Grand Haven Tribune: Your guide to a New Year's Eve toast
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Your guide to a New Year's Eve toast

Rose White • Dec 30, 2016 at 2:00 PM

New Year’s Eve is a popular time to pop open a bottle of champagne — but if you don’t usually drink the bubbly, where do you start?

John Dickhart, the owner of Waypoint Dock and Spirits in Fruitport, notices a change in champagne sales at the end of the year.

“I sell the high-end champagnes pretty well year-round,” he said. “But for people having a big party, they will buy more of the middle-range stuff.”

Likewise, Jennifer Wassell, a saleswoman at J-Dubs Market & Wine Shop in Grand Haven, said she sees a boost in sales as New Year’s Eve approaches.

“We definitely see more people buying champagne this time of year,” she said. “It’s that time to make it special. It’s that celebratory pop and fizz. People tend to like champagne, even if they’re not wine drinkers.”

Dec. 31 is a traditional time to enjoy the bubbly beverage. But Michelle Rowe, an account manager and beverage distributor at Imperial Beverage, urges customers not to buy champagne simply because it’s the popular thing to do.

“Don’t spend a lot of money on something if you don’t know you’ll like it,” she said.

Although champagne is the common choice, Rowe explained the difference in taste between varieties of sparkling wines and champagne. In fact, a beverage can technically only be called champagne if it was produced in Champagne, France.

If you like sweeter beverages, Rowe suggests trying a Moscato over champagne.

“Those still have the cork, which you can pop,” she said. “And if you want to make it more special, you can get a higher-end variety, like the Moscato D’Asti.”

If you want a drink that is drier, but not as dry as champagne, Rowe recommends an Italian prosecco.

Sparkling wines won’t come from the Champagne region in France and they typically are not as expensive. Regarding the taste, “a big characteristic of champagne compared to sparkling wines is there is more of a bready, yeasty flavor,” Rowe said.

Rowe also explained that sparkling wines will have more bubbles, while champagnes will have smaller, softer bubbles. But the differences are slight, so “the average person might not be able to tell in a blind test,” Rowe said.

“If someone wasn’t typically a champagne drinker, I would tell them to stick with something under $20, like an Asti Spumante,” Wassell recommends.

Similarly, Dickhart recommends different kinds of bubbly depending on the person.

“I always ask for a price point first,” he said. “But for new drinkers, they are more likely to want something sweeter like a Moscato.”

Even though champagne is uniquely popular this time of year, Rowe believes it should be used for celebrating the everyday.

“Don’t just drink champagne for special occasions,” she said. “Sometimes just surviving the work week is a special occasion and a great reason for bubbles.”

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