Choosing a New Year's Champagne can seem like a daunting task but with a few tricks from wine aficionado Erich Lasher of Cleveland's La Cave Du Vin and an open mind, finding a great bottle is within reach.
Lasher recommends shopping at a local wine shop as opposed to a big box store. "[At a big box store,] their goal is to sell you whatever they have a lot of," explains Lasher. "Chances are your local guy has probably tasted the wine they are recommending and liked it. If they own the store, they aren't going to sell you anything they don't stand behind." Ask the agent questions and help them understand your flavor preferences and your price range. Most people choose Brut which is dry, clean, refreshing, and drinkable.
Avoid the Price Game... Usually
Sparkling wines and, more commonly, Champagnes can be overpriced so a higher dollar value does not always promise a stronger blend. There are many great bottles out there for $15 or $20. However, for enthusiasts, "you really don't start getting into something more complex until the $40 range," says Lasher. Once you hit $200 or $300, "some of those sparkling wines can be a revelation."
Try Something New
No two bottles, even from the same winery, ever taste exactly the same, so rather than form habits, spend your time exploring. Explore different flavors and sparkling wines from different countries. Lasher recommends trying Cava, a sparkling wine from Spain. "Different parts of France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Spain, and New Mexico make some great sparkling wines," he says.
Say Yes to Rosé
While rosé Champagnes often get a bad rap, "don't overlook a good rosé," says Lasher. "A good rosé can really blow your mind. It has such a different flavor profile with leathery raspberry, strawberry, and spice undertones."
Pair with Food
Champagne and other sparkling wines are most commonly served at the beginning and the end of meals, but the wines also pair wonderfully with many of courses in between. "If its bright, lively, and acidic, it could go with just about everything," Lasher explains. "Those bubbles can be a wonder - they liven up your palette and make you taste things in your food that you hadn't tasted before."
Explore the slideshow above for great New Year's dishes that pair perfectly with Champagnes and sparkling wines.