Every year my in-laws throw a new year’s party and my father-in-law’s responsibility is to procure the booze. The problem is, from one new year’s eve to the next, the tastes of the guests will run the gamut. A few years ago, red wine was in demand. Then there was a white wine shortage. Occasionally someone asks for a cocktail. Suddenly everyone wants beer. At their most recent bash, even the men were drinking Pinot Grigio as opposed to some fine Bordeaux. But one thing is certain, my father-in-law tells me—the biggest waste of money goes to champagne. Every one needs a flute of it to ring in the new year but most don’t even bother finishing it. This leads him to go for the Korbel—a deal to be had, followed by a headache the next morning. And yes, he does call this champagne and not sparkling wine. (Bruno Paillard’s head would explode. A mixologist friend of mine told me he started to debate Paillard on the semantics of champagne. It was not a good idea since Paillard is very emotional about the subject and, according to my friend, transformed from host to the director Woltz in The Godfather. Now you get the hell out of here!)
Recent writeups in the Wall Street Journal have offered excellent champagne recommendations, but my father-in-law was incensed by the prices—who on earth is going to spend $40 or more on a single bottle of champagne? This is how the whole Korbel “California Champagne” scheme has affected his thinking on what champagne should cost (ideally, less than $10). I recommended a happy medium—prosecco or cava.
If, however, he and the Mrs. were going to actually enjoy a bottle, real champagne is worth the $40 or more. WSJ wine columnist Lettie Teague has a few terrific NV suggestions: Delamotte Brut Nonvintage ($34), Gatinois Grand Cru Tradition Brut Nonvintage ($42), Bollinger Special Cuvée Nonvintage ($48), J. Lassalle Premier Cru Brut Nonvintage Rosé ($50), Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs Nonvintage ($64).
I’ll add anything from Deutz and Chartogne-Taillet. (I once brought a bottle of Deutz to a friend’s housewarming party. He was so thrilled that he opened it immediately and poured it into a pitcher of orange juice.)
Meanwhile, MarketWatch has a fun piece on Sam Heitner, director of Champagne USA, aka the champagne police.
Photo by ©Jorge Royan