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Tuesday Trials and Tribulations
How The Grinch Stole Our New Year’s Bubbly

By Charles Olken

I have never been particularly fond of the Grinch. He’s mean one, that Mr. Grinch. He stole all the packages from the folks down in Whoville. And now he is trying to ruin our New Year’s celebrations.

This grinch comes in the form of a group of tax-complainers marketing themselves as the Tax Foundation, and they have this day let us all know that our favorite New Year’s tipple is extra expensive. The various states, which have too much power over alcohol in the first place, levy a variety of taxes on said products, and, in the case of sparkling wine, those taxes are high enough that they have come to the notice of the tax-complainers.

Florida, we are told, charges an inordinate $3.50 per gallon of bubbly, or seventy cents a bottle if your math agrees with my quick cerebral calculation. The horror, the shame of it all. And Alaska is almost as bad. They charge you an extra $2.50 per gallon of bubbly, or fifty cents on the bottle.

But before you get your knickers in a twist or go all Bodmin (an English expression I have stolen from the Doc Martin TV show on PBS), please stop to consider this. Despite the fact that California has a very low tax on bubblies (third lowest in the country—and since when have taxes in California been low on anything), we pay a very high sales tax that more than makes up for what Floridians will have to pony up for their fizz tonight.

I, for one, am going to protest—and move to Florida for the night. The cost of the airline ticket, be damned, it is a matter of principal. Just ask the tax-complainers who have put me up to this with their press release headlined, The Last Tax of 2013.

Or perhaps I am going to start early and then go out and buy something just to prove them wrong. Except, the thing I am likely to buy tonight is mostly more bubbly. Probably something from the list of recommended potions offered below—with my wishes for your happy and prosperous New Year—assuming that you have not blown it all on sparkling wine taxes.

If you have been reading this blog for long, or better yet, reading Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine with its hundreds of reviews of local sparkling and Champagne, you will already know that the best bargains in representative bubbly come from California and sell in the range of $20 or so depending on discounts and what not.

One of our very favorites for the money, year in and year out, is the crisp Roederer Estate Brut. It follows the style laid down by its house in France, and the Mumm and Chandon Brut bubblies are just a step behind, but they, like the Roederer deliver well-formed, balanced bubblies at the half the price of their French counterparts.

At the expensive end of the local bubblies, we enthusiastically call the DVX Brut and DVX Rose’ to your attention as both taste for all the world like they were made in France, except that they have that extra edge of fruity brightness that California brings to its best wines.

But, never let it be said that CGCW is anti-Champagne despite the prices one has to pay for the better versions. I drank a Pommery Cuvée Louise 1999 with dinner at Rivoli, that excellent Berkeley establishment on Saturday night, and it was ethereal in its majesty (sorry, but we liked it a lot). And wines like Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rose’ (very pricey and very special) and Laurent-Perrier Rose’ (not as expensive but still reaching three digits) is the best Champagne we tasted this year. For a less pricey treat, but one that is classically French, I have become a fan of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Millesime’ 2005. It costs a few bucks more than its comparable California counterparts, but it is about as good as it gets when one insists on the cracklingly crisp character in which Champagne excels.

And, while bubbles may cost you a few cents more if you pay your taxes, what is ten or twenty or even seventy cents when the bottle costs $20 to $100?

Happy New Year, everyone, and to all, a good night.


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No Subject
by Brian Loring
Posted on:12/31/2013 12:26:32 PM

We opened a Pommery Cuvée Louise 1999 on Christmas - and it was STUNNING.  Love the Rose version of Tatty and LP, but the 2000, 2002, and 2004 Tatty Comtes BdeB and LP Grand Siècle were mighty tasty as well :)

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