Wed 31 Dec 2008
Numerous people, perhaps millions, will rush out tonight in a mad abandoned attempt to bring a dismal year to a close and welcome a year that has so many expectations attached to it that if it had any sense it would stay in its cave and never come out. If ever a year was required to be All Things to All People, 2009 is it. So good luck.
New Year’s Eve requires bubbles, and assuming that you’re not going to go out and get so drunk in your search for oblivion that you don’t give a good goddamn about what you slosh into your mouth, here are some recommendations.
Say you’re hosting a party the size of which would accommodate the complete cast of The Wire (including Snoop, Chris and Omar), what you want is something decent, tasty and affordable to purchase by the case. Turn to the non-vintage Domaine Laurier Brut which, despite its French name, is from California and one of the better products of Fred Franzia’s Bronco Wine Corp. This sparkling wine, made in the traditional champagne method, is a medium gold color and offers a consistent and satisfying up-rush of tiny bubbles. Aromas of wheatmeal, lime and almond blossom presage a wine that is spare, clean, lively, citrusy and close to elegant. Very Good and a bargain at about $12. That’s the suggested retail price, but you find this sparkler discounted as low as $9.
Image from insidebayarea.com.
Looking for more character at a higher but still reasonable price? Try the delightful “metodo classico” non-vintage Rotari Rosé, a blend of 75 percent pinot noir and 25 percent chardonnay from Italy’s northeastern Trento region. The color is an entrancing pale copper-salmon; the bubbles insist on pin-point persistence. The wine is unexpectedly (for the price) rich, meaty and earthy, with a bouquet of spiced apple, melon, blood orange and almond skin. The effervescence is giddy; the acidity clean and crisp; flavors tend toward fresh bread, lime and limestone, with the stony aspect increasing on the finish. Very Good+ and a Great Bargain at about $14.
O.K., well, let’s forget all the freaking fiscal austerity and pretend that, as the old song from the Depression goes (you know, the other Depression), we’re in the money, and that maybe tonight’s festivity is aimed at a small group or even just two. It would be fitting, then, to open a bottle of the Taittinger Brut Millésimé 2002, a cool, elegant Champagne — half and half pinot noir and chardonnay –that will leave you feeling optimistic and (fleetingly) wealthy. The color is pale gold with a shimmer of silver; the bubbles are classically tiny, like seething flecks of celestial ore. Aromas of warm bread, dried spice, lemon pie and meadow honey draw you in. The texture is exquisitely poised between crisp nervosity and creamy lushness, with flavors packing hints of baked apple, lemon curd, crystallized ginger and orange rind wrapped in toasty bread, all of this subdued to the resonance of liquid limestone. A Champagne of tremendous breeding and finesse. Excellent. About $90.
Imported by Kobrand Corp., Purchase, N.Y.
Since New Year’s Eve is the biggest champagne and sparkling wine night of the year, let me append some tips on proper serving.
1. Champagne and sparkling wine should be served chilled, straight from the refrigerator.
2. They should be consumed in tall “flute” glasses, not the shallow “coupe” glasses said to have been modeled on one of Marie Antoinette’s breasts. I wonder which one.
3. Never try to open a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine with a cork-screw. Strip off the foil capsule and untwist the wire cage that surrounds the cork. With a dish towel or napkin over the bottle, grasp the cork in one hand and the bottom of the bottle in the other. Extract the cork by twisting the bottle, not the cork.
4. Now matter how plastered you are or how much hilarity you anticipate, NEVER push the cork out with your thumbs, hoping for a loud POP, a gush of foam and a cork careening about the room. The pressure inside a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine is enormous, and the cork will rush out at great speed and force, enough to damage an eye.
5. Champagne and sparkling wines are versatile enough to be served with all sorts of party foods and dinner courses, but the best beverage to go with caviar is chilled vodka.