School's in session, on your terms: We're asking the Valley's top wine gurus to answer all your wine-related queries, tackling them one at a time each Wednesday, so we can all stress less and pour more. Today's teacher: Lizbeth Congiusti, the Sassy Sommelier.
UNCORK THE ISSUE: What's the best bubbly for New Year's Eve?
SPILL THE JUICE: "You always have to have champagne for New Year's Eve!" Lizbeth Congiusti, the Sassy Sommelier, says. "What you should pick is often based on your price point."
We don't drink enough champagne, Congiusti says of Americans in general, touting the wine style as more than just a celebratory drink.
"Champagne is a great wine to serve before a dinner party, because it has a little bit of acidity to it, which helps open and cleanse your palate, so your mouth is ready to accept all the flavors you're enjoying," Congiusti explains.
Although she admits it works pretty well for your midnight toast too.
Click through for Congiusti's top bubbly picks and tips, so you can christen 2011 in style!
NOTE THE COMPLEXITIES: Congiusti recommends finding a bubbly that doesn't blow your budget: "If you don't want to spend the money on champagne, especially in this economy, you are looking for really good sparkling wines."
Congiusti recommends Spanish Cava for a budget buy. "Cavas from Spain are made using the same traditional method as champagne, meaning the second fermentation happens in the bottle, but they're usually a lot less expensive," she says.
Longing for the real deal? "Pommery," Congiusti name-drops for a real champagne. (Look for the blue label.) "It's not real sweet but not real dry," Congiusti says. "Plus, it has a great price point at about $25 a bottle."
GET THE GOODS: Congiusti recommends checking out bubbly at Phoenix Wine in Scottsdale because Tom Hamilton, who runs the shop, has such a great palate.
"Tom always has such good values, and he looks to find some of those unusual wines you won't see at BevMo! and Total Wine," Congiusti says. "AJ's also has one of the best selections of champagne, especially around the holidays."
TAP INTO THE GRAPEVINE: The Sassy Sommelier wants to make sure you not only get the right bubbly but also know how to serve it.
Serve cold. "Be sure to chill champagne very well before serving, to about 45˚F," Congiusti recommends. "Also have an ice bucket available to keep whatever you don't pour cold."
Keep the cork from flying across the room. "Loosen the wire cage on top of the cork but leave it in place," Congiusti instructs. "You should always have a cloth napkin or a towel to cover the cork when you open the bottle." The towel will trap the cork, should it shoot off because of the high pressure inside the bottle.
Don't pull the cork: Twist the bottle. "Grasp the cage and the cork with your napkin, and turn the bottle to loosen the cork," Congiusti says.
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Silence the pop. "Although the pop is what we look for when opening a bottle of champagne, professionally, we look for what comically is called an angel's fart," Congiusti says. "You only want it to 'shhhhh' versus the big bang."
SWALLOW THIS: "We should drink more champagne!" Congiusti says. "It's actually a great appetizer wine that goes well with a lot of different things: Cheese, oysters, and the list goes on."
We're planning to break out the bubbly this weekend, and hope you will too (now that you have all your bases covered)! Plus, with an excuse like reveling in the end of the decade, how can you not? Cheers! (And happy New Year!)
Come back for class next Wednesday and leave your questions for our wine gurus in the comments below, no hand-raising necessary.