Calling in the ‘Brut’ Squad
By Michele Roger
It’s the countdown to New Year’s Eve and several people have asked me about champagne. Being French, people seem to think I must have some deeper knowledge of the bubbly. While I do enjoy a glass or three on New Year’s or any special occasion (surviving a Wednesday is good reason, right?) I wouldn’t say a French heritage gives me any inside track.
That’s where the ‘Brut’ squad comes in. A little nickname I’ve given a handful of folks who were brave enough to endure my blind taste test (and to whom I am very grateful.) Unlike me, this is a collective of some people you should listen to. They are employed at some of the top restaurants in the city, they work for companies who deal in fine wine and they have their thumb on the pulse of what is the best quality drink for the money.
Graciously, they’ve invited me to crash their Friendsgiving celebration and kick the night off with my taste test. Each of the bottles is wrapped to hide the label and price (thanks go out to my sister and her excellent taste in wrapping paper for making the bottles not only secret, but festive.) Next, I’ve numbered each bottle and placed a card in front of it. I’ve asked the tasters to give each bottle a rating; four being the best, one, the least.
What the tasters do not know is I have thought about what an average person might want to purchase as a host for a New Year’s Eve party or a wedding. The standard etiquette rule says that to go to someone’s house as a guest for a party, one never takes a bottle of wine over $13. While there are no said rules in place about champagne, I kept my four bottles under $30 each. In this way, no matter if your intention is to gift a bottle or to buy a case for an event, these champagnes are all about the flexibility to really enjoy the celebration without breaking the bank to kick off the New Year.
My purchases were three California based champagnes (two Brut and one Cuvée) and a French champagne. I asked the tasters to think about how each one stands on their own without being made into a cocktail. After forty-five minutes, while the answers were varied, the results were astoundingly clear.
At this point, I must say I am not endorsing any particular brand and I am not getting paid to write this. These are strictly the results of a blind taste test. That said, drum roll. Shine up the flute glasses and be prepared to set some bottles on ice. New Year’s Eve is going to be delicious!
In first place is Cooks “Extra Brut” at $8.99/bottle. Extra Brut means this Champagne has less than six grams of sugar and is thus very dry. Most of the comments about Cooks was that it was light yet so lovely, most could see themselves enjoying several glasses.
Second place was a tie between Korbel’s “Sweet Cuvée” $12.99/bottle and the French Saint-Hilaire “Limoux” $26.00/bottle. Clearly, people liked these two different champagnes for different reasons but both tied for second and only lost to first place by one point.
While beauty is in the eye or rather the taste buds in this case, of the beholder, it goes to show Champagne does not have to be expensive or highbrow to be enjoyed. If New Year’s Eve is the only time you typically enjoy a glass, I encourage you to think beyond the drink so widely known for making toasts.
My New Year’s resolutions are never met if they are about deprivation or drastic change. I tend to have much better luck when I try to add something positive to my routine. Won’t you join me in making 2016 the Year of the Bubbly? We could all use a few more reasons to see the good in the day and celebrate small accomplishments. Champagne, at roughly 65 calories per glass won’t add to your waist while you celebrate.
Now that we have proven great, drinkable champagne is also wildly affordable, it’s the perfect time to raise a glass.
Here’s to finishing five loads of laundry. Cheers!
Here’s to saying something nice to your boss after they turned down your third revision. Cheers!
Here’s to changing flat tires, patiently smiling at the screaming children on the airplane, avoiding road rage enduring an extra hour stuck in traffic and picking up the tab at dinner with the in-laws. Cheers!
In the Year of the Bubbly, it’s all about celebrating life’s little triumphs.