Get to know Prosecco
March 19th, 2014
12:30 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

The news that Prosecco outsold Champagne - 307 million bottles worldwide compared with 304 million - may flabbergast some fizz fans, but it’s really no surprise. Prosecco is as hot as a cold, sparkling white wine can be, with sales in 2013 up more than 24% over 2012.
 
That 307 million stat, by the way, came from OVSE, an Italian wine “observatory” (essentially an industry research group, though you have to like the idea of white-coated scientists spending their time watching bottles of Prosecco through massive mountaintop telescopes), so perhaps one should take it with a grain of salt. Regardless, it’s hard to argue with Prosecco’s overall appeal.
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On Valentine's Day, stick with the classics
February 13th, 2014
12:15 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Sometimes it’s worthwhile taking the classic approach. If you’re a cowboy, skip saddling up an emu—just ride a dang horse. If you are a lion, do not attempt to browse the tender shoots of the mokukutu bush—just chomp the neck of a zebra and have done with it.

Similarly, when Valentine’s Day comes along, why try to wow your honey with some oddball concoction when bubbly works so well?
 
The choices are vast but the basic equation is simple: If you want actual Champagne, from the Champagne region in northern France, prepare to pay more. Champagne runs from $30 or more a bottle, on up to a couple of hundred dollars a bottle for top wines.

For more affordable wines in a similar mode (i.e., made the same way, and with the same basic grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) look to California sparkling wines. There are many good, affordable choices in the $20 to $25 zone.

And if bargains are what you’re after, both Prosecco (from Italy) and cava (from Spain) produce terrific sparkling wines in the under-$20 price range—possibly not the price point to pop the question with, but good value if your evening is going to involve drowning the sorrows of a gang of embittered single friends.

Here, some excellent possibilities:
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Buying bubbles for New Year's Eve
December 27th, 2013
01:30 PM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Among the great divides in the world - red states vs. blue states, vegetarians vs. carnivores, the Yankees vs., well, pretty much the world - there is also the great split amongst wine with bubbles. Essentially: There is Champagne, and then there is everything else.
 
Champagne is the victim of its own success when it comes to names, much like Xerox or Kleenex. You can say, for instance, “I need to blow my nose, please pass me a Kleenex,” and people will no more bat an eye than if you’d asked for a glass of water. Say, “I need to blow my nose, please pass me a nasal tissue,” and they’ll say something like, “Ew!”
 
Ditto Champagne. Ask for Champagne, and people will happily pass you a glass of whatever kind of wine with bubbles is at hand. Ask for a glass of sparkling wine, and you sound odd. They will say, “Um, perhaps you’d like a nasal tissue to go with that?”
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Pop a bottle for Dom Perignon
August 4th, 2013
08:00 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Ostensibly, it was on today’s date back in 1693 that Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk, invented Champagne, popping the cork on his newly effervescent liquid, slugging it back and dancing around saying things like, “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!”

One hates to be the rain on the Champagne-party parade, but unfortunately, the Dom P story is just that - a story. The fellow did exist, and he did make wine, but he very likely spent a lot more time worrying about how not to have bubbles in his wine rather than the other way around. (Especially since bottles back then were weaker and would often blow up if a wine started to re-ferment inside them; cellar workers often wore iron masks, somewhat like catcher’s masks, to protect their faces from exploding bottles.)

To add insult to injury (if you’re French), the truth is that the process of inducing a secondary fermentation in wine to add bubbles was actually first documented by an Englishman, Dr. Christopher Merret, in 1662. Admittedly, it’s a little hard to imagine blinged-out nightclub goers popping corks on super-pricey bottles of something called “Christopher Merret” - Dom Pérignon is probably safe there - but in honor of the estimable Dr. Merret and his invention, here are a few terrific (and affordable) sparkling wines for the late summer. August 4 may not really have been the birthdate of Champagne, but it’s still a perfectly good day for drinking anything involving bubbles.
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Pink bubbles, pink bubbles, pick one with no trouble(s)
February 11th, 2013
10:00 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Pink bubbles are one of the classic Valentine’s Day investments. While not as popular as Sweethearts, for instance—those little heart-shaped candies imprinted with slogans like “Be Mine” or “Oh Hell, A Bear Just Ate My Leg” - of which the Necco company produces some 8 billion annually, pink Champagne and sparkling wine are definitely in the romantic top-seller category, regardless.
 
The hitch, of course, is that as a Valentine’s Day buyer, you’ve basically got one shot (unless you and your sweetheart are robust enough to down two or more bottles of bubbly). And thanks to the boom in rosé sparkling wine sales over the past few years, there are more choices on the market than ever. Valentine’s Day, as we all know, is already charged with mind-bending levels of unreal expectation and absolute panic—some fun, right? So seriously: Do not throw a bad bottle of wine into that mix.
 
To that end, here are a few sparkling rosés at various prices that, regardless of what else you do or don’t follow through on, won’t disappoint your partner.
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National Champagne day
December 31st, 2012
09:00 AM ET
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While you're frying up some eggs and bacon, we're cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today's food holiday.

Everything’s better with bubbles! December 31 is National Champagne Day.

It’s no coincidence that National Champagne Day falls on New Years Eve; the two are probably one of life’s more obvious pairings. In France (and New Orleans), the new year is ushered in with a lavish Réveillon feast where extravagant dishes like lobster, foie gras and escargot are served.

Because Champagne has long since been associated with celebrations, it’s no surprise it was, and still is, the drink of choice for the festivities. Since then, the tradition of toasting the year to come with Champagne can be found worldwide. But, not all countries can rightfully claim to be serving or producing Champagne.
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New Year's Eve bubbles for budgets from billionaire to broke
December 28th, 2012
12:30 PM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Though there are plenty of drinks that have had New Year’s connotations over the years—mead, beer, mulled wine, you name it—the bubbly stuff, i.e. Champagne or sparkling wine, is really the spot-on gift if you happen to be headed out to a party or three.

The thing is, wine with bubbles ranges wildly in price; a bottle of 1998 Krug Clos d’Ambonnay will set you back about $2,000, whereas a bottle of André Cold Duck (no vintage on that one, strangely enough) will damage your finances to the tune of $4.50 or so. So, to make life easier, especially in this last-minute-what-do-I-do moment, here are some suggestions.
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Bubbles, bubbles solve your Thanksgiving troubles
November 19th, 2012
11:45 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Sommeliers, of course, spend a lot of their time thinking about which wine goes well with which food, or does not go well, or might go well if it weren’t Thursday, and so on. But if you ask a sommelier what wine he or she would like to drink right now, more often than not the answer is Champagne.
 
There’s a good reason for that: Champagne, essentially, goes with everything. It goes with salty dishes; it goes with fatty dishes; it goes with birds and it goes with beasts; with cheese it’s mighty tasty and with vegetables it is sublime; it’s ideal for celebrations and obligatory for toasts; it’s even excellent when poured on its own for no particular occasion at all.
 
This is why I’m going to suggest that for Thanksgiving the answer to every problem (even, or especially, grouchy and/or crazy in-laws) is Champagne.
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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
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