Champagne always is the answer

Ring in 2022 with a bottle of Champagne. Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Ring in 2022 with a bottle of Champagne. Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

At the core of a New Year’s Eve celebration is the excitement over the prospect of change, and a fresh start. Also part of the evening’s appeal is the visceral thrill of popping open a bottle of bubbly.

So, which sparkling wine do we pop as the ball drops? For us, the answer always is Champagne.

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Generally, we encourage wine drinkers to try new things and change up their drinking routine. And, yet, especially this time of year, we just can’t quit on the wines of France’s Champagne region, about an hour’s drive east of Paris. As a reminder, to be called Champagne, a wine must be made in that area, and to specific standards

Is Champagne intrinsically a luxury? Yes, and, unfortunately, the prices are still on the rise. But, there definitely are some Champagne makers more worthy of your support, and differences in the value you are receiving for the price. Of course, in the same line of thinking that even bad pizza is still worth having, a mass-production, marketing-driven Champagne still is, at its core, a delicious sparkling wine made in this magical, historic place. And, if you believe the hype of the terroir (and we do), that alone makes it special. So, to be clear, we are not here to vilify the large houses in Champagne.

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Whether you are opening Vilmart or Dom Perignon, cheers. However, our own dollars tend to be spent on a category of Champagne known as grower-producer. These producers typically are family-owned and the wine is made on their property; they also tend to show an intimate understanding of the land beneath vine. There is value in the small, craft producers. And, you can stay true to Champagne and still try something different.

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As we close out 2021, let’s talk about better, not more. Champagne is the bottle to savor with your final thoughts of 2021, or when you toast the best of friends at your good-luck lunch on the first day of ’22.

Here are some Champagne suggestions available in the Atlanta market:

L. Aubry Fils — The wines made by twin brothers Pierre and Philippe Aubry are delightful, original and some of the best values in Champagne. They have a unique project for the conservation of older, obscure grapes of the region. Their brut rosé is lean and delicious. Available at Hop City West End, 1000 White St. SW, Atlanta. 404-350-9998,

Etienne Calsac — A relative newcomer to the fine Champagne game, Etienne Calsac began to work 7 acres of family land back in 2010, and truly has become a study in the depth and finesse of the chardonnay grape. His nonvintage L’échapée Belle is lushly aromatic and intensely mineral-driven. Available at Vino Teca, 299 N. Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta. 470-377-5100,

Vilmart & Cie — A favorite in the “big splurge” category, Vilmart makes plush, elegant, age-worthy wines. The estate is run by the great-great grandson of the founder, Laurent Champs. Available at Perrine’s Wine Shop, 1168 Howell Mill Road NW, Atlanta. 404-254-5077,

The Slaters are beverage industry veterans and the proprietors of the Expat and the Lark Winespace in Athens.

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