Not long ago, every December brought a cluster of articles in the food media on how to pick an inexpensive, non-Champagne sparkling wine for a party. First it was cava, then prosecco, then crémant. This year, the wine world is flush again with love for actual, appellation-contrôllée Champagne ― grower Champagne, small-production Champagne, even big-name $$$ bottles. SFoodie is quite all right with that. We love Champagne. If they came out with Champagne pony kegs, we'd have a glass for dinner every night.
If you, like SFoodie, are going to leave work early this afternoon to buy a bottle of Champagne in order to chill it by the time you leave for tomorrow's parties, here are this year's articles about what to buy:
Start off by reading a quick guide to selecting Champagne from the Chron's Jon Bonné. (Here's another primer on the difference between grower and negociant Champagnes from one of SFoodie's former colleagues in Seattle.)
Then comes the lists of bottles. Eric Asimov from the New York Times recently came out with his favorite 10 Champagnes of the moment. Bonné responded by listing his top 10 for the year. And Slate's Mike Steinberger lists even more, divided by price range.
What you will notice, of course, is that even if you skip the Cristal, a good Champagne for less than $40 is almost impossible to find. SFoodie says suck it up, buy something great, and just drink it before midnight, saving the cheap crap to make drunken toasts with. If $40 is too dear, Steinberger says his 2008 list of cheaper sparkling wines is still valid, and Asimov devoted another column to sparkling wines from other regions of France, many of which are in the $20 range.
Of course it's one thing to read about a wine that sounds magical, and another thing to find it in a local store. What SFoodie plans to do right after posting this is to cut and paste 10 names from these lists into an e-mail and send them to our phone so we have plans A-J covered.
Local stores with good selections of Champagne and other sparkling wines:
Arlequin Wine Merchant: 384 Hayes Street (at Gough), 863-1104, arlequinwinemerchant.com.
D&M Wine and Liquors: 2200 Fillmore (at Sacramento), 346-1325, dandm.com
K&L Wine Merchants: 638 Fourth St. (at Brannan), 896-1734, kandlwines.com.