By now you’ve probably secured your New Year’s Eve plans, but
have you finalized what you’ll be drinking?
If you’re like most Americans, Champagne — sparkling wine if
it’s made in America, Prosecco if it’s from Italy, or cava if from
Spain — is not something you drink every day.
Instead it’s reserved for special occasions, like New Year’s
Eve. (Incidentally, in Italy and Spain people drink their sparklers
on a daily basis, much like most Seattleites drink coffee every
Seeing as we’re not in Italy or Spain, chances are you don’t
drink Champagne (or sparkling wine, Prosecco, cava, et al.) except
for once or twice a year. If that’s the case, the thought of
selecting a bottle, or two, or three, to ring in the New Year may
not top your list of favorite things to do.
That’s where we come in. We called David LeClaire, founder and
general manager of Wine World
and Spirits, located just off Interstate-5 in
Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. LeClaire is also a certified
sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Needless to say, he knows wine.
So what does LeClaire recommend for this year’s celebration?
That depends on what you’re looking for, he said.
If you’re planning a party for a number of guests (read: wide
range of palates and likes and dislikes), LeClaire recommends
serving Italy’s Prosecco.
“Prosecco, to me, is one of the best toasting Champagnes you can
get,” he said.
The price is nice too — typically a Prosecco in the $9 to $10
range is going to be good. And it’s widely available.
This wine is favorable for large groups because it has a touch
more sweetness to it, without being too sweet. Usually it’s liked
If dry wine is more your style, consider cava over France’s
Champagne. It’s cheaper, while still a quality wine.
General rule of thumb: look for wines in the $10 range, LeClaire
said. Anything below $10 may cause you to regret your purchase,
especially if you overindulge this year. That’s because sparkling
wines in the $6 range have likely been injected with carbon
dioxide, which produces the bubbles and often the headache.
“The saying is: The bigger the bubbles, the bigger the
headache,’” LeClaire said.
The smaller the bubbles, the better the wine. During
fermentation wine produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct of yeast
eating sugar in the grape juice. For non-sparkling wine gas is
allowed to escape; to make it tingle on your tongue, the gas is
kept in the bottle, producing the bubbles.
If you’re looking for bubbly from France, but don’t want to pay
the markup on a wine from Champagne, consider one from the Alsace
region that straddles France and Germany.
These wines are available in the $15 price range and are very
elegant, LeClaire said. Unlike Champagne, which is made from
chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, Alsatian sparklers are made with
Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, producing a softer wine. One brand to
look for is Lucien Albrecht, which retails between $15 to $20.
A handful of Washington and Oregon wineries also have jumped
into the sparkling pool. That includes Yakima’s Treveri Cellars, which was featured
in 2011 at the White House for its State Department holiday
receptions and was served earlier this year at the James Beard
Foundation dinner. Treveri specializes in sparkling wines, offering
Pinot Gris, riesling, Gewürztraminer, chardonnay and even Syrah.
You can find most of its wines between $14 and $19.
If all this talk about bubbles has your head spinning — and you
haven’t even had a sip yet! — don’t stress. Go to your local wine
shop or grocery store and ask the wine steward for help. If you’re
in Seattle, stop by Wine World, they’ve got wines you won’t find
anywhere else, and staff eager to help.
Tell the steward how much you want to spend, what you typically
drink and let them do the work. As LeClaire pointed out, most
people who ask for advice will walk away with a better wine than
what they would have selected on their own.
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