5@5 - The razzle dazzle of Champagne
December 30th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

New Year's Eve is all about giving the ol' razzle dazzle: Sparkling garb, sparkling balls dropping, sparkling wine.

For the latter, many opt to toast to the New Year - and the subjective lyrics of "Auld Lang Syne" - with capital-C Champagne.

Daniel Lobsenz, the sommelier at Poste Moderne Brasserie in Washington DC, is one such appreciator of the razzle and dazzle of a bottle of bubbly - but it's a love-hate relationship, especially because Champagne tastes so darn exquisite.

Five Reasons To Not Like Champagne: Daniel Lobsenz

1. She tastes so good, it makes all others seem inadequate.
"A couple of things: Champagne is produced in what we call the Traditional Method (in Champagne, France, it's called the methode champenoise although nowhere else in the European Union is allowed to use this term).

They invented the process of secondary fermentation in the bottle. I often make the comparison of mass produced Budweiser to a fine Belgian ale, one is carbonated through a means of mass production while the other is slowly fermented in bottle and the taste difference is obvious.

This process is a much slower and more expensive method, but it yields wines that have much more complexity; namely softer and finer bubbles, more complex secondary and tertiary aromas (brioche, crème brûlée, spice, etc.) and a longer finish.

As opposed to the simple fruit forward nature of something like prosecco, Champagne exhibits great fruit, but also minerality, earth, spice, and those interesting yeasty notes that can vary from fresh bread to very savory umami notes when the wine has aged a long time.

The thing is, we get so distracted by the bubbles that we tend to think of all bubbly wines as the same (we call them all champagne even when we know that Champagne is a regional designation). Most consumers notice a difference between the $5 California appellation 'red wine' and a good quality Napa Cab that may cost $25. However, for some reason, many consumers don't acknowledge this difference of quality when it comes to sparkling wine.

It’s up to the Champagne producers and other industry players like retailers, bartenders and sommeliers to show the market that difference. Of course, there are other good sparkling wines: Cava from Spain, Franciacorta from Italy, and many good sparkling houses in the US and Australia that make good traditional method sparkling wine."

2. Unlike beer goggles, Champagne makes everyone else seem uglier and beneath you when you drink it.
"When it's the wine that is drunk at a King's Coronation, or the favorite of Napoleon Bonaparte, or perhaps because Winston Churchill spoke so highly of it, it grabs the attention of the public and develops a status of elitism.

Champagne has long been associated with celebration and there are historical documents to prove that it was on the table when these major events in history occurred (in earliest cases, Champagne as it was then known, wasn't even a sparkling wine but the wines of the region had already created this reputation).

Today, this reputation is perpetuated through pop culture. And there is nothing wrong with it being associated as a celebratory drink. However, the wine has so much more to offer than just an indulgence a few times a year."

3. Once you get her to open up, she starts losing her bubbly nature by the minute.
"Best way to open? WITH A SABER! However, this is not always practical or safe. The most responsible way to open is the way that is taught by organizations like the Court of Master Sommeliers which teach to open the bottle without a violent pop. Just remember to always point away from anybody as that cork could fly out at any second if you're not careful.

As far as serving goes, I'm going to tell you a secret. I open Champagne at my house all the time, and I don't own a single flute. Flutes look nice, but they do not allow us to smell and appreciate the nuances of a great Champagne. I recommend a smaller wine glass that is more associated with serving white wines.

As far as keeping a bottle fresh, Frédéric Panaïotis, the Chef de Cave of Ruinart, put it to me like this: '1 bottle, 4 people, 15 minutes.'

While Champagne looks nice in your glass, it’s even more enjoyable in your mouth. If you want to save an open bottle, you can purchase champagne stoppers online which will buy you another day or two in the fridge (let's not forget, Champagne is also enjoyable with your eggs in the morning). You may lose a touch of carbonation, but if that CO2 is trapped in the bottle, it will help protect the wine from oxidizing.

If it is a special Champagne and or had a significant amount of age to it, finish it in one sitting among good friends."

4. She's so awesome and beautiful that other people try to pass on inferior product at the cost of her reputation.
"When is sparkling wine not Champagne? Simply put, it's when it does not come from Champagne. The EU protects the name Champagne in Europe, so Prosecco, Cava and Crémant producers cannot pass off their product as "Champagne." However, this gets a little fuzzy once we leave the EU.

