A champagne toast

Col-head-ZalkinThe month of December is a big month for sparkling wines, as we move from celebration to celebration, ending with a New Years bash. So send the old year out with a bang, or a pop!

Champagne is the most famous sparkling wine, its name indelibly linked with luxury and celebration. Made from two of the most versatile, food-friendly grapes, chardonnay and pinot noir, champagne is great both with food, and on its own.

The Champagne AOC is located in the northeastern France, not far from Paris. Champagne is traditionally a blended wine, combining grapes from different growers and vintages in order to achieve a consistent result from year to year. More than any other type of wine, the great champagne houses carefully cultivate a brand, and part of that brand is having a signature style that fans could recognize blindfolded.

Great champagne will taste the as elegant today as a bottle you remember from five or 10 years ago. They work hard to ensure that there are no bad years, no disappointing bottles, no unwelcome surprises. But as the movement towards all things artisanal, spreads from industry to industry, more companies are making single vineyard vintage offerings.

A vintage champagne will have more character and personality than the traditional blends, but they are also susceptible to all the variations experienced by other fine vintage wines, be they glorious or heartbreaking. They are definitely worth seeking out, and will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of just what makes champagne so magical.

Champagne shines with seafood, creamy sauces, pate, and even fried foods. The bubbles cut through fatty dishes, and provide a refreshing hit of acidity when paired with subtle sweetness. Compared to other sparkling wines, champagne has unmatched complexity and warm undertones of pastry and vanilla. Pale fruits and a hint of citrus round out the flavor profile of this king of sparkling wines.

Be careful not to over-chill it, as too much cold will dull the flavors, and though it may be tempting to pop the champagne cork across the room, and send bubbles flying everywhere, this bit of showmanship is hard on the wine, and your carpet.

To open champagne, remove the foil and wire, then grasp the bottle firmly in one hand, and with the other, work the cork off in a circle until it is loosened, then slowly twist it off. It should still make a satisfying pop when released, but you won’t risk loosing the bubbles, or poking any of your party guests in the eye.

So (carefully) pop the champagne, and ring in the New Year with this unparalleled beverage of sophisticated celebration. And Happy New Year to one and all!

• Ayala Brut Champagne. A delicate and harmonious blend of red grapes and chardonnay. Aged a minimum of two years, this lively, fruity wine holds it’s own against the famous makers. A real up-and-comer.

• Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne Reserve. Pale yellow, with elegant aromas of ripe pear and cut hay, and persistent, delicate perlage. Clean finish shows off the floral character of this delightful wine.

• G.H. Mumm – Brut Champagne Cordon Rouge. A long aging period imparts additional notes of vanilla, roasted nuts, and toast. Aromas of dried fruits, orange peel and smoke. Drink until 2020.

• Moet & Chandon- Brut Champagne Imperial. Golden with amber highlights, and aromas of yellow-fleshed fruits like apple, pear, and peach carried through with both subtlety and vigor. Juicy acidity and a long finish.

• Perrier-Jouet Champagne Grand Brut. Elegant and fruity, lightly juicy, with white cherry, a touch of ginger and complex minerals. A toasty finish, and refined bubbles round out this star player.

• Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne. Clean and lightly toasty, with a delicate bead and fresh, doughy flavors. Citrus and grapefruit provide a delightful finish to this harmonious and elegant champagne.

• Pol Roger – Brut Champagne. Long slow, maturation, yields a particularly smooth and harmonious result. Beautiful, complex fruit, and a smooth buttery finish characterize this offering, from one of the few luxury champagne producers that is still family-owned.

• Ruinart – Blanc De Blancs Champagne. A smoky, luminous wine, from the oldest champagne house in the world. Brightness, intensity, and elegance, with aromas of lemon and croissant, with a refreshing mineral finish.

• Taittinger – Brut Champagne. White fruit aromas sparkle in delicate bubbles, underscored by warm toasty notes. Dominated by the refined character of chardonnay grapes, this classic example has terrific structure and longevity.

You can find all of these delightful Champagnes for purchase at our store, Old Greenwich Fine Wines & Cheese, located at 195 Sound Beach Avenue, Old Greenwich or visit our website Ogfinewines.com or call (203) 990-3030 to place an order. When you stop in, we invite you to taste a number of our favorite wines while we help you find the right bottle for your palate.

Robert Zalkin is the owner of Old Greenwich Fine Wines & Cheese at 195 Sound Beach Avenue. His column is available weekly at Greenwich-post.com.

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