I’m not the biggest champagne drinker–I’ve found that champagne gives me a big headache, probably on account of the residual sugar and carbonation–but it’s absolutely the best drink for special occasions: weddings, anniversaries, New Year’s Eve, bar and bat mitzvahs, promotions, or Valentine’s Day. And, with New Year’s coming around (as Kris was kind enough to point out!) I thought I should talk a bit about champagne and its bastard half-brother, sparkling wine.
There are different categories of champagne based on the amount of residual sugar:
When I do drink champagne I like drinking brut. I typically am not a big fan of sweet wines or sweet foods in general (except for the homemade Hostess Cupcakes from Heirloom Bakery in South Pasadena). Brut has just a bit of sweetness to keep things interesting.
Champagne is excellent with cavier, apparently–I’ve never had that particular combination. It is delicious with Thai, and really, really good with sushi. An austere, dry champagne is a great foil for the smooth, cool texture and buttery, sharp taste of sushi. Rieslings and albariños are also good for this purpose.
I love the Brut Yellow Label from Veuve Clicquot. It is nicely crisp and, importantly for me, has a full body:
Prosecco and moscato d’asti are excellent alternatives to champagne–both being sparkling wines from Italy. Prosecco is decidedly more like champagne in its fullness and level of carbonation. Moscato d’asti is sweet, lighter, but offers a nice effervescent kick: it’s a good choice for dessert.
[ Update: I posted a question about the BEST champagne for New Year's on Yelp--here's what twenty Yelpers had to say. ]