New Years is the time of year when this Wino feels most useless.
Invariably, I’ll be asked by other Winos for a New Years Eve bubbly recommendation, and I often attempt to steer my fellow boozehounds away from the knee-jerk strategy of buying French, encouraging them instead to venture into Spain for some Cava, or to Germany for some Sekt. Or what about lightening things up Italian style with a Prosecco, or a nice Moscato d’Asti? If they’re dead set on France, then how about trying a crisp Crémant d’Alsace, or a rustic Crémant de Limoux?
More than once, however, I’ve encountered a staunch dedication to the idea of buying Champagne and Champagne only, and I’m often asked what my favorite one is. Therein lies the problem: I literally know next to nothing about Champagne. I just haven’t drank enough of the stuff to have any favorites.
As luck would have it, though, I recently found myself at a most auspicious Champagne tasting — the annual Tasting Panel Magazine affair hosted by Blue Lifestyle — where I gleefully sampled delicious bottles from top houses in both France and California, taking full advantage of the event’s very welcoming “serve-ur-self” orientation. Based on the twenty or so bottles I tried (within about 40 minutes… not too shabby, huh?), here are my Champagne recommendations for your New Years inebriatory needs.
Riva is an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica situated only a few blocks from the beach, and the dining room has a beachy, breezy ambiance that put me in the mood for some bubbles. Never mind that the Champagne tasting was rather unceremoniously crammed into a back room; by the time I got there (a bit late, yes, but only enough so to be fashionable), the place had cleared out sufficiently to offer me unobstructed access to all of the bottles I could handle. Here are my highlights:
(note: N/V stands for “non-vintage,” which means that the bubbly in question was a blend from several different harvests, rather than a single year)
A few favorites
N/V Nicholas Feuillatte Brut Rosé (Champagne): a beautiful salmon hue in the glass. The nose was pretty faint, and the palate was quite dry, but the clean fruit finish lasted forever. $46.
N/V Mumm Brut Rosé (Champagne): a shade pinker than the Feuillatte (but I’m confident in my sexuality, so it’s all good). Tremendous cheese and chalk on this nose. The vibrant palate jumped right out at me, and finished extremely crisp. $55.
N/V Lanson Brut Rosé (Champagne): looking a bit more golden than rosé, this wacky bottle offered up bacon and eggs on the nose, with a creative side of cranberry sauce. The palate was big and chewy… a meal in itself. $65.
N/V Delamotte Rosé (Champagne): a gorgeous sandy pink in the glass, with a huge charcoal nose. The palate was velvety smooth, offering up some tart fruit notes. Delicacy personified. $99.
2000 Pol Roger Brut Rosé (Champagne): I picked up some potato latke on the nose, believe it or not. This monster ran big and full, with yeasty notes and strawberry jam. The two adjectives I wrote down were “pervasive” and “delightful.” There you have it. $114.
2002 Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne Rosé: a beautiful khaki in the glass, this wine served up floral notes on the nose, with a little bit of ham. The palate was round and beautiful, and skipped the ham; instead, delicate berries danced all over the hugely rich body. Totally mouth-coating, with a finish that lasted till 2010. $299.
Some other notables
N/V Frank Family Blanc de Noir (Napa Valley): the nose offered up a little fleeting funk and some red berries, while the palate was delicate and dainty, featuring a touch of cranberry. $35.
2005 Schramsberg Brut Rosé (California): this wine followed up an impressive hue of Valentine’s Day pink with a delicate nose featuring a touch of honey. The palate was nice and smooth, offering a dollop of red fruit. $41.
N/V Heidsieck & Co Monopole Rosé Top (Champagne): a lot of red currant notes dancing around this smooth palate, leading to a long and mouth-coating finish. $55.
N/V Moët & Chandon Nectar Imperial Rosé (Champagne): a gorgeous rosé hue on this one led me into a nose full of tropical fruit. The palate was very sweet, and I found myself wondering if it was too sweet. This is a champagne for lovers, I wrote in my notes. The sweetness was pretty well-integrated, but I found it more of a “third date” wine than a New Years party favor. $55.
N/V Henriot Brut Rosé (Champagne): pretty in its pale pink colors, this wine earned the “delicacy” award for the day. A floral and perfumy nose led me into an extremely delicate pal, with bubbles so small I felt like I shouldn’t swallow them until they’d had a chance to grow up. $65.
2003 Louis Roederer Brut Rosé (Champagne): this nose offered up some surprising orange notes, and the palate followed up with some serious brie rind action. The body was big and frothy, and some vanilla notes carried the back end. $70.
2000 Moët & Chandon Rosé Grand Vintage (Champagne): some playful funk on the nose, along with some crisp citrus business. The palate was crisp, citrussy and chalky, and I was more than a little excited to discover some red licorice on the finish! $80.
N/V Bollinger Brut Rosé (Champagne): a nice tangerine hue on this one, with a nose of currant jelly and a spoonful of strawberry honey. On the palate, that honey note shone through, and the full fruit aftertaste lingered for quite some time. $100.
2000 Nicholas Feuillatte Cuvee Palmes d’Or Rosé (Champagne): a whole lot of red fruit on this palate, along with a flutter of black cherry. This wine was remarkably clean, featuring a finish of chalkboard eraser and floral notes. Very well-made. $200.
The self-service aspect was much appreciated; I ran into the always-effervescent Sarah Warner, which is never a negative experience; too many bottles, too little time
The Young Winos of LA — edutoxicating Los Angeles since 2005.