That champagne toast you had at midnight on New Year’s Eve is fine. In fact, it’s great. I have had some memorable midnight toasts through the years. I’m sure you have, too. But I’m also sure that I’ve had better ones at other times of the year. If you haven’t, I would recommend exploring that possibility in 2017.
Fizzy wine on Dec. 31 is like chocolates on Feb. 14, flags on July 4 and pumpkins on Oct. 31. It’s hard to imagine one without the other. But while I’ll probably never stump for all-year pumpkin displaying, I’m urging you to drink champagne or other sparkling wine regularly, throughout the year, and not just when someone plants it in front of you at a wedding or graduation party. Make bubbles as much a part of your life as still wine is.
Sure, bubbly is celebratory, but why can’t you celebrate your life when it’s Wednesday at 6:42 p.m. in April? Why can’t you celebrate being alive on the day before Thursday? Even if you’re not celebrating, a nice, dry sparkling wine’s yeasty-bready goodness just plain tastes swell. It feels good in your mouth, too, and that’s worth something. There’s no reason not to have a bottle of bubbles on hand at all times. Two hours in the fridge, and it’s ready to drink — maybe on a Sunday afternoon when you have an Alison Brie marathon lined up on Netflix.
You are depriving yourself of one of wine-drinking’s greatest pleasures if you put bubbles in that tiny December/January corner. Even if your sparkling season goes from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, you’re missing out. Besides being a great aperitif — possibly the best aperitif we have — sparkling wine is also good with just about every kind of food, from hors d’oeuvres to dessert. High acidity specifically in the products from the Champagne region of France makes this so. But all sparkling wine has those mouth-cleansing bubbles to scrub your palate clean no matter how mouth-coating the food you’re eating is. Plus sparkling wine is meant to be served well-chilled, which makes it even more refreshing. Name a drawback to sparkling wine, because I’m trying to come up with one, and I can’t.
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We can acknowledge that champagne is the top of the heap, the product of one of the world’s most revered wine regions, and because of this, some of it can be pricey. (OK, there’s the drawback.) The bright side is, it’s a great big world out there, and bubbles get bottled everywhere. If you can’t find bubbly from France within your budget, there’s also cremant from other parts of France. There’s cava from Spain. Prosecco and Franciacorta from Italy. Fizz from England. Sparkling wine from California.
These sparkling wines often aren’t made in the style of the Champagne region, where secondary fermentation in the bottle is what creates the bubbles … but it’s all wine with bubbles, and to me that’s 55 percent of the appeal.
Do you prefer lively, individually assertive, bordering-on-aggressive bubbles that imitate Pop Rocks, or do you like softer bubbles with less ego — ones that work together to create a creamy mousse reminiscent of sea foam rolling gently into shore? Big bubbles, little bubbles? Fuller-bodied, lighter-bodied? There are lots of styles to explore, and few things in wine exploration are as satisfying as figuring out what you like and don’t like.
If someone comes up with wine that gives me a neck massage while I’m drinking it and I have to choose between that wine and bubbles, I’ll abandon bubbles forever. Until then, I’m drinking sparkling wine January through December, and I encourage you to do the same. The wedding toasts and Auld Lang Synes that we encounter along the way will be as welcome as always, but now they’ll just be a part of the way we live, lifted by the effervescent splendor of wine that moves before our eyes, urging us to take notice and emote accordingly.