By JIM WILLIS
Celebrating on New Year’s Eve almost always means toasting with a glass of something bubbly. For some, that toast starts with a sheepish visit to the refrigerated section of the local liquor store and blindly throwing money at a best guess for a decent bottle of “champagne.”
To help throw some light on Tuesday night’s toasting – and, we hope, keep us from throwing money out the window – PieHole checked in with Nicholas Harary, chef and owner of Restaurant Nicholas in Middletown.
Champagne is used by many as a catch-all term for any kind of fizzy white wine. In reality, Champagne is just one of a variety of sparkling wines available — and a pricey one, owing to requirements that anything labeled ‘Champagne’ needs to come from a specific region of France and be produced in a very specific – read: costly – manual process. So buying a bottle with the name “Champagne” on it can cost you three or four times more that of a cheaper and tasty alternative such as Prosecco from Italy or Cava from Spain.
For Harary, whether you drink Champagne or a less expensive alternative on New Year’s Eve all depends on how you are celebrating.
“If it’s a meal that you’re having on New Year’s Eve, I’d definitely start with a Champagne. No question about it,” says Harary. “To me, any great meal starts with Champagne, and specifically Champagne.”
Harary says the minerality and chalkiness of the soil is what makes Champagne such a great partner to food.
“It’s got a vibrant acidity, almost racy, and you can drink it with almost any meal,” he says.
On the other hand, if you’re just looking for something to clink glasses with at midnight on New Years, you can easily get away with a cheaper alternative.
“If you’re ringing in the New Year and you’re already three sheets to the wind, go with Prosecco,” says Harary.
As a frame of reference for the price difference, Harary says that Nicholas Wines, the restaurant’s online wine store, sells a Prosecco for $12 and a Champagne for $37.50.
“Now, that’s a great price for a Grand Cru Champagne,” says Harary, “but it is still three times the price of a bottle of Prosecco.”
As for serving your sparking wine, whether it’s Prosecco or Champagne, Harary says it should be served at 45F, colder than he serves his other whites. Serve it in a tall glass, not a balloon kind of glass, because the bubbles will dissipate much faster with the wider opening. And you want to serve it immediately after you open it.
“The colder it is, the longer it will stay bubbly,” says . “Get your glasses cold and it will stay bubbly longer.”