- Food and Cooking
How to Choose the best Great Champagne for toasting in the New Year or any Special Occasion
Raise your glass- take in the bubbles in the light amber colored bubbly called Champagne. A toast for that special birthday, anniversary or your wedding celebration is a traditional event for many of us; we are toasting in celebration of another birthday, anniversary, or wedding, in hopes for another great year or the beginning of two lives together. For the young or those who prefer not to drink alcohol, using Sparkling Water or Sparkling Grape will work but the ultimate beverage for toasting is Champagne. The classic American author, F. Scott Fitzgerald was quoted as saying "Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right," and for a Champagne toast this is quite accurate.
Choosing the best Champagne can seem daunting, just take a tour through your local liquor store and you'll see bottle after bottle of different brands and the price of Champagne can range from very expensive to a cheap Champagne. The trick is to get the best bubbly for the price you can afford. If you can, purchase sample bottles or attend a "tasting" event to experience the different tastes before purchasing a large bottle.
Differences between Champagne Varieties
Champagne is actually a sparkling wine but what distinguishes it from other sparkling wines is it is produced in the Champagne region in France, is a sparkling wine. Wine produced in that region of France is actually the only one legally allowed to be called Champagne. So look on the label, see where the Champagne you are considering was bottled. Familiar brands are most often the best ones to choose. Even if you aren't an expert, brands from wine houses such as Bollinger, Perrier, and Ruinart are considered to be among the most familiar and traditional brands.
Top of the Line
Called the Tete de Cuvée, this is the wine house's highest quality Champagne. Blended uniquely and from the highest quality and best tasting grapes. This type can be very expensive.
Non Vintage vs. Vintage
Now that you have decided on a brand, the next step is to find out which mixture tastes the best to you. Most of the wine houses produce a signature blend, one that is to be identified with that particular wine houses style. These are called nonvintage blends. These are the least expensive but can also be the best tasting, having been perfected by the wine house.
More expensive are the Vintage blends. Produced when the season has been very good, these types are produced in limited quantities, hence the higher price. If you have an opportunity to sample different years, you can taste how the weather can affect the vintage. The wine houses consider a Vintage blend to be the best blend produced that year. If you decide that nothing but the best will do, spend some time researching what years were good growing years for grapes, then look for those in your store.
Age makes a difference
The aroma of Champagne develops as it ages. For Non-Vintage Champagne the maturity time is at least 15 months, for Vintage the maturity time is three years, and longer for a top of the line blend. So the older the bottle, the more mature the flavor. Choose a bottle that has been made within the last 3 years for Non-Vintage and 10-15 years for Vintage. The flavor and aroma of Champagne actually changes through the years.
Sweet or Dry
Sugar is or it not added to Champagne giving it a certain category of dosage or level of sweetness. Read the label, you should see what the dosage is. The names of the dosages normally seen are: Extra Brut, Brut, and Demi-Sec. If a Champagne is Extra Brut, sometimes named Ultra, there is no added sugar. These Champagnes are usually very dry and are low calorie. A Brut Champagne, the most popular variety made from the best grapes, is also very dry but sweeter because it has a small amount of sugar in it. The sweetest tasting Champagne is the Demi-Sec. For dinner, a dry Champagne is appropriate, for desserts the Demi-Sec works great.
Oh the Bubbles
The smaller the bubble, often the more flavorful the Champagne. Pour a glass and sit back and watch. If the bubbles are small and rise fast to the surface, chances are the taste is great. Now just as in the movies, you need to taste...take a small amount into your mouth, do you notice if the bubbles are fine or coarse, if the fizz tastes stronger? Taste a number of different Champagnes and you may begin to notice a difference and to distinguish which one you prefer.
Choose for Yourself
Now that you have hopefully sampled a few different Champagnes, you can make the decision on which on to toast with for your special celebration. Don't only choose according to commercials on TV, ads you've seen, or even what the merchants recommends. Choose one that you enjoy even if it is considered to be cheap champagne, one that puts you into a festive mood and delights your palate. If possible choose the more expensive Champagne, like a Dom Perignon, that in other years you might not have been able to; you can do this because of price cuts that have been made this year. Nothing in a glass gives you that classy feeling like watching Champagne bubbles rise to the surface.
The Right Champagne Glass
Champagne is a classy sparkling wine and deserves a classy glass. Traditionally the Champagne glass is called a Flutes, this is a glass that is fluted (stemmed glass with a tall, narrow bowl). Also from a glass with a tulip shape. The long stem of the Champagne glass allows for the drinker to hold it without affecting the temperature of the Champagne, the bowl keeps the carbonation active. With the ambiance the sparkling bubbly in your fluted glass makes, its quite possible that whatever you decide you like best will be the best Champagne.