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Tiny Bubbles

Thursday, December 29, 2011

WHEN IT'S TIME TO CELEBRATE, champagne is the traditional drink for all kinds of joyous occasions, and it's especially perfect for the holiday season.

Champagne-that is, real Champagne-is produced only in the Champagne region of France, and it's pretty much universally hailed as the greatest sparkling wine in the world.

Purists agree that so called "champagne" produced elsewhere is nothing more than sparkling wine. For example, spumante and Prosecco come from Italy, and cava from Spain. But in the United States, some vineyards still label their domestic sparkling wines as champagne.

Champagnes are usually a blend of grapes, typically Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, often with a touch of Pinot Meunier as well. They range from dry (brut) to mildly sweet (demi-sec) to very sweet (doux).

Champagne, unlike any other wine, is marketed, promoted, and sold as a luxury product, the viniferous equivalent of a Mercedes, and the companies that make these super bubbles spend a great deal of time and money fluffing the expensive image.

So the idea of "cheap" champagne is considered sacrosanct to many high-brow consumers but the thing is … there is an awful lot of good, or at least drinkable, fizz coming from places other than the Champagne region of France these days, and it's getting better all the time.

Bang For the Buck
Cristalino Brut Cava, Spain $10
Mumm Cuvee Napa $18
Gruet, New Mexico $15
Mionetto Prosecco Brut, Italy ($13)

Here are some delicious New Year's drinks using champagne, the classic Chambord cocktail is a festive and tasty drink and we have a twist on the classic Mimosa.

Chambord Cocktail
Chilled Champagne
Chambord® raspberry liqueur
Fresh Raspberries

[1] Pour the champagne into a champagne flute. Add a healthy splash of Chambord raspberry liqueur, drop in a raspberry and serve.

Raspberry Mimosa
Orange Juice
Orange Liqueur (Grand Marnier or Triple Sec)
1/2 cup fresh raspberries

[1] Put 1-2 cubes of raspberry ice in a large wine glass (see below). Slowly fill about 3/5 of the wine glass with chilled champagne.

[2] Add chilled orange juice but leave a little room from the top of the glass.

[3] Add 2 tablespoons of orange liqueur and very gently stir. Garnish with a sliced orange and Enjoy!

Raspberry Ice
[1] Crumble fresh or thawed raspberries into the compartments of an ice cube tray. Fill the tray with water and freeze. Add one or two raspberry ice cubes to your Mimosa as described above.