Picking the perfect New Year's bubbly
Looking for the perfect quaff to pop your cork on New Year's Eve? Milwaukee wine experts Nate Norfolk and Toni Johnson offer up advice and suggestions for New Year's Eve bubbly.
"My advice is to splurge a bit on New Year's, but be classy, try something you haven't had before," says Nate Norfolk, sales manager at Purple Feet Wines.
"The huge Champagne companies spend millions on advertising, that could be going into the quality of their product, but instead they have to target every American over 21 with $50 bucks burning a hole in there pockets. Don't just take my advice, go buy some bubbles from people that love drinking the stuff. They will steer you in the right direction."
Johnson, who left Milwaukee in 2012 to become executive wine director at Napa's La Toque Restaurant in California and now works as a wine educator at Joseph Phelps vineyards, says that some things to consider when buying sparkling wine for are your budget vs. what she calls "the specialness factor," the quality of the wines and pairings.
In terms of budget, Johnson says that more than in any other area of wine, price is important when talking about sparkling wines.
"What you don't want to do is look at the bottom shelf of the sparkling wine section at Pick and Save and say, 'Those are only $6.99! Why should I spend more?' In sparkling wines 'You get what you pay for' is very pertinent. Those bottom shelf sparklers have Co2 pumped into them like soda pop does and that is what gives you that horrible headache the next day, not the alcohol."
Pairing, Johnson adds, is just as important with bubbly as it is with non-sparkling wines.
"If you are enjoying your bubbles with food pick the style that will match the best," she urges. "Champagne is a great appetizer wine. Most appetizers are a bit higher in fat and are very salty. The higher acid in the wine with cut the fat and they are great with salty food.
"For additional courses a rose Champagne is a great choice. It has some of the elements of red wine can be a great compliment to more savory dishes. If you are enjoying Champagne with sweeter food Demi Sec is the answer."
Remember, as always, selecting wine is a very personal decision. Drink what you like, not what others tell you to like.
Here are some recommendations from the experts:
"In my mind there only three types of Sparkling wine: Champagne, those who imitate Champagne and everything else.
"This is the real stuff. Duval-Leroy Non-vintage Brut is a classic true Champagne that is predominantly made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this is loaded with flavors ranging from lemon bars and chalk on the front to hints of bakers chocolate and fresh baked bread on the finish. This is an absolute steal when it comes to non-vintage French Champagne. Sendik's on Oakland is selling it for $29.99 a bottle.
"Non-vintage Gruet Brut Rose from New Mexico which is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay aged on its lees in bottle for 24 months. This is a Champagne imitator, but a very flattering one at an unbeatable price. Where non-vintage champagne only has to be aged a minimum of 15 months. This is just a beautiful pinched cheek pink in color and soft, toasty, crisp, and dry on the finish with an impressive froth and bright raspberry fruit. Between $15 and $20.
"Prosecco is in the everything else category, but it is the bubbly to pour for big groups and everyday occurrences. Trevisiol Extra-Dry Prosecco is from the Veneto region of Italy and because of recent changes in production laws we will be seeing less Prosecco, but what we will get will be high quality. Trevisiol is ever so slightly sweet though it is given the confusing moniker of extra-dry, this is actually less dry than sparkling wines labeled brut. This is fermented in tank as opposed to bottle fermented wines done int he Champagne style, in turn the bubbles are less aggressive and the flavors ore of immediate fruit, pear, Fuji apple and a touch of white peach with a very delicate finish."
"For a quiet romantic New Year's Eve I would go all out and get French Champagne. It is the highest on the specialness scale as they are so well made. If you don't want to shell out more than $100. and want an awesome bottle then go to Waterford Wine or Thief Wine and ask for "Small Grower Champagne." These are amazing Champagnes that are made by the people that grow their own grapes. They tend to be more in the $50 range. Often they are more skillfully made that the big names because they are made in smaller amounts and some of the houses don't make more than 500 cases.
"If you want to go all out, great choices are Krug Special Cuvee, Bollinger Grand Annee, Perrier Jouet Belle Epoch -- the pretty floral bottle -- and Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame. If you are having a New Year's Eve party then look for quality at a great price. The bubbles in Champagne are created by a second fermentation in the bottle or Methode Champenoise, which is a natural process.
"Most domestic of sparkling wines that are made in the same fashion will say that on the bottle so look for that if you are buying sparkling wines from California. Schramsberg and Iron Horse are classic examples but will set you back about $30 a bottle.
"If the party is going to be a larger one then Gruet from New Mexico is a great choice or opt for a Spanish Cava. All Spanish Cava's must be made in the tradition of Champagne production so very often they can be a great choice. Cristalino is still my favorite in this category as it is well made for a great price."
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