A NYE Cork-Popping Champagne Primer

imageOn occasion, I get a deeply atavistic jones for champagne. New Year’s Eve is really no different than any other day except that I will likely consume more of it than normal. For some reason — recession-related, a glimmer of good times in the darkness of bad? — there’s a lot of chatter about bubbly, more so than I can remember from the recent past. The New York Times alone did three stories on bubbly, and a host of others publications have run their usual seasonal champagne primers. Here’s something to get you started.

I’m pretty loyal to Veuve Clicquot and was psyched to read the review of Tilar J. Mazzeo’s The Widow Clicquot about Barbe-Nicole Clicquot breaking the glass ceiling (and the Napoleonic code that women remain subservient) and introducing the world to Veuve Clicquot. Proves what little I knew about the Clicquot brand. Her winemaker husband died young and left the business to his wife. The rest is history.

If you’re more the renegade champagne type and go for indie labels, GQ did a fine item in this month’s issue on the industry’s overlooked brands (Diebolt-Vallois Brut Blanc de Blancs sounds especially tasty). If you want to try a different kind of bubbly without the French price tag, try prosecco, Italy’s alternative to champagne. The nice bubbles, affordability, and sound kick are reflected by the growing popularity — sales have seen double-digit increases for the past ten years. But some Prosecco makers want to keep it a secret from the rest of the fizz biz. “If everyone around the world plants prosecco, we will lose the value of the name,” one regional rep told the Times.

Finally, let’s talk about where you pour the bubbles. I tend to get my swerve going around midnight, so saucer-type stemware is out of the question (rumor has it that the glass was modeled after Marie Antoinette’s breasts). The curvy trumpet style makes it look like I’m drinking a very dainty glass of beer. Pass. So that leaves flutes, which are generally idiot proof — my kind of glass. From the a recent story, I got the sense sommeliers prefer the flute, in crystal of course. But be gentle. “I entertain a lot at home,” one sommelier told the Times, “and the most important thing is durability.”

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