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Toast the 2013 New Year with a Bottle of Champagne

Choosing the appropriate sparkling wine for New Year's Eve can make you dizzy before the first sip. Here's a handy guide to the intoxicating world of bubbles on a budget.

The pop of the Champagne cork is as much a part of the New Year’s Eve soundtrack as "Auld Lang Syne" and fireworks. The tiny, tickling bubbles evoke celebratory moods.

With so many sparkling wines to choose from, picking the best bottle can be daunting. Prices for sparkling wine range from less than $10 to more than $500 per bottle. Keep in mind that while you usually get what you pay for, there are some great options for those of us on a budget. 

Large “negociant” champagne houses that purchase much of their fruit, such as Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, Roederer, Taittinger, Perrier Jouet and Nicolas Feuillatte, dominate the market. However, in the last decade or so, Champagne from small growers has gained some traction with Champagne enthusiasts.

Only sparkling wine from the French region of Champagne can be labeled Champagne. But that doesn’t mean that quality sparkling wine can’t be produced in other parts of France and around the world.

Cremant from Burgundy, Limoux or the Loire Valley, Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, and sparkling wine from Argentina and the U.S. West Coast deliver quality, value-driven sparklers.

Prosecco is chiefly grown in Italy’s Veneto region. It is vinified like Champagne. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco can deliver quality under $20. 

For luxurious vintage Prosecco, the 2009 Bisol Cartizze is an elegant, floral sparkler with layers of citrus fruit, citrus rind, stone fruits and lithe minerality. 

In its native Spain, Cava is the drink of choice on Christmas Eve. It is so value-driven that you can buy enough Cava for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. 

In the end, if you are looking to celebrate the New Year in style, Salon is, shall we say, the Champagne of Champagnes. Or, for a kid-friendly New Year's, try sparkling apple cider. 

If you are looking for delicious options on a budget, try one of these five champagnes for less than $20:

1. François Labet ($17) Burgandy, France

2. Boeckel ($16) France

3. Codorníu Cuvée Raventos ($14) Spain

4. Martini and Rossi ($12) Italy

5. Kupferberg Gold ($9) Germany

If you do celebrate with a bottle of bubbly, the American Academy of Opthalmology offers the following information for protecting your eyes while popping the cork:

Don’t let a Flying Champagne Cork Spoil Your New Year’s Eve

A champagne toast is a great way to welcome 2013, but be mindful as you uncork the bottle: warm bottles of champagne and improper cork-removal techniques cause serious, potentially blinding eye injuries each year. The American Academy of Ophthalmology warns that champagne bottles contain pressure as high as 90 pounds per square inch – more than the pressure found inside a typical car tire. This pressure can launch a champagne cork at 50 miles per hour as it leaves the bottle, which is fast enough to shatter glass. Unfortunately, this is also fast enough to permanently damage vision.

Champagne cork mishaps can lead to a variety of serious eye injuries, including rupture of the eye wall, acute glaucoma, retinal detachment, ocular bleeding, dislocation of the lens, and damage to the eye’s bone structure. These injuries sometimes require urgent eye surgeries like stitching of the eye wall or repair of the orbital structure, and can even lead to blindness in the affected eye.

For a safe celebration, follow these EyeSmart tips on how to properly open a bottle of champagne:

  • Chill sparkling wine and champagne to 45 degrees Fahrenheit or colder before opening. The cork of a warm bottle is more likely to pop unexpectedly.
  • Don’t shake the bottle. Shaking increases the speