Champagne 101

I almost always have bottle of bubbly chilling in the fridge. Whether I’m celebrating a birthday or looking to improve a dreadful day, Champagne somehow makes the day a little brighter. Having a bottle on hand makes it easy to entertain when unexpected guests arrive and also reminds me that even the little things in life deserve celebrating!

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There’s this notion that quality Champagne has to be expensive, but I’m here to tell you that’s not always the case. Yes, true Champagne must be from the Champagne region of France; however, sparkling wine that is made in the effervescent style of Champagne exists at every price point. If you can afford to indulge, drink the expensive Champagne (here and here)! Otherwise, refer to my sparkling wine guide below that outlines eight of my current favorite bottles for $25 or less.

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1: Antech “Brut Nature” Blanquette de Limoux, $12.99. Crisp apple taste with a clean finish. Perfect to serve at a larger party or in a champagne cocktail.

2: Schramsberg “Mirabelle” California Brut Rosé, $20.99. Coppery-pink with vibrant flavors of raspberry and strawberry. A festive choice for a birthday celebration or bridal shower.

3: Deligeroy Cremant de Loire Brut, $11.99. Complex with persistent notes of pear and a slightly-spicy ginger finish.

4: Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne “Perle d’Aurore” Brut Rosé, $14.99. Delightful flavors of strawberry and citrus enveloped in a creamy texture.

5: Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut, $21.99. My go-to California sparkling wine. A gorgeous balance of sweet flavors like pear, lemon curd, honey, and apple, and ginger spice.

6. 2013 Raventos Blanc “L’hereu” Conca del Riu Anoia Brut, $19.99. Citrusy-flavored Cava with a bread dough/baking spice (anise seed) nose that reminds me of my family’s Southwest-style cookie recipes.

7. Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Champagne, $24.99. Bright flavors of tart-sweet lemon remind me of my favorite lemon meringue pie.

8. Charles Baur “Emotion” Crémant d’Alsace Brut, $19.99. Great choice for a winter soirée. Surprisingly rich, earthy flavors that transform into the fruitiness of tangerine, apricot, and spice.

Tip: If you’re looking to pick up a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine on the way to a party, make sure to get one from the refrigerated section or ask the wine merchant for an already-chilled bottle. If they don’t have that specific bottle chilled, wrap it in a wet paper towel and quickly get it in the hostess’s freezer when you arrive. 10-15 minutes should do the trick, but don’t leave the bottle in any longer!

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Chocolate: Bubbles pair best with dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao). I especially love a bar with a sprinkle of sea salt or chopped hazelnuts inside.

Shortbread cookies: A piece of buttery shortbread pairs nicely with the doughy flavors in champagne.

Cheese: The creaminess of Brie pairs perfectly with a dry Brut. My all-time favorite is Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam (not pictured).

Fruit: Strawberries are a classic, but dried apricots or seedless grapes also pair nicely.

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The glittery flutes from Target (left) are perfect for larger parties because they’re plastic and inexpensive. The glass flutes (right) are from Cost Plus World Market and are ideal for everyday or smaller gatherings.

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Cheers!

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