” are really handling sparkling wines that haven’t earned the true champagne appellation. My rule of thumb is that if you can’t tell or taste the difference between real and the generally less expensive faux champagne, ignorance can be blissfully cost saving.
If you are a wine and champagne enthusiast, you already have one or more favorite champagnes. But if you’re looking for a bottle for New Year’s Eve, here are a few that you may want to consider.
For a top-hat and tails type of night, try Fleury Pere & Fils Brut Champagne 1988 (with brut meaning dry and not sweet) at approximately $190 per bottle, which earned a Wine Spectator (WS) score of 96out of 100. Or give Duval-Leroy Brut Champagne Femme 200 a shot at approximately $150 per bottle. It earned a WS rating of 94.
If you’re looking for an evening of casual chic have a go at L. Aubry Fils Brut Champagne Aubry De Hubert 2006, or Henri Billiot & Fils Brut Champagne Réserve NV (with NV meaning non-vintage—wines coming from a single year or a blend of years.) The Aubry De Hubert goes for approximately $90 per bottle and carries a WS rating of 92. The Henri Billiot & Fils scores a WS 93 and sells for about $60 per bottle.
Looking for a well-bred bubbler in a lower price range? Chartogne-Taillet Champagne Le Rosé NV earned a WS score of 93 and retails in the $55 range. And Bérèche & Fils Brut Champagne Reserve NV scored a WS 92 and goes for about $42 a pop.
For dress-casual Eves look into La Caravelle Brut Champagne Cuveé Niña selling in the $35 range, or Domaine Chapuy Brut Champagne Tradition NV, which sells for about $30. Both sport a WS score of 91.
If you’re not particular about your toasting libation, and don’t mind a sparkling wine instead of the real Champagne deal, try a Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut for about $10 or a Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut for about $9.
And if you want the sparkle without the alcohol go high end with $60 Golden Star White Jasmine Tea, or hang onto a few Jacksons by picking up some sparkling fruit juices at your local supermarket.
Enjoy the toasting beverage of your choice and Have a Happy and Safe New Year’s Eve!
Featured Image Courtesy of Paul / Free Digital Photos