Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Eve and the nosetickler

On the day before New Year's Eve my mind cannot stop straying to the allure of the bubbles. Thus far in this blog I have been following Playboy's New Host and Bar Book as it was written in 1971 but I could not stop myself from skipping far ahead to Champagne. Here I must quote Thomas Mario and his illustrious description of bubbly wine: "If ever a single symbol immediately and unmistakably meant luxurious living, it's the scintillant wine known as nosetickler, gigglewater, fizz, bubbly, and sometimes even champagne. One would not drink gin out of a ladies slipper or christen a ship with a bottle of Scotch; occasions that call for gaity and celebration require a special drink, a brilliant drink, a bravura drink." This description makes me want to put down the espresso and immediately trade it in for a flute!

As with other good things anticipation can be a good bit of the pleasure. So while anticipating a fun New Year's celebration here are a few tips to help choose and serve the gigglewater.

  • Bubbles can and should be enjoyed more often than just special occasions!!!
  • Champagne or sparkling wine should be served between 40-50 degrees F. Stick the bottle in the fridge or in an ice bucket with ice water to chill. The important thing is to get the wine cold but not freezing. Also, don't shake the hell out of it and jostle it all around unless you are having a Playboy style party and want to douse your date in it.
  • To open the bottle: Take off the foil, cover the top with a linen or napkin, undo the wire cage, grip the bottle with your left hand and put your thumb over the top of the cork, twist the bottle with your right hand until the cork eases out. Ideally the cork should "whisper" and not pop. If you are throwing a house party I say let them pop. There is nothing that can liven a room like the popping of corks! 
  • Flutes are the best glasses for the bubbles.
  • Champagne is only called "champagne" when it comes from the Champagne region or France. Don't let the name, or lack thereof, discourage you from trying other sparkling wines. There are some awesome bubblers from all around the world.
  • Most people I know like a brut, a.k.a. dry. Here is the vocab lesson for the rest of it: Doux-I don't see these often but these are the sweetest of the champagnes. Sec-means dry in French but it really means that this is a semi-sweet wine. Extra dry- a little dry but still with a bit of sweetness. Brut- very dry. This is what most champagne lovers drink and is generally the easiest to find. Naturel-This is super duper dry. I have been in the restaurant and bar business for a long time and I have never had one of these wines.
Now that the basics have been covered here are a few of my favorites:
Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve
The Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve is one of my favorite wines of all time. It is beautifully made. It comes from an old and impressive Champagne house. It hasn't been marketed to deal like Moet. As far as I know it has never been in a rap video. This wine is classy, sexy and complex. It is also remarkably food friendly. If you are looking to impress choose this wine. As champagne goes it isn't terribly expensive. It retails in the $70 range. If you are really looking for a panty dropper try the NV Billecart-Salmon Rose!
My next choice is a Prosecco from Veneto, Italy. This wine is made in the champagne tradition (versus many proseccos and other sparkling wines that have their secondary fermentation done in large tanks rather than in the bottle). If you are a score keeper it got a 91 in the Wine Enthusiast. This chardonnay based sparkling wine  is rich with hints of apple, almond and yeasty goodness. This may be a little hard to find and retails for around $35.
2007 Kluge Estate SP Blanc de Blancs
Kluge is a winery in Virginia that makes fantastic wine at really good prices. This is also a chardonnay bases sparkler that has some bright citrus and minerality. It is less creamy than the Perle. This retails for around $30. I am snatching this up because with the economic disaster status at this vineyard no one knows which direction the wine making will take.
<em>Adami Prosecco Garbel</em> 13                                                                        
My 2 bargain picks are Adami Prosecco           and                    Cristalino, Cava extra dry
retails around $10                                                                       retails from $6-$9

Both of these sparkling wines are totally palatable and are crowd pleasers. They are also fantastic if you are doing cocktails with bubbles!

Happy New Year and enjoy the nosetickler!


1 comment:

  1. I just tried a sparkling wine from New Mexico and it was amazing!! I totally agree that you should try non-French "champagnes"!! :) happy new year!