A Bubbly New Year | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

A Bubbly New Year

A Bubbly New Year

Sparkling recommendations for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day

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For those who like to mark the end of one year and the start of the next in celebration, here are some pointers on choosing adult beverages for the occasion.

The easiest and most traditional option is, of course, Champagne. From the pop of the cork, to the rush of the bubbles, sparkling wines are firmly lodged in the wine drinking world’s collective psyche as fun, luxurious, celebration-inducing wines.

Sparkling wines are very versatile and can range in style from bone dry to very sweet, full to light in body, and very fruity to more reserved. Their variability is determined by the grape varietals chosen, the quality of the fruit, the method of production, and, of course, the skill and artistry of the winemaker.

There is a sparkler to go with nearly every cuisine, making it one of the world’s most food-friendly wines. While Champagne is still the most famous type of bubbly and certainly heartily recommended, other wine regions have some terrific options too. Consider, for example:

Cantine del Borgo Reale, Prosecco, Brut (Non-Vintage), Italy ($16; mevushal): This is a light, dry, bubbly and a most friendly wine. It offers aromas and flavors of warm brioche, subtle citrus notes, and a light crisp apple quality, while being refreshing, palate-reviving, and very drinkable. Served chilled.

Bartenura, Limited Edition, Demi-Sec (Non-Vintage), Italy ($24; mevushal): Presented in a couture-style gift bag, this new semi-sweet Italian sparkler is very light and easy with peach and melon aromas and pear and citrus-like flavors, with just enough acidity and bubbles to keep it fresh and fun. Served chilled.

Koenig, Crémant d’Alsace (Non-Vintage), France ($30; mevushal): Charming and delicious, this Alsatian sparkler is clean and brisk with aromas and flavors of citrus, apple, melon, and white peach, with fine, creamy and assertive bubbles that tingle the senses and drive home a lemony goodness. Served chilled.

As it happens, dry sparkling wines are also an ideal match to egg dishes, making such wines not only great for the late-night party, but also perfect for the next day’s New Year’s celebratory brunch. For those who doubt, scramble some eggs and pour yourself a glass of dry bubbly, and note the way the wine’s acidity and bubbles compliment the richness and flavors of the eggs. Any of the above sparklers should go well with the featured frittata recipe.

Since not everybody enjoys sparkling wine, however, some easy and enjoyable still (as opposed to sparkling) red and white wine options should also be on hand. Consider, for example, these options:

Duc de Pagny Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais, France) 2017 ($15): This is a lovely example – and as it happens the only kosher option in the US – of this style of beaujolais; it is fresh, fruity, light, crisp, and meant for joyously glugging. This lovely, magenta-colored wine contains notes of cranberries, red plums, and raspberries, and some macerated cherry as well as notes of pears and blueberries. Serve lightly chilled. Available online exclusively at kosherwine.com and its sister site jwines.com.

Dalton, Estate Chenin Blanc, oak-aged, Galilee, Israel, 2016 ($20): This is an excellent new-world styled chenin—fruity, textured, and balanced, with inviting notes of citrus, walnuts, pears, and hints of something more tropical. Some nice complexity overall, and a lovely lingering finish. (This should work a real treat with that frittata.)

Castel, La Vie, Blanc Du Castel, Israel, 2016 ($23): A charming blend of 50% sauvignon blanc, 45% chardonnay, and 5% gewurztraminer, this is easy drinking, fruity with a refreshing citrus zing, and balanced enough to hold nicely together. A tad pricey, but not terribly so, and yummy overall. (This should also work well with the brunch frittata.)

Castel, La Vie, Rouge Du Castel, Israel, 2016 ($23): This lovely concrete-vat aged blend of 50% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot, and 5% each of syrah and petit verdot, offers nice forward red and black fruit on the nose (dark plum taking the lead) with subtle but distinct herbal and green notes, and a nice underlying morning dew earthy quality. All this follows through on the palate with a bit more tart red and dark berry fruit notes. It is medium bodied, smooth, lightly but enjoyably tannic, with very decent acidity, and enough complexity to keep it interesting. Very enjoyable. Drink now through 2019, maybe 2020.

Dalton, Estate Petite Sirah, oak-aged, Shimshon, Israel, 2016 ($25): Vibrant and rich, softly tannic, with sweet, dark berry fruit and spice notes, with some distinct earthiness. The finish is long and attractive with additional notes of black pepper, sage, lavender, and French vanilla.

If the plan is for more of a dinner-party and less a big blow-out bash, consider something a bit more contemplative. For example:

Capçanes, Peraj Ha'abib, Pinot Noir, D.O. Catalunya, (Montsant, Spain) 2015 ($25): Never had Iberian pinot noir? Well, there aren’t many out there as Spain’s climate typically thrashes this varietal, though there are some increasingly critically recognized counter-examples available. This is the first, and so far only, kosher option, and is nothing at all like what one might expect from pinot noir. That said, it is rich, leathery, and full with aromas and flavors of dark red fruit, Spanish olives, and some inviting herbal and spicy notes. Very atypical for pinot noir, yet very Spanish, and still rather engaging.

Nik Weis, Gefen Hashalom, Ockfener, Saar Riesling, (Mosel, Germany) 2016 ($35-25 so shop around): This third kosher release from Nik Weis under the Gefen Hashalom label is simply stunning. This is one of those beguiling wines that is deliciously quaffable yet is also hugely complex and rewarding if one desires focusing on the wine instead of the food or company. A classic off-dry Mosel Riesling (from the Saar sub-region), this is crisp, subtly sweet, yet exquisitely balanced by vibrant acidity, with aromas – give this time to really open in the glass -- and flavors of citrus, stone and lip-smacking-nearly-tart orchard fruits, with some dried herbs and floral notes all lovingly enveloped in almost salty Saar minerality and stones. This is cool and cooling, fresh and refreshing, and positively steely yet with an enticing fruitiness. Fantastic now, but will also reward cellaring over the next decade, perhaps a little longer, so stock up while supplies last.

Borgo Reale, Brunello di Montalcino, DOCG (Tuscany, Italy), 2007 ($55; mevushal): Full and inviting, this is a somewhat unusual example of Brunello, with a floral and fruity nose of cherry, dried cranberry, dried rose, blackberry, violet, leather and beef jerky, followed by supple fruit, herbs and a little spice, supported by decent acidity and still felt, but integrating, bitter-sweet tannins. With a nice, medium-length finish.

Another option for bunch, especially if nursing hangovers is expected to be part of the program, is to serve some traditionally curative cocktails, like a classic Bloody Mary. A seemingly simple concoction of iced tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, and usually also lemon juice and then something spicy like horseradish or Tabasco, a well-made Bloody Mary is refreshingly tangy, rich, and earthy. While a badly made Bloody Mary is, well… deeply inadequate.

Here is my go-to recipe when time permits proper preparation:

Classic Bloody Mary

Into a mixing glass combine:

  • 2 ounces of vodka,
  • 4 ounces of tomato juice (purée in a blender and then strain over a cheesecloth lined sieve; or, if you must, use top quality canned juice)
  • ½ an ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 dashes of Tabasco
  • 2 dashes of Worcestershire
  • a pinch of both salt and freshly ground pepper (careful with the salt if using canned juice).

Add ice and stir to mix.

Strain into an iced goblet or highball glass.

Oh and, if you like, garnish with a stick of celery. For a Virgin Mary, leave out the vodka – it’ll taste the same, but loses its “curative” powers.

Whatever you choose for your festivities, be sure and drink responsibly—begging forgiveness, or for bail, is no way to start the new year.

L’Chaim!

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