HUNTINGTON — It can be a daunting sight.
Row upon row of dark green and black bottles with labels bearing words such as “brut” and “cava.”
Many novice drinkers will be scratching their heads at the liquor store as they search for a bottle of bubbly to ring in 2008.
Picking a good bottle is not as difficult as it appears, says local wine connoisseur Julian Saad. It all comes down to how much you are willing to spend and whether you prefer a sweet or dry flavor, he says.
But first, a little Champagne 101.
Chances are the bottle you will be popping open technically is not champagne. Though many people use the term to designate all sparkling wines, the real champagne comes from the region of the same name in France.
Sparkling wine producers in Champagne took exhaustive efforts to make sure they maintained the exclusive right to use the name on their bottles when they signed the Treaty of Madrid in 1891. The rule was reaffirmed with the Treaty of Versailles, the agreement that ended World War I, in 1919.
Try explaining that to your buddy after your third glass at the party tonight, and they will probably walk away in search of small talk that will actually keep them awake until midnight.
You will, however, redeem yourself if you serve your guests Cristal or Dom Perignon, Saad said. Not only are they the most well-known brands of champagne, they also are regarded as the top of the line, he said.
Saad carries Cristal and Dom Perignon at his grocery store, Julian’s Market, and at his new liquor store, Stadium Spirits at 6th Avenue and 20th Street. Both stores carry about 35 kinds of champagnes and sparkling wines.
Cristal sells for $269 a bottle, while Dom Perignon goes for $159 a pop.
If those are way out of your price range, Saad says there are a variety of excellent choices in the $10 to $50 range. Moet & Chandon makes three varieties called Rose, Black Nectar and White Star. All are in the $50 range.
Still too pricey? You can’t go wrong with Xenius or Freixenet, Saad says. Both are cavas, which is a Spanish sparkling wine that is fermented in the bottle. They sell for about $10-$12 a bottle.
Xenius and Freixenet are two of the top-selling brands at Saad’s stores.
“If you hid the bottle from your guests, they wouldn’t be able tell the difference between Xenius or Freixenet and a much more expensive brand,” he said.
If flavor is your greatest concern, Saad said you should pay attention to the sweetness level.
Brut means the sparkling wine is dry. It also is the most popular, Saad said. An extra dry sparkling wine actually isn’t as dry as a regular brut. It has a slightly sweet taste, he said.
If you prefer a sweet sparkling wine, Saad said to try a sec (noticeable sweetness) or demi-sec (very sweet). A doux is extremely sweet, he said.