It wouldn’t be New Year’s without opening a bottle of the fizzy stuff. But must you reach for a top French Champagne? What’s the best way to pop the cork? Can you freeze a bottle for a quick chill?
Rather than worry about protocol, check out our helpful pointers. Then go out and try some, using our best buys as a guide. They’ll prove you can get a good Champagne or sparkling wine at any price you can swallow. In fact, our picks range from $14 to $52 (look for seasonal deals, too). All are dry or “brut,” and all are ideal with the Parmesan Crisps, Fried Olives, and Garlicky Beef Tips (see Marvelous Munchies on page 3). They’re available nationwide, or go to wine.com to order.Fizz Facts
Champagne is a sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wines can be called Champagne. This name belongs only to those wines from the Champagne region of France, about 90 miles northeast of Paris. Many excellent non-Champagne sparkling wines are produced elsewhere in France as well as in Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, the United States, and South America.
Both true Champagnes and fine sparkling wines are made using the best, most painstaking process of carbonation: methode champenoise. Check the label for this designation of quality. The wine undergoes a double fermentation inside the bottle to create tiny bubbles for maximum effervescence. After a period of aging to develop more complexity and body, the champagne is ready to enjoy.Bubbly Basics
Whether you bring home a true French Champagne or other sparking wine, keep these pointers in mind:
In addition to the term methode champenoise, other descriptive words give you clues about what you’re buying:
Flavors of bubblies go from toasty to yeasty. There are also varying levels of dryness. These terms tell you where a product fits into the dry-to-sweet range.