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Champagne Perfect for Valentine’s Day -- and Every Day

Release Date:
1/13/2012 4:18 PM
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Wine Expert Lists Best Bubbly for the Buck

Valentines Day, champagne, 500px

Jan. 13, 2012

WEST HAVEN, CONN. -- On Valentine’s Day, millions of Americans will celebrate by popping open a bottle of bubbly. 

And that's the dilemma that champagne and other sparkling wine have – in this country, at least.

Americans perceive champagne and sparkling wine as drinks only for special occasions when actually, they go well with many different types of foods and can be great served with a casual dinner, says Greg Altieri, an adjunct professor in the hospitality and tourism management program at the University of New Haven and the director of training and education for Connecticut Distributors, a leading distributor of wines and spirits..

“Champagne and sparkling wine have been unfairly pigeon-holed,” Altieri says. “The versatility of champagne and sparkling wine goes unnoticed. They are a perfect accompaniment for many foods including main course dishes such as chicken, veal, pork or seafood.”

The image of champagne as a celebratory wine began hundreds of years ago with the coronation of kings in Reims, France. The product was heavily marketed so it would be perceived as a drink for nobility, luxury and power. Today, champagne is, in fact, the national drink of Monaco, although champagne and sparkling wines are often used in Europe and around the world not as a celebratory drink but as an everyday wine.

The vast majority of champagnes are a blend of Chardonnay and two red grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, Altieri says.  The wine remains white because the skins of the grapes are removed immediately after the grapes are crushed, thus prohibiting the juice from absorbing color. 

Although originally champagne was very sweet, distillers in France began in the 1800s to reduce its sugar content and its sweetness.

“So, if you’re considering champagne with food, think of it as Chardonnay with bubbles and lean towards those food choices you would normally associate with Chardonnay,” he says.

Pairings could include scallops, shrimp or lobster but also sushi, mushrooms, bacon and chicken dishes made with olive oil rather than lemon or vinegar, he says. 

Champagne, which comes only from Eastern France in a region near the city of Reims, and sparkling wine also can be served with cheeses or desserts such as almond cookies, strawberries, tarts and crumbles.  France produces about 250 million bottles of champagne a year and exports 40 percent of them.

Sparkling wines come from a variety of other countries including the United States,Italy and Spain, Altieri says.

And best of all, he says, drinking sparkling wine and champagne does not have to be expensive. 

“The heart of the matter for Valentine’s Day and every day is that drinking wine can be done on a budget,” he says. “There are many options from around the world that range in price from around $10 to as high as $60 a bottle that deliver great quality of flavor and style.”

His recommendations and their approximate prices include:

  • Cristalino Brut (Spain) – $10
  • Rotari Brut (Italy) – $14
  • Canella Prosecco (Italy) – $15
  • Mumm Napa Brut and Brut Rose (Cal.) – $24
  • Bellavista Brut (Italy) – $32
  • GH Mumm Brut Champagne (France) – $41
  • Perrier Jouet Grand Brut Champagne (France) – $47

“You can enjoy these wines on Valentine’s Day or really anytime,” he says. “After all, Americans have surpassed the French as the top wine-drinking nation in the world.”

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