Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
By Hannah Howard

My love for bubbly is fervent, unwavering. Cava. Prosecco. Champagne. (And when I’m not boozing: sparkling water, seltzer. Carbonate me, baby.)

The bartenders at the restaurants where I worked would kindly offer me the last blanc de blanc at the end of the night, before the bottle threatened to go flat. The effervescence is delicate, fleeting. Tomorrow, the sparkling shiraz will lose its sparkle. To pour it down the sink is no small tragedy.

Last week, on a vehemently rainy day in midtown, I got to hang with the charming Cécile Bonnefond, the CEO/President of Champagnes PIPER-HEIDSIECK and Charles Heidsieck. She was snappily dressed in a leather blazer, poured her beautiful product into slim flutes.

Outside: downpour. Inside: joie de vivre.

This is the magic of sparkles. Champagne is sunshine in a glass.

She pointed out the exquisite fineness of the bubbles, so small they melt into a subtle bubble symphony mid sip, the result of time, impeccable maturation. The champagne is structured, like a well-tailored designer suit, and mouth-wateringly juicy, with flavors of fleshy pears and golden grapes. The nose is fresh, like the first, fragrant peel of a grapefruit, and just a bit yeasty, like bread baking, wafting through your home.

PIPER-HEIDSIECK has history, clout. Founded in 1785 by Florens-Louis Heidsieck, favored by Marie Antoinette and a lineup of Russian tsars, the brand has teamed up with with Fabergé, Van Cleef, and more recently Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Louboutin. Champagne, royalty, high fashion, art — it all goes together. A bottle of this stuff is a spot-on way to welcome good news, or the New Year, (or a new day…).

The name Champagne is reserved for sparkling beauties from the Champagne region, made in accordance with a committee who carefully regulates planting, pressing, winemaking, packaging, labeling. So Joe Schmo can’t just go make a bottle of champagne.

Yet the world of bubblies is broad, roomy, and delicious. So many stunning sparkling wines are made all over the world, with different, grapes, styles, and methods of production.I hope you don’t relegate sparkling wine to toasting and December 31. Everything is better with bubbles: picnicking, moving, heartbreak, lunch.

Here are some of my favorites:

For drinking on the beach, or on a boat, or in plastic cups, smuggled into Central Park:

Crémant d’Alsace: Fresh and elegant, this elixir tastes of ripe pears and dusk. Made with local Alsacian grapes like pinot blanc, pinot noir, pinot gris, riesling, and chardonnay.

 

For quenching your thirst:

Thirsty? Who needs water when you have Txakolina, the fresh and refreshing white wine from the Basque country. Txakolina starts out slightly effervescent, but it gets poured from up high — expert arm outstretched in the air (try this at home and risk a Txakolina-soaked floor) — so by the time it reaches your glass, it’s properly bubbly.

 

For saying hello to a long-lost friend or love:

Szigeti Brut Rosé tastes of strawberry and birthday cake and rainbows, yet it’s dry and crisp. Made from Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt grapes, in Austria, it’s a cheerful, bright pink. Celebrate even tiny occasions.

 

With cheese:

New Mexico makes killer sparkling wine. Gruet Winery sits in Albuquerque, by a Target, on a freeway. Their traditional Champagne method NV Blanc de Noirs is focused, toasty, and elegant. Yum.

 

For dessert:

Lambrusco is the name of both the grape and the bubbly, deep, dark wine from Emilia-Romagna. Some are sweet, but I like mine dry and puckeringly tart. Lambrusco pairs exquisitely with dark chocolate and nights you don’t want to end.

 

May your 2015 be bubbly and bright!

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