New Year’s Eve 2012

Candace Hobbs is a contributor to Southport Magazine and owner of The Grape and Ale in Oak Island. Courtesy photo

The Grape and Ale
8521 E. Oak Island Dr., Oak Island
(910) 933-4384

When planning your New Year’s Eve bash, typically the first thing on your to-do list after you have committed to a menu is to choose the beverages you will serve. The ultimate wine for pairing with just about any food is, of course, champagne—not to mention it is the traditional toasting wine to bring in the New Year. But don’t stop there, serve it the entire evening!

Most of us cannot afford the real deal. To be recognized in the world of wine-speak as a true champagne, the wine must originate from the Champagne region of France. The French produce their product the same as any other sparkling wine, with secondary fermentation in the bottle to produce carbonation, and it is made primarily with either Chardonnay or Pinot Noir grapes. Fortunately for those of us who love the bubbly, there are many affordable alternatives in the marketplace without having to resort to the supermarket, mass-produced sparklers.

In addition to some excellent sparkling wines from other regions of France, we are finding some real gems from other places such as Argentina, Spain, Italy, and the good old US of A.

Toso Brut
Pascual Toso
San José, Guymallén, Argentina
A big seller at The Grape and Ale is Toso Brut from Argentina. Bright green and yellow in color, this sparkling wine balances yeast with the essential characteristics of Chardonnay. On the palate, it is soft, fresh and easy to drink. With time, the Pascual Toso Sparkling Brut evolves and gains complexity in its bottle. Toso retails for only $9.99 and will be on sale for $8.49 until the end of the year.

Norton Brut Rose
Bodega Norton
Mendoza, Argentina
Staying in Argentina, if you are looking for a bit of pink in your bubbly, try Norton Brut Rose. A blend of 50 percent Chardonnay, 40 percent Chenin, and 10 percent Pinot Noir, you will find intense aromas of red fruits, strawberries and blueberries. It is young, fresh and pleasant with a long finish. This wine retails at $11.80 and will be on sale at $10.03 through December.

Borgo Magredo Prosecco
Borgo Magredo
Veneto, Italy
Truly, one of the best sparklers that I’ve ever had is Borgo Magredo Prosecco, coming in at $16.99. Borgo Magredo is a fairly large producer with vineyards in the Le Marche and Abruzzo regions of Italy. Crisp, light, and smooth as silk, this Prosecco is a favorite amongst my fellow wine biz ladies!

Volpi Moscato
Cantine Volpi
Frizzante Piemonte, Italy
If you have a sweet tooth, you must have the Volpi Moscato from the Piemonte region of Italy. This wine was “The Top Selling Wine at The Grape & Ale in 2011!” There’s moscato, and there’s moscato. There’s really no other moscato in the marketplace to compare. At $12.79, it is brilliant with a golden yellow color. Intense, fragrant, delicate aroma of Moscato with a very elegant bouquet reminiscent of orange-blossom, peach and honey. Pleasantly sweet, aromatic, and round, it gives a creamy sensation on the palate.

Montmartre Rosé Sec
Clos Montmartre
Tournan-en-Brie, Paris, France
One of my personal favorites (as I am a Rose lover) is Montmartre Rose Sec ($12.39) from Tournan, France. This dry sparkling wine is fresh and fruity, lively on the palate, with a delicate mousse and appealing finish. Montmartre Rosé Sec makes a fine aperitif and accompanies a variety of light dishes.

Blanquette de Limoux
Domaine Saint-Hilaire
Aude, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
France’s oldest and very first sparkling wine, Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux, was made by Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of Saint Hilaire more than a century ago in the Southern foothills of Limoux. The French compare Saint-Hilaire with their finest champagne and at a fraction of the cost. Robert Parker, internationally renowned wine critic and publisher of the The Wine Advocate says, “Similar to top-quality non-vintage champagne at one-third the price.” Saint Hilaire retails for $16.59.

Brut Premier
Louis Roederer
Champagne, France
However, if you insist on the “real deal,” we carry three or four true champagnes, including Dom Perignon. One of the best values at the price of $55.49 is Louis Roederer Brut Premier. Classy, smooth, and delicious, this selection delivers everything one looks for in a beautiful Champagne.

Kila Cava
Vins El Cep
Penedes, Spain
Let’s not forget Cava. Spain’s answer for sparkling wine is produced in the traditional méthode champenoise and is an important part of Spanish tradition of consumption at parties, marriages, and almost any celebration. Our recommendation is Kila Cava at the insanely good price of $11.49.

Argyle Brut
Argyle Winery
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Our domestic offering is Argyle Brut at $37. The 2008 vintage received a stellar 90-point rating from both Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate. All Argyle Winery sparkling wines are vintage dated. Two grape varieties, Oregon Chardonnay and Oregon Pinot Noir, are used in Argyle Brut, Knudsen Vineyard Brut, Extended Tirage Brut and Argyle’s special Brut Rosé. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay ratio of each sparkling wine changes with each vintage and are indicated on the front label. The 2008 vintage is 63 percent Pinot Noir and 37 percent Chardonnay.

Attend The Grape and Ale’s annual champagne tasting, while Rhonda Uhlmann from The Flying Fish Café will be catering some delectable appetizers to pair with the sparklers. $10/person, includes complimentary champagne flute. Reservations and pre-payment must be made by Fri., 12/7 by visiting the wine shop or by calling 933-4384.

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