Champagne and New Year’s Eve: Of course it’s a cliché. But, it’s a cliché we love. And, there is simply no way that I won’t uncork a bottle of bubbly this New Year’s Eve, and the next, and the next. The question is: Which bottle should one pop the cork on from among the baffling array of sparkling wine styles and brands? And that’s a tough question.
For some people, New Year’s Eve is the only time they’ll buy or drink Champagne. For others, it can be a more frequent treat. Before you go out and buy a bottle of bubbly for New Year’s Eve, you’ll want to consider what you plan to do with it. Yes, I know you’re going to drink it. But, do you plan to just have a few sips at midnight with friends and/or loved ones? Or, maybe you’re planning a big New Year’s Eve dinner and you want to drink sparkling wine while you eat. Perhaps you’ll be whipping up some Champagne cocktails for New Year’s Eve or the day after, rather than drinking it straight.
These factors matter, because if you’re drinking sparkling wine on its own, I suggest something a tad on the sweet side, like the French Champagnes labeled “demi-sec.” Many people don’t like good Champagne because it can be so dry and austere. It’s especially nasty when you wind up sipping a dry Champagne (Brut) alongside something sweet, like wedding cake. Unfortunately, that’s precisely where many people encounter their first sip of bubbly, and it turns them against it.
So, for toasting at midnight on New Year’s Eve or for sipping solo, I recommend a fruity sparkling wine that isn’t super-dry—slightly sweet, in fact. From Italy comes one of my favorite Rosé-style sparkling wines: Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto ($22.48). True to its name, this is an enchanting bottle of red-colored bubbly with sensuous strawberry and raspberry flavors. It’s our favorite choice for Valentine’s Day, but would also be very pleasing on New Year’s Eve. From Spain, Freixenet Semi-Seco ($9.99) is a good choice, along with Anna De Codorniu ($13.16), with its apple, pineapple and pear flavors and hints of baked brioche.
From France, I’d opt for any of this quartet of spectacular off-dry Champagnes: Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec ($29.03/375ml), Billecart-Salmon Demi-Sec ($47.93), Louis Roederer Carte Blanche Demi-Sec ($55.13) or MoÃ«t Nectar Imperial ($49.99).
And for domestic bubbly, I’d turn to something like Gloria Ferrer VA de VI ($18.99), with slightly sweet tropical fruit flavors, vanilla and a creamy texture. Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec ($37.99) is another great choice for those with a sweet tooth: creamy and luscious, with floral aromas and flavors of apricot and peach.
Although it’s typically used to toast a special event, like the dawning of the New Year, Champagne should also be a staple at your dinner table. It’s actually a great food partner, and very versatile. I suggest pairing Blanc de Blanc Champagne with dishes like fish and seafood with buttery sauces, and for roasted chicken and turkey. Mumm Cremant Blanc de Blanc ($66.83) would be a great choice, as would my all-time favorite Champagne: Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blanc ($330.14). Sorry, that price isn’t a typo! Other of my preferred food-friendly Champagnes include Mumm Napa DVX ($33.99), Gosset Grande Reserve Brut ($65.14), Roger Coulon Brut ($43.65) and Jean Lallemont Brut ($55.99).
And, for Champagne cocktails, I’d simply recommend not overspending. You’ll want something that’s drinkable, but who has the budget to use French Champagne for mimosas? Not me. So, buy inexpensive Spanish Cava, domestic sparkling wine or Italian Processco for fizzy mixed drinks.
Happy New Year!