Time to toast, but what to choose?
For most revelers, affordable bubbly fits the bill
CAPITAL REGION Corks will be flying out of bottles come midnight, but in the meantime, it’s champagne bottles that are flying off shelves at local liquor stores.
Mark O’Callaghan, owner of Exit 9 Wine & Liquor Warehouse in Clifton Park, said the most popular time to buy champagne for New Year’s Eve is just a few hours before the annual toast.
“The most popular brand is Korbel,” he said. “Korbel would be a California sparkling wine.”
According to the Champagne Bureau USA, true champagne originates in the Champagne appellation in France, a wine region that has been in the business since A.D. 79. O’Callaghan explained that anything outside that region is considered a sparkling wine, but most people refer to anything with bubbles as champagne.
According to O’Callaghan, a newly popular sparkling wine is Prosecco. Bottles usually range from $4 to $18.
“It is a sparkling wine from northern Italy and it is a little lighter in alcohol,” he said. “Not as heavy as champagne.”
But sometimes, to ring in the New Year, people will treat themselves to a true bottle of champagne.
“The most famous, high-end champagne is Dom Perignon,” O’Callaghan said.
Joan Scanlan, an assistant manager at Niskayuna Wines & Liquors, said other popular champagnes to ring in the New Year include Moët and Veuve Clicquot. But, as at O’Callaghan’s shop, one of the most popular bottles at Niskayuna Wines & Liquors on New Year’s Eve is a sparkling wine.
“Freixenet is very popular,” Scanlon said. “It is in the black bottle. Everybody remembers it from the black bottle.”
For those looking for drinks that won’t break the bank, Scanlon recommends a German sparkling wine for $9.99 or Charles de Fère, another sparkling wine, for $11.99.
“Those are very affordable,” she said, “but good quality.”
And even at New Year’s, people sometimes prefer affordable more than anything.
“For just a quick ceremonial toast a lot of people will just buy an $8 bottle of champagne,” O’Callaghan said.
Whether it’s sparkling wine or champagne, the key to a New Year’s toast is not just picking a bottle, but opening it.
According to Douglass Miller, an associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America in New Hyde Park, there are a few simple steps to achieving that perfect champagne bottle pop.
“First off, make sure that the champagne or sparkling wine is well-chilled,” Miller said. “And that it has not been moved around.”
Miller suggests chilling the beverage two or three hours before opening it.
“It is sort of like opening a 2-liter bottle of soda,” he said. “If it is warm or shaken up, it will explode on you.”
Next, Miller suggests grabbing some sort of towel that is clean and taking the foil off the bottle. Put the towel over the bottle and twist the metal cap.
“You want to do six twists, which will loosen up the cage,” he said. “Then you pick up the bottle and hold it at a 45-degree angle.”
Underneath the cage will be the cork, he said. Twist the bottle while applying counter-pressure to the cage and the cork.
“The cork will most likely come out on it’s own so you just want to control it on its way out,” Miller said.
As you get closer to the end, apply a little bit more counter-pressure.
“And after that you will hear a little pop,” he said.
After the cork comes out, Miller suggests holding the bottle for 10 seconds at that 45-degree angle.
“Then you can pour and enjoy,” he said.