Before we get back to further examinations of the past year, there’s a little bit of new business to discuss. Really, though, it’s not new. It’s been rehashed every single year around this time in one form or another.
It’s the one thing that is on everybody’s mind once Christmas is fully over. I say fully because the day after Christmas still seems to be a part of Christmas. This holiday makes no sense to me at all.
Regardless, now all of our thoughts are focused on New Year’s Eve.
For the past couple of years my New Year’s Eve plan has been among the lowest of the low key. Mrs. Fussy, her father, and I try valiantly to stay awake until midnight so we can have one last toast before going to bed. That’s life on the farm. And this year promises to be no different. But even this subdued celebration is still a celebration. Even if you are in your PJs it’s hard not to sparkle when there are bubbles in your glass.
You know, I don’t care what you drink. It can be a stunning Champagne from an independent grower in Épernay, or one of the prestigious bottlings from a mass market Champagne house widely marketed in the US, or even a bottle of Cold Duck with a plastic cork.
But Monday night is all about the bubbles.
Maybe you want to go rogue, or should I say rouge (really I should say rosso), and get a sparkling lambrusco. Or if you find yourself in apple country, a bottle of sparkling cider would do the trick. Don’t want anything alcoholic? See if you can track down a bottle of Badoit sparkling water in glass bottles.
The thing is that the good choices keep growing and growing: Prosecco from Italy. Cava from Spain. Sparkling wines from California and beyond that are made in the traditional method of Champagne.
If your wine is good, drink it on its own.
If, when you open the bottle, it’s underwhelming, use it to make champagne cocktails. This is a night for celebrating, so let nothing get you down. Just be prepared with a few basic ingredients, and you’re ready to roll. If the wine could use a bit more complexity, drench a small sugar cube in aromatic cocktail bitters and drop it in the bottom of the glass (you can also add a spoonful of brandy). If the wine could use a bit more fruit, add some creme de cassis for a kir royale. Problem solved.
Just make sure to have plenty of bottles on hand and to keep them well chilled. You could also get a bunch of champagne stoppers, which are a lifesaver. Really, the life they save is the life of your wine, because they help to keep the bubbles in the bottles. And they totally work, keeping sparkling wine sparkling for days. Just know that prosecco bottles can be shaped differently and may not work with the stoppers.
There are a few things that I do actually care about.
Don’t Blow Your Lid
The proper way to open a bottle of sparkling wine isn’t with a bang, but with a whisper. Any drunk frat boy can shake up a bottle and let it blow. But it takes finesse to make your bottle sigh. So you have two choices: either learn to open a bottle correctly or invest in a sabre to blow the top off that baby like Napoleon.
Respect the Name
Champagne is a very specific kind of sparkling wine. It comes from a place. Really, two places, Épernay and Reims. Everything else is sparkling wine, even if it comes from France. It’s a natural instinct, I know, to call every white wine with bubbles Champagne. But it’s not, though. And just like you can’t make Prosciutto di Parma in Brooklyn, you can’t make Champagne in California.
But besides that it’s all fair game. You want to drink your sparkling wine out of a big red cup? More power to you. If you want to mix your Cristal with Guinness, I say follow your bliss. You love the little pink cans of Sofia and the juice-box straws that come with them? Well, you should.
Me? I like fluted glasses with thin rims and no seams on the stem. I like long bowls so I can see the strands of bubbles dancing in the wine. I prefer my bubbles small and favor a richer, fuller bodied style of Champagne. But I have no idea what I’ll be drinking on New Year’s Eve. We’ll see what I can find once I get to Pennsylvania, because I like shopping in their state stores.
That should be all you need to know on the subject, but if I failed to mention anything I’ll happily answer any questions.