In the US, plenty of labels like Korbel and Andre are labeled as Champagne. Even more esteemed houses, like Schramsberg, will label their wines Methode Champenoise. In 2006, the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) regulated that all US sparkling wine producers must use the term 'Sparkling Wine’ or ‘Traditional Method’ on their labels. However, if these houses were making sparkling wine before that, they have a grandfather clause exemption.

When looking for bubbles and true Champagne is not in the cards, my number one concern is production method. If it does not say ‘Traditional Method’ or ‘Methode Champenoise,’ then it is probably not bottle fermented, and in my opinion does not have the same quality and complexity."

5. She's like an unscrupulous call-girl, after a night of wining and dining and promises of the best night of your life, you still wake up in a gutter with an empty wallet and the world’s worst hangover.
"My favorite domestic producer is Schramsberg out of California, which built its reputation as being the sparkling wine of White House State Dinners in the Nixon Administration. For a less expensive option, I prefer Gloria Ferrer, also from California.

For another great value, I enjoy Gruet from New Mexico. They have really seen some great market expansion over the last few years and definitely over deliver for the price. Most of these wines can be found in the $15-$25 price point.

When I am looking to spend on Champagne, my favorite houses are Ruinart and Taittinger. Ruinart has incredible finesse and food pairing versatility and has a great story behind it (It is the oldest operating Champagne House as a sparkling wine producer).

Taittinger also makes a very elegant style, particularly the Tête de Cuvée "Comtes de Champagne" which is made from 100% Chardonnay (yes it is pricey).

I am also a big fan of exploring the world of Grower Champagnes: These are wines made by the actual grape growers, and they tend to have a more unique character that better reflects the vineyard source and vintage.

Among producers that are big standouts for me are Pascal Doquet, who does a blanc de blancs from the Grand Cru of Le Mesnil, which is a great site for Chardonnay.

Gaston Chiquet is another producer who makes a "Special Club" which is basically the equivalent of a Tête de Cuvée for growers; this wine blew me away on my last tasting and is half the price of a Tête de Cuvée from a major house like Moët & Chandon (Dom Perignon).

The great thing about Grower Champagnes is that they over deliver for price. Major champagne houses spend unthinkable amounts of money on marketing and packaging. They need to make that money somewhere and naturally that brings the bottle prices for these big market brands up significantly. Growers can't afford to do this. When you buy grower champagnes, you are buying the wine and nothing else.

The best thing I’d recommend is for people to get out and try different brands. I too often get people who ask for a Champagne that we do not carry and just order a cocktail or still wine instead, because we don’t have the brand that they’re used to ordering. There is so much more out there and I encourage people to try more than just one brand because that’s what their friends or favorite celebrity drinks."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Bite • Bubbly • Holidays • New Year's • Sip • Think • Wine


soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. Champizzle

    Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb..

    December 31, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Reply
  2. High Skooler

    "When it's the wine that is drank"? Really? Is this the best writing CNN can buy?

    December 31, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Reply
  3. Ken

    I can't believe such an utterly sexist article is published on CNN, much less with the headline on the home page. Are you all drunk?

    December 31, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Reply
  4. Scott

    Heck, #5 could describe any relationship with any woman lol

    December 31, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Reply
  5. lu lu

    Rude article, I am sure their are other things to comapare Champagne too. I am disappointed that CNN would put this on their website.

    December 31, 2011 at 10:19 am | Reply
    • lu lu

      Much better with out the previous title.... Thanks : )

      December 31, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  6. Bill McClain

    Does anyone else find this article shockingly insulting and sexist?

    December 31, 2011 at 8:53 am | Reply
  7. JanieJones

    SEXIST, and by the way, from what I hear, most hookers; even high priced ones, are diseased. I guess drinking Champagne is like getting an STD.

    December 31, 2011 at 2:08 am | Reply
  8. Troglodyte

    PBR, Heineken, Mardesous Kwak whatever. It all tastes like PBR to me. Happy New Years!

    December 31, 2011 at 1:29 am | Reply
  9. jason

    Wow! Has the writer of this article even been to a champagne house in France?

