A Bubbly New Year's Eve in Three Bites
Recommended Champagnes and sparkling wines, plus three easy appetizers to help you ring in 2009
No matter what your plans are for Dec. 31, it's likely that bubbly will play a part. To help you make some buying decisions, we've provided a list of recently well-rated Champagnes and sparkling wines. And, if you're going to be entertaining or contributing appetizers to a party being hosted elsewhere, you'll want to take a look at our three easy appetizer recipes, each of which matches well with Champagne or sparkling wine. Here's to a great 2009!
Truffle butter brings an affordable touch of luxury to a fun New Year's snack.
• 6 ounces truffle butter (available at specialty food shops) OR
• 5 1/2 ounces butter plus 2 tablespoons white truffle oil (available at specialty food shops)
• 5 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
• 1 1/2 cups popcorn kernels
• Kosher salt to taste
1. In a small saucepan, gently melt the truffle butter or butter over low heat and keep warm. If using truffle oil, whisk into butter until well-combined.
2. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot with lid, combine the vegetable or canola oil and the popcorn over medium heat and cover. Cook until the kernels begin to pop and continue cooking, shaking the pot frequently, until most of the kernels have popped and the pops become a few seconds apart. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl. Pour the warm truffle butter over and toss with salt to taste. Serves about 12 as an appetizer.
Shrimp and sparkling wine are a classic combination for New Year's Eve.
Basque-Style Shrimp Skewers
• 1 cup white wine
• 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 pounds medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
• 1 red bell pepper, cored and finely chopped
• 1 yellow bell pepper, cored and finely chopped
• 1/2 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
• 1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
• 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• Kosher salt to taste
Special equipment: cocktail skewers, bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water for 30 minutes, or toothpicks
1. In a large pot, combine the wine, peppercorns, bay leaf and enough water to fill the pot about three-quarters full. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and add the shrimp. Let the shrimp poach until they are just cooked through, about four minutes. Remove from the heat, drain the shrimp and chill them in an ice bath.
2. In a small, non-reactive bowl, combine the bell peppers, onion, vinegar and oil and mix well. Remove the shrimp from the ice bath, pat dry and toss with the pepper vinaigrette mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
3. To serve, thread the shrimp on skewers or toothpicks, season lightly with salt and arrange on a plate or platter. Drizzle excess vinaigrette over if desired. Serves 8 to 12 as an appetizer.
Ham, Manchego and Pears
• 1/2 pound prosciutto di Parma or jamón Serrano, very thinly sliced
• 1/2 pound manchego cheese, cut into thin rectangular slices
• 2 to 3 very ripe and juicy pears, cored and thinly sliced
Wrap one or two slices each pear and cheese in a half-slice of prosciutto or jamón. Note: To keep ham from drying out, assemble this appetizer shortly before serving.Serves 12 as an appetizer.
Champagnes and Sparkling Wines for New Year's Eve
GLORIA FERRER Brut Carneros Royal Cuvée Vintage Reserve 2001 Score: 93 | $32
This sparkling wine is fresh and vibrant, yet with a core of rich, luscious fruit. Aromas of Asian pear, rose water and lemon curd lead to layered flavors of fresh ginger, pippin apple and cinnamon that finish on a showy note. Drink now through 2013. 6.500 cases made. —T.F.
DOMAINE CARNEROS Brut Carneros 2005 Score: 92 | $26
Beautifully focused and refined, with Gala apple and raspberry aromas and flavors that are crisp yet layered, with creamy lemon and lime notes and a finish that lingers with mineral and a hint of yeast. Drink now through 2012. 45,000 cases made. —T.F.
DUVAL-LEROY Brut Champagne NV Score: 91 | $38
This rich, sumptuous bubbly is marked by clover honey, candied citrus and hints of malt and mineral. It's beautifully integrated, with medium weight and a lingering, ginger-infused aftertaste. Drink now through 2010. 35,000 cases made. —B.S.
GOSSET Brut Champagne Grande Réserve NV Score: 91 | $69
Fresh and elegant, revealing a graphite and citrus flavor profile. Shows finesse and a mineral and chalk quality on the back end. Beautifully refined and persistent, with a mouthwatering finish. Drink now through 2012. 41,000 cases made. —B.S.
ARGYLE Brut Willamette Valley 2005 Score: 90 | $30
Light and creamy, with white pepper and oatmeal nuances to the citrus and pear flavors, lingering on the fine bead of a finish. Drink now. 7,172 cases made. —H.S.
DRAPPIER Brut Champagne Carte d'Or NV Score: 90 | $44
Fresh and pure, offering floral, yellow fruits and mineral flavors, this bubbly is graceful and beautifully integrated. The texture is firm and refined, with a subtle nutty note on the finish. Drink now. 75,000 cases made. —B.S.
LALLIER Brut Champagne Georges Lacombe Sélection NV Score: 89 | $39
Starts out rich and fruity, sporting apple and floral notes that pick up a lemon and mineral edge on the finish, turning more elegant as it does. Drink now. 20,000 cases made. —B.S.
MUMM NAPA Brut Napa Valley Prestige NV Score: 89 | $19
A lively, fruit-driven bubbly, with creamy and yeasty aromas that blend with baked pear aromas and flavors that are crisp and vibrant, finishing with notes of toast and spice. Drink now through 2012. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 95,000 cases made. —T.F.
DOMAINE CHANDON Brut California Classic NV Score: 88 | $22
Offers lively aromas of apple blossom and citrus, with layered, crisp and creamy flavors of Asian pear, spice and freshly baked bread. Drink now. 240,000 cases made. —T.F.
SCHARFFENBERGER Brut Mendocino County NV Score: 88 | $20
Appealing for its sleek sense of focus and proportion. Nutty and spicy aromas blend with citrus and green apple, then open to zesty baked pear and lemon zest flavors. Drink now. 25,000 cases made. —T.F.
DOMAINE STE. MICHELLE Blanc de Blancs Columbia Valley NV Score: 87 | $12
Crisp and peppery, with a spicy note mingling with lime marmalade and toast flavors, lingering gently. Drink now. 32,640 cases made. —H.S.
PIPER SONOMA Brut Sonoma County Select Cuvée NV Score: 87 | $17
Crisp and creamy, with floral jasmine and citrus aromas and appealing green apple, anise and mineral flavors that linger toward the zesty finish. Drink now. 115,000 cases made. —T.F.
ROEDERER ESTATE Brut Anderson Valley NV Score: 87 | $23
Shows good intensity and balance, with baked apple, spice and appealing earthy herb aromas that lead to rich but crisp pear, lemon curd and toast flavors. Drink now through 2012. 80,000 cases made. —T.F.