As the Times Square ball drops down on an ice-cold night, the endless sea of people is anticipating two things: a New Year and emerald bottles bursting with creamy white foam of France’s “celebration wine.” New Year’s Eve just wouldn’t be so joyous without raising a flute filled with crisp, fizzy champagne to leave us feeling giddy and ready to pucker our lips for a midnight kiss. We don’t know if it’s the sound of the cork flying towards the confetti-covered sky or clinking glasses, but champagne always means that it’s time to party in style. Unfortunately, not too many of us know that you can still buy superior champagne without going bankrupt. With hundreds of choices to choose from, discovering the best bottle to suit one’s taste can ruin any anticipated fun. Also, did you know that sparkling wine comes in many varieties, other than beloved champagne? To make your New Year’s Eve night merrier, we’ve created a handy guide on everything from buying champagne to preventing a painful hangover. Cheers!
What’s Champagne, Anyway?
Champagne is simply sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. By law, only sparkling wine from Champagne can be called “champagne.” Sparkling wine, which can be produced in regions throughout the world, can be prepared under the “methode champenoise,” also known as the “champagne method.” There are numerous options of sparkling wines that range in prices, including prosseco (Italy) and cava (Spain). Some wine stores will allow shoppers to sip on a specific sparkling wine before buying, so don’t be afraid to ask. You can also ask to see if they offer tastings on weekends, which will give you the opportunity to discover various types without buying a bottle or two.
Types of Champagne
When you enter a wine shop or liquor store, expect to discover several kinds of bubbly. You don’t need to brush up on your French to understand what certain terms mean. Here are the most common types of champagne you’ll discover in any store:
Blanc de Blancs: A champagne or other sparkling wine made from white grapes. The term translates to “white from white.”
Blanc de Noirs: A champagne or other sparkling wine made from black grapes. The term translates to “white from black.”
Rose: A French term for “pink wine.” You can easily remember this word by its hue. Rose is usually sweet.
Doux: A champagne or sparkling wine that’s very sweet.
Dry: A champagne or sparkling white that’s slightly sweet.
Brut (pronounced “broot”): The most common style of champagne or sparkling wine. Bruts have very little sugar.
Vintage (V): All the grapes were harvested in the same year.
Non-Vintage (NV): The grapes are from several harvests. Bottles marked non-vintage are usually more affordable.
Believe it or not, the amount of bubbles in champagne does make a difference. According to a study published in 2003 by scientists from the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, large bubbles could potentially mean that the wine was produced poorly. This could be the result of over carbonation, similar to soda. On the other hand, this doesn’t necessarily apply to sparkling wines in general. However, if you can’t afford that bottle of Don Perignon, check out some of the staff picks at your local wine shop and explore other economically-friendly options.
Which Glasses to Use?
Champagne is preferably served in flutes, clear crystal, or fine glass that’s perfectly clean and dry. Never chill the glasses and rinse them by hand. Dirty, oily glasses can make champagne go flat, so make sure they’re in tip top shape. Champagne should already be cold, so never add ice, unless you prefer your drink to be watered down and bland.
Like any drink, champagne and other sparkling wines can only give hangovers if it’s savored too fast in multiples. The key is to sip and enjoy.
How to Open a Champagne Bottle
A bottle of champagne or sparkling wine contains a lot of pressure inside its glass, so the last thing you want to do is poke someone’s eye out on the most festive night of the year. To learn how a pro pops bottles, Moët & Chandon Chef de Cave Benoit Gouez provided step-by-step tips on opening a champagne bottle:
• Remove the bottle from an iced bucket and wipe it quickly with a napkin.
• Hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle away from people.
• Tear off the foil surrounding the cork.
• Keep your thumb firmly over the cork.
• Untwist and remove the wire muzzle.
• Turn the bottle to ease the cork out gently, controlling the cork.
• Wipe the neck of the bottle, smell the cork.
• Pour and taste a small amount.
• Fill each glass 2/3 full in two steps.
According to Gouez, a toast is a welcoming agreement for those present at your bash, whether it be a congratulatory honor or a simple “thank you” to your guests. Your toast should be memorable and joyous, so don’t mess it up! When raising your glass for a speech, always maintain eye contact and speak from the heart. Don’t prepare too much or you’ll lose the spontaneity in your speech, and let's face it, everyone wants to drink pronto. In the end, touch the glasses of every single person present, implying, “I accept your toast and the thought behind it.” Above all, celebrate like there's no tomorrow and you’ll have a New Year’s Eve party that everyone will talk about for decades to come.