Monday, February 19, 2018

Champagne marks special occasions

By Jimmy Daniell Isaac
Dec. 27, 2017 at 4 a.m.

Nishil Patel stocks display racks with champagne at Heritage Wine and Spirits.

Gana Germanwala says she's not much of a champagne drinker but understands why it is associated with celebration, especially at New Year's Eve.

"I think the bubbles are a big deal," she said, "because in all of the commercials for champagne, you see the bubbles going and there's always a party and there's hot people in the background."

Longview alcoholic beverage retailers say the French wine, named for the region from which it originated, doesn't see as great a spike in sales as one might expect. (If the drink is made elsewhere, such as California, it's called sparkling wine; only drinks bottled in the Champagne region of France take the capital C.)

Still, the trendiest sparkling wines, such as Dom Perignon or Armand de Brignac produced by rapper and entrepreneur Jay Z, have some customers saving their coins to afford a bottle before year's end or for whatever is next on their celebration schedule.

"It changes year to year and has a lot to do with celebrities," said Heritage Liquor owner Nishil Patel.

Cristal was once most popular, but that eventually gave way to Dom Perignon and now Armand de Brignac — also known as Ace of Spades because of the logo on the bottle — Patel said.

"They did a really good job presenting their Champagne," Patel said of Jay Z and his wife, Beyonce.

At Big Papa's Liquor, Beer & Wine, owner Michelle Freeman says champagne isn't as popular as in the past.

"Don't get me wrong, it is," Freeman said, "but people have been buying other stuff."

Champagne has a storied past connected to celebration.

According to a trade association that represents independent Champagne producers and houses, Champagne was born as a holy wine on Christmas Day in 496 A.D. when Frankish warrior Clovis was baptized in Reims Cathedral and crowned the first king of France. The wines used in the consecration were Champagne wines.

Over time, all French kinds were crowned in Reims, which was the effective capital of the French province of Champagne, with its reputation spreading beyond national borders by the 12th century, according to Champagne industry officials.

After the French Revolution, Champagne drinking became part of secular rituals rather than strictly a religious ritual, and winemakers started developing the technology to bottle carbonated wine, making them perfect for popping on New Year's Eve, according to Business Insider.

"Historically, when you think of champagne, you think of celebration," Germanwala said. "Some of that is just that we're socialized to believe that. We could be living in Spain and celebrate by having a nice red wine, but in this country celebration is associated with champagne."

Because Champagne is among "notoriously really good" French wines, people associated it as a fine wine or beverage with which to celebrate, Patel said.

"I think when you drink a wine, and wine is flat, wine is supposed to be calming. It's all about senses, so when you drink wine, it being flat just calms you down, and bubbly is exciting," Patel said, "so I think people view Champagne with its being able to pop it, it's got a lot of noise. You drink it, your senses are cued, so I think it's exciting. People use it to celebrate."

For customers interested in affordable or more widely liked Champagne or sparking wines, retailers suggest brands such as Andre, Moet, Schramsberg and Cook's Korbel.

"Andre is probably one of the cheaper champagnes you can get," Freeman said, "so a lot of people use that for mimosas, especially in the summertime. Barefoot Bubbly is an inexpensive but really good one."

Patel agreed that Andre can be a good choice. "You can buy a case of it for a party and everyone has got champagne," he said.

As for Patel personally, his favorite is Veuve Clicquot.

"It's a great price point," he said. "For its price point, it's a great Champagne. It tastes well. You're not blowing up your bank account just to have a bottle."



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