By Chris Bavender
It’s a sound often associated with romance and celebration – champagne corks popping and bubbly spilling into a glass. But for many, knowing what to buy for that special occasion – such as Valentines’ Day – can seem daunting.
“The best and most popular is Champagne and Prosecco from Italy which can range from $10-$500. The key thing is to decide how sweet or dry you would like your sparkling wine to be and what you are using it for,” said BethAnn Kendall, wine and food manager for Vine & Table in Carmel. “If it’s for cocktailing you still want a good quality sparkling but not spend too much where as if it a special occasion you’ll want something a little more special.”
Champagne actually refers to the wine region in France – 90 miles northeast of Paris – that produces sparkling wine, according to Kendall.
“Only wine from this region can be called champagne – everywhere else is sparkling wine,” Kendall said.
When it comes to the budget conscious, Kendall said a top seller you can’t go wrong with is Maschio Prosecco Brut.
“It’s $12.99, dry and balanced, perfect for any occasion whether it’s toasting to celebration or mimosa’s in the morning,” she said. “Naveran Cava Brut has amazing aromatics and is bursting with fruit at only $15.49.”
For those with a little more to spend, Kendall recommends Veuve Clicqout.
“The history of the winery dates back to 1772 and they have eight winemakers to ensure the taste and quality is the same every vintage so you always know what you are getting,” she said. “Ayala Brut is a 150 year old family owned and operated winery that is harder to find but outstanding champagne.”
If money is no option, however, Kendall said the best and the most expensive come from Champagne, France.
“They only make vintage champagne in good vintages so that really sets a standard on the quality of the grapes. It’s generally smaller production. Vintage champagnes are special because they are aged for a minimum of three years although a majority age it for 10 years prior to release,” she said. “Dom Perignon 2003 is our most popular vintage champagne. Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes D’Or 2002 is another great vintage champagne. This bottle is most often called the ‘golf ball bottle’ but the story is that Nicolas was enamored with an opera singer and would travel the world to hear her sing at different venues. This wine was made in honor of her and the unique bottle style was to look like pearls, something she always wore.”
When it comes to bubbly, how you present it is key.
“Start by removing the foil, put your thumb on the top and untwist the cage. You want to hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle and twist from the bottom of the bottle,” Kendall said. “Never letting you thumb off the top of the cork.”
While you often see champagne “exploding” in the movies when it’s opened, Kendall said that definitely should not happen.
“Champagne explodes when it’s too warm or shaken,” she said. “Although I think the sound of a cork popping does set the tone for a celebration.”
But with such endless choices, you’ll likely be happy no matter what bubbly you end up pouring in your glass. After all, as Dom Pierre Perignon said when he first tasted his creation – “Come quickly! I’m tasting stars!”
Tip: Champagne should never explode. If it does, that most likely means it’s too warm and needs to be chilled for 2-3 hours.
Best-selling champagnes at any budget include:
$ Naveran Cava Brut at $15
$$ Veuve Clicqout $45
$$$ Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes D’Or Vintage 2002 $135