News & Politics

Champagne Alternatives for New Year’s

Champagne on New Year’s Eve is as predictable as fireworks on the Fourth of July. To add some variety, we asked wine and beverage experts for celebratory alternatives.

Nadine Brown, sommelier at Charlie Palmer Steak, looks to her roots in the tropics for an unconventional New Year’s libation. She’s been on a kick with Ron Zacapa Centenario, an aged rum from Guatemala. “It has lots of flavors that complement the chill outside,” she says, such as molasses and brown sugar. “For me, being from Jamaica, it’s comforting.” Brown pours both the 15-year and 23-year rums—which are best sipped neat—at Charlie Palmer.

To usher in 2007, Taberna del Alabardero’s sommelier David Bueno likes Palomero Vendimia Seleccionada 2000, “a powerful, smooth, and sexy wine” from Spain’s Ribera del Duero region. “This red is an ideal wine for a New Year’s celebration, because it’s great with and without food and a selection you can drink all night long,” Bueno says.

If beer is more your style, Perry Smith, co-owner of Matchbox, suggests raising a glass of Unibroue’s Maudite, a spicy red ale that packs in 8 percent alcohol. The ale, available on tap at Matchbox, will “start the year off with a bang,” Smith says.

Also bucking the Champagne tradition is Ralph Rosenberg, head of operations for Star Restaurant Group (Zola and Indigo Landing). He’ll enjoy three wines to pair with his wife’s Venezuelan New Year’s traditions. The couple plans to eat 12 grapes at midnight, signifying a wish for each month, paired with a white California wine from Sine Qua Non called Whisperin’ E. The grapes will be followed by lentils, representing good fortune, and a 1999 Gaja Barbaresco. A sweet drink is also customary, so Rosenberg will pour a 2002 Canadian Cabernet Franc Ice wine from Inniskillin. And to bring good luck? They’ll be wearing yellow underwear.