New Year’s Eve is coming up, and you know what that means…
It will be time to guzzle Champagne at the stroke of Midnight. The best part about sipping some bubbly is that no one will notice that you’ve forgotten the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne when you draw the glass to your mouth (you should make it your resolution to finally learn the lyrics to that song!). Choosing the perfect Champagne for your toast shouldn’t be intimidating. This year, instead of going to the liquor store and purchasing the cheapest bottle (or, second cheapest if you’re feeling classy), use this handy guide to buy your bubbly.
Bubbles on a Budget
The most important question to ask yourself before going to the wine store is “how much do you want to spend? If you’re looking to pop open a few bottles without having to pop into your savings, maybe you don’t even need Champagne at all. There are tons of sparkling wines out there that, while technically not Champagne, do the job just fine.
You see, Champagne is just sparkling wine that’s produced in a specific area of France. It comes at a premium price because of the pedigree of the producers and the cache that the name carries, but there are plenty of sparkling wines from around the world that will fill your flute. If you’re looking for a low cost alternative, look for some Prosecco, which is sparkling vino from Italy. You’ll be able to score solid bottles for around $11-15 each, leaving plenty of money left over to buy snacks, party favors or save in the New Year.
Navigating Mid-Tier Champagne
If you do want to buy the genuine article, you can score good bottles within the $20-$30 range (we’ll talk about the super expensive varieties later). There are few things to look out for. First, the brand. Perrier-Jouet and Veuve Clicquot aren’t just the names of what’s in the bottle, they signify the house that made it.
Then, you’ll want to look for signifiers on the label. NV means that it’s a non-vintage bottle, meaning that the producer combines grapes from numerous growing seasons. Vintage Champagnes will have a year printed on the bottle, meaning that all the grapes used in the mix come from that year. Those are more expensive, naturally. If you’re a novice, look for a non-vintage bottle. Also, since most people prefer dry to sweet varieties, look for a bottle that has the world “brut” on it, which signifies that it is on the drier side. To make things even easier, stick with a familiar house. Veuve produces really excellent labels that are moderately prices and memorable.
Picking an Expensive Bottle
Does the stuff in the bottles that cost $100 and upwards really taste THAT much different than the moderately priced labels? Well, no. If you’re going to choose a super-premium bottle of Champagne, you’re doing so because you want to impress people, or maybe because you want to try something that very few people get to experience firsthand. When picking a really expensive bottle – you can pretty much guarantee what’s inside is going to be stellar. Instead of trying to shop by flavor, shop by story. Pick a vintage bottle that is from a year that means something to you, or try a premium label that’s from a house you enjoyed before. The better the narrative you create when that stuff is uncorked, the more memorable your experience will be.