    December 31, 2011 at 1:11 am | Reply
  10. Edith

    Why is guy drinking red wine when article is about champagne and hookers? Stock photo fail?

    December 31, 2011 at 12:44 am | Reply
  11. Heyzeus

    Why is your picture on this article Rabbi Abramowitz??

    December 31, 2011 at 12:40 am | Reply
  12. AD

    I don't drink alcohol but this article will help me get some questions on Jeopardy :)

    December 31, 2011 at 12:39 am | Reply
  13. Bubbly Personality

    I wish champagne was more like call girls because for the same money, at least I would get more than one pop

    December 31, 2011 at 12:34 am | Reply
  14. Poupy McFace

    This was one of the most pretentious articles I've ever read. The people responsible for it should be crammed in a bottle and left there to ferment.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Reply
    • Poupy McFace

      Oh, and that suit makes you look like a public school masturbator whose father sells used Buicks.

      December 30, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Reply
      • Yeahme...

        right on...I can't stand it when poor people beitch and beitch...

        December 31, 2011 at 2:34 am | Reply
  15. Gluteus Maximus

    how about 5 reasons the author of this article should never breed? And why he should be hit by a bus, dismembered, and fed to a bear?

    December 30, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Reply
    • PY

      All in the same time?

      December 31, 2011 at 1:17 am | Reply
      • Daws

        Of course not, the bear would get in the way of the bus :P

        December 31, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Reply
    • skp1083

      Ever hear of satire? Get off your high horse and enjoy life.

      December 31, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Reply
  16. M.E.

    Sparklers are my favorite wines hands down. While they of course taste great, I also love them for the style and image. It's just so much fun to play extravagant by wandering around with a glass and switching later in the night to carrying the whole bottle. I don't recommend bottle swigging from the start though cause the time I tried that, I ended up spewing a 6ft fountain of foam thanks to the carbonation pretty much exploding into my mouth. Incredibly funny, but a waste of booze. Pour the first glass THEN drink from the bottle.

    And no, I'm not some cretin who thinks Andre is the best, I do actually know a fair bit about wines, having worked for some time selling them. When I want to, I'm quite capable of tasting and enjoying as a normal person. But it's just so much more fun to pretend it's 1983 and partake in the debauchery expected.

    December 30, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Reply
  17. Ann Marie

    Like a call girl? Was that an attempt at humor or just misogynistic commentary?

    December 30, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Reply
    • Yeahme...

      boeff (both)....and nutting rong w/ dat

      December 31, 2011 at 2:36 am | Reply
  18. david

    Get a life! I've held multiple blind taste tests with friends and family over the years with many different kinds of "champagne"or "sparkling wine" from $300 bottles of Dom to $2 bottles of Andre. The truth is that most people have a very hard time telling the difference between any of them, and they rarely choose the expensive ones (including Dom and Schramsberg) (although the Schramsberg cave tour is great and I recommend it). Surprisingly, the winner of those blind tests has consistently been Cooks, which costs about $5 per bottle. Let me tell you, people who claim they have sophisticated taste when it comes to wine look pretty sheepish when they find out they like Cooks better than Dom!

    December 30, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Reply
    • lgny

      I can believe people not tasting a difference between Dom Perignon and $20 bottles, but if you think it tastes the same as Andre, then you don't have any taste buds!

      December 30, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Reply
    • Steven Moore

      Agree w/ Igny here. Though Andre is fun for a quick, bubbly hooray, it has a very different taste. Not unpleasant, just not Champagne. For a very well-priced intro to relatively inexpensive "sparkling", I love the Gruet bottles. Great value, fabulous taste. Made in New Mexico of all places! Try that and see what your friends and family think. I suspect they will very easily tell that this is more complexand enjoyable than Andre.

      December 30, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Reply
  19. j0eschm0e

    going out to buy a saber lol there she blows !! imagine shaking before sabering fun fun

    December 30, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Reply
  20. 2012

    what happens if you freeze champaign, will it still be good if you let it thaw out?

