Monday, December 30, 2013

An Idiot's Guide To New Years Eve Drinking

The first version of this piece read like a patronizing freshmens' guide for navigating the hazards of overindulgence.  Having just scrapped v1.0, let's cut to the chase.  Sure, I've got a few haphazard recommendations for beverages to help make your New Years celebration as memorable as your intake will permit.  But first, a couple of minor diversions more worthwhile than the recommendations that follow.

Graduations, engagements, births...these are all life's milestones...and even though it happens every year, New Years Eve is, too.  Special occasions deserve special wines.  You've heard the story about the woman who died with a drawer full of never-worn lingerie, right?  The time to live is now!  If you're doing New Years right, your beverage will be an accessory to an already kick ass night.  No reason why it can't be more than that, but if you skimp, it will - at best - be a footnote rather than a fond memory.  Unless you somehow score a punked bottle, you won't regret ringing in the New Year with a really good bottle (or two).

A word on the bubbles:  Though I know precious little about this under-appreciated class of wines, the more I learn about sparkling wine, the more I want to learn.  Like many, I long harbored a fear of bubblies - an aversion fueled by too many headaches and too little quality experiences.  This writing gig has helped open my eyes (and taste buds) to the wonders of good Champagne in all its various incarnations.  You, too, can enjoy a headache free January 1st by drinking well.

To that end, some simple guidelines:
  • There are exceptions to this rule, but it's New Years Eve - you don't have the time or the bandwidth for all that.  Spend (a little) more than you're normally comfortable spending.  When it comes to buying sparkling wine at a reputable retailer, you will almost never get less than what you pay for.  Bumping yourself into the bracket just above your regular comfort zone will almost certainly make for a special experience.
  • French Champagne is where it all started and that's great.  But from New Mexico to northern Italy, there are insanely good bubblies to be had without having to resort to the top (and by now bare) shelf at your local retailers.  Only one of the best sparkling wines I had this year was actually from Champagne.
  •  If you've had something that you liked in the past, there's no shame in sticking with it.  Well over 95% of sparkling wine is non-vintage, which generally translates to a fairly consistent product year to year. If it was good before, chances are it'll be good again.
Now for some all-but-bullet-proof recommendations in generally descending order of cost:
  • Anything that says "Bollinger" on it
  • Anything that says "Pol Roger" on it
  • Anything that says "Piper Heidsiek" on it
  • Anything that says "Ruinart" on it
  • Any Franciacorta (rare and from northern Italy)
  • Rene Geoffroy Cuvee Natur Champagne (around $40)
  • Roederer Estate Brut or L'Ermitage ($30-50)
  • Domaine Carneros Brut (From CA, $20-ish)
  • Any Cava (Spanish) over $20
  • Any Prosecco (Italian) over $16
  • Anything from Gruet (From NM, max of $20)
  • Finally, I haven't had a bad sparkling wine labeled as a "crémant" yet.  These are French sparkling wines from anywhere but Champagne and run the gamut from $13 to upwards of $50.  Remember, you get what you pay for.
 With that, Happy New Years!  May yours be safe, fun, and full of gratitude.

Cheers

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