Best bubbly to ring in the New Year right

Chances are you're thinking about ushering in the new year with a nice bottle of bubbly.

And to help assure you get the best-tasting champagne - or sparkling wine - for your budget, "The Early Show on Saturday Morning" turned to Food & Wine magazine Executive Wine Editor Ray Isle.

He filled viewers in on everything to know before popping the cork to ring in the new year.

Celebrating the Holidays 2011

Champagne as opposed to sparkling wine -- what's the difference?

First, champagne technically comes from the Champagne region of France.

All other wines with bubbles are sparkling wine. Some of them are made the same way as champagne, like Cava from Spain, or higher-end sparkling wines from the U.S., and some of them are not, like Prosecco. Real champagne is great, but you're looking at $30 a bottle, minimum.

Most champagnes and sparkling wines are blends from several years, which is why they're referred to as "non-vintage."

How quickly does champagne go bad? What size bottle should you get?

Champagne and sparkling wines will last a long time until you open them.

But they lose their fizz pretty fast once you do - in a couple of hours or so (you can buy special Champagne stoppers that seal the bottle shut, and they'll prolong its life by about a day). If you've got just two people and only want a glass each, you can go with a half-bottle, which is half the size of a regular wine bottle. For four to six people, a regular size (750ml) bottle is a good choice.

How should you open and serve it -- are there any ticks of the trade?

A few useful tricks and things to know: First, when you open champagne, you really don't want to shoot the cork across the room -- it's under a lot of pressure, and it could actually hurt someone. The best thing to do is hold the cork firmly and turn the bottle (not the other way around), and gradually loosen it. Also, that way, you help prevent it from foaming all over your table. One trick to know about glasses is, if there's any dish soap left in them, the champagne won't send up all those beautiful streams of bubbles -- soap is too frictionless a surface, and the bubbles won't form. And I'd suggest serving it in a good flute, not a flat, old-fashioned coupe.

How cold or chilled should it be? Can you put it in the freezer?

Champagne should be quite cold. I'd put it in the fridge for a couple of hours. But the fastest way is in an ice bucket with water and ice. It'll chill down in about 20 minutes. You can put it in the freezer, but if you forget about it, it'll explode. So that's not ideal.

Which champagnes are better with food?

Champagne is actually great with food -- people don't realize how versatile it is. For lighter things, regular champagne; if you want to serve it with something more substantial, like a roast chicken, probably a rose champagne is best.

Is there an affordable champagne out there you can recommend?

NV Louis Roederer Champagne Brut ($40)

Serve with: Champagne -- and all sparkling wines -- are great with salty hors d'oeuvres like mini crab cakes or cheese straws. Even French fries.

What does "Brut" mean?

The term "brut" means dry/not sweet.

What about sparkling wines?

NV Caposaldo Prosecco Brut ($14)

Serve with: One classic would be prosciutto and melon: Prosecco's flavors go well with the saltiness of the prosciutto and the sweetness of the melon. Also, this is affordable enough to use for the classic brunch drink, a bellini, which is Prosecco and peach puree.

OR -

NV Domaine Ste Michelle Brut ($11)

Serve with: Another thing that sparkling wines are good with (and that most other wines aren't) is eggs. So for a party, a dry sparkling wine like this one and deviled eggs is a great combo.

If you feel like splurging, what's the best champagne on the market?

2004 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut ($250)

Serve with: As long as you're going all out on the champagne, why not go all out on the food, too? Caviar and blinis. An ideal combination.

Why is this particular champage so expensive?

Cristal is Roederer's "tete de cuvee" -- their top offering. It famously was originally created in 1867 for Alexander II of Russia, and it was put in clear glass because -- believe it or not -- there was a lot of political unrest at the time, and that way he could see through the bottle and make sure there wasn't a bomb hidden in it. It's about half Chardonnay and half Pinot Noir, made from the very best grapes Roederer has.

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