    December 30, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Reply
    • j0eschm0e

      if you freeze champagne, the bottle will break from the expanding frozen liquid

      December 30, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Reply
    • paul

      No, the water will begin to freeze and the liquid left over will be higher alcohol content destroying the composition of the champagne

      December 30, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Reply
    • JJ

      We've frozen it accidentally, while chilling (& forgot about it until the next day :-P). Left it outside for an hour or so and it turned out fine. I wouldn't recommend it, but at the end of the day we enjoyed the bottle :-)

      December 30, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Reply
      • Dave

        "at the end of the day we enjoyed the bottle"

        I am translating this to: "We paid for the bottle so by God we drank it!"

        If you froze it, you ruined it.

        December 31, 2011 at 1:08 am | Reply
    • igotit

      I believe this gentlemen is saying he freezes women and thaws them out for pleasure.

      December 30, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Reply
  21. 2012

    what happens when you freeze champaign, if you let it thaw is it still good?

    December 30, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Reply
  22. Pat

    Okay, maybe that's being a little harsh but I really hate it when people come up with a theme and try to force and article to follow it. If you're going to compare Wine and Women, at least do it in a tasteful/professional manner.

    December 30, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Reply
    • StreetPimp

      I could not agree more Pat... this suckas pimp hand is weak... shoulda asked an expert I drink my champagne from a chalice of gold and my ho's are mo' reliable than this fools booze.

      December 30, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Reply
      • happy new year

        hahahaha

        December 30, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Reply
  23. Cheryl

    relax people.....you're taking this way too seriously.

    December 30, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Reply
  24. Pat

    "5. She's like an unscrupulous call-girl, after a night of wining and dining and promises of the best night of your life, you still wake up in a gutter with an empty wallet and the world’s worst hangover."

    This writer sounds rather experienced at this. After reading this article I see why.

    December 30, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Reply
    • erin

      LOL that made laugh. i was thinking the SAME thing! :)

      December 30, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Reply
    • Pat

      lol it's just way too detailed...disturbingly so

      December 30, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Reply
    • StreetPimp

      No kidding... I had to cut that fool for skipping out on one of my girls.

      December 30, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Reply
    • Gezellig

      CNN, if you hadn't let Eliot Sptizer go, you could have gotten his expert opinion on this.

      December 31, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Reply
  25. D

    what an utterly embarrassing attempt at humor

    December 30, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Reply
    • erin

      since crack news network won't let me like your post i must hit reply and agree 100% !

      December 30, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Reply
    • StreetPimp

      Thats what my girls said when he dropped his drawers... oh and the article isnt so grand either.

      December 30, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Reply
  26. Randy

    Great article, taught me a few very good points to remember. As a big fan (and mediocre home brewer!) of bottle conditioned beers, I can appreciate your view on Champagne/SW production, and I'll remember that next time I go to pick up a bottle. Thanks!

    December 30, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Reply
    • StreetPimp

      Randy, maybe the booze half of the article was useful but I am not following his advice on how to handle my stable... we did not have what he was looking for anyways... check that picture more closely that fool is drinking wine or adding grape soda to his champagne.

      December 30, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  27. Josh

    Stupid article. How about point to the fact that humans have used alcohol for thousands of years, and now corporations make the alcohol instead of small breweries. Old time beer was good for food, modern beer like budweiser has nothing healthy about it. Our health problems and addiction rates are so high right now...just saying..most people dont drink homebrews, but I do and they are much easier on your system.

    December 30, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Reply
    • Nevander

      Prove it.

      December 31, 2011 at 1:27 am | Reply
  28. Sei

    How are champagne grapes like women? They were both stomped on for the writing of this article.

    December 30, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Reply
  29. Enzo

    I prefer beer over champagne because unlike a call girl, when I'm done with my beer the empty can is still worth a nickel.

    December 30, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Reply
    • SillyRabbit

      But when I am done, I never leave a call girl "empty".

      December 30, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Reply
      • StreetPimp

        lmao.... so tru brother

        December 31, 2011 at 12:29 am | Reply
  30. drinker

    Even though I appreciate humor and pithy writing, I feel stupider for having read this. FAIL!

    December 30, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Reply
  31. Kude

    "Best way to open? WITH A SABER!"

    This may become my motto from now on.

    December 30, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  32. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Interesting.

    December 30, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Reply

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