food 08.13.07


We disagreed with Time's wine writer Eric Asimov last year on his judgment of Argentinean Malbecs (in our Radar section here). But his Wines of the Times column about Champagne last week makes him sound like he's in a bubble. And not in a good way.

Asimov says most everyone likes Champagne, but wonders why Americans save it for special occasions. He asks airily, "Wouldn't it make sense to treat ourselves to a few bottles every now and then for no other reasons than that it's good, that it's good with food and that we don't require a celebration to open a bottle of good still wine?"

Why, yes. Yes, it would. Except for one thing. Unlike the 25 bottles tasted for the article, the rest of us plodding along in the reality-based community have to pay for the pleasure. The 'best value' in the bunch is $27, but it skips up pretty quickly from there. Some of us don't like to drink alone, which means more than one bottle of Champagne may be needed. We're glad he found the $90 bottle of Charles Heidsieck 'elegant' but even the people we know with plenty o' disposable income don't often want to spend multiples of $90 without a New Year countdown or a bonus in hand.

Yes, Champagne would be nice. Asimov notes, "Champagne is not cheap. For the tasting, we restricted ourselves to bottles under $100…" Sporting, no? What Asimov leaves out is how the rest of us deal with the high cost of bubbly, which is simply…wait for it…sparkling wine. And there's plenty of good stuff out there:

We like, for instance, almost any Crémant d'Alsace you can name (the Albert Mann, at $18.99 from Appellation is especially good).

There's the Saniger Cava from Spain at Best Cellars for $10.

Ombra Prosecco at Smith & Vine for $12.

Another excellent Italian sparkler is Zardetto Prosecco, $17.99 at Garnet (they also make one for $11.99).

South Africa weighs in with Graham Beck's Brut Rosé, $13.99 at Astor Wines.

Even if some of these aren't as fine as a bottle of Champagne, you won't feel deprived with any of them. These bubbles can turn a regular Monday night in August into a pleasure all its own.
More on Coney Island
From a reader: "Egregious Coney Island book omission! Dreamland by Kevin Baker. Fantastic CI novel." [Mr. Baker also wrote an editorial for the City Section in yesterday's Times about the impending changes at Coney Island]

And at CUNY on September 25th, a presentation called Illuminating Coney Island. Details are here.

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