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Monday March 19, 2018


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An Enthusiastic Toast to Champagne

On his deathbed the famed economist John Maynard Keynes lamented, "I wish that I had drunk more champagne."

Every since I learned about that, I have vowed to make sure that I would not be able to say the same thing on my deathbed. Most Americans, unlike the Brits and the French, still consider champagne to be an extra special wine that should only be brought out for any special occasion. So this holiday season take a tip from Keynes and me and stock up on your sparking wine. It's the perfect time for the holidays, and I bet you can go through five or six bottles, maybe more, by the end of the year.

Many Americans are thrown off by bubbly because they think that it has to be an authentic and expensive French sparkler. The French version can be expensive since it's the best, and so people offer it rarely and then save it only for Christmas and New Year's eve.

The answer to the price difficulty is to look for some of the many non-French sparking wines that are now on the market. A host of wine producers now sell bubbly and at many prices. The Italian and Spanish versions are very good and not nearly as expensive as the French version. French producers often make the American bubblies and call the products sparkling wine. Such French big producers as Domaine Chandon, Mumm, and Domaine Carneros now sell American versions of their product, and you can't go wrong with any of them. Those French companies thought so highly of the California sparklers that they opened new businesses in the Napa area just to get into the American market. They brought their top French winemakers to California to keep a close control on what was going on, but then eventually let them do their thing. The French firms have now been in the U.S. for so many years that they know American desires and tastes.

One important warning about serving bubblies is to open the bottle correctly. I almost lost an eye when I was working in France many years ago. At an office party in Paris I opened the bottle incorrectly, and the cork landed just in the area just above my eye. An inch shorter, and I would today have only one eye. A French friend immediately gave me the tips to open the bottle right. First, put your hand firmly on the metal that holds the cork down. Then slightly twist the cork so that it comes out slowly. The cork will then slip out with a slight pop.

I always have two or more bottles of Sparkling wines in my wine cellar because you never know when you will want to pull one out for any particular reason. In my wine cellar right now I have five bottles of bubbles: Piper-Heidsieck, Nicola Feuillette, California Chandon, Prosecco Jaume, Serra Cristaino, and Zonna.

George M. Taber is the author of Judgment of Paris-California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine and other wine books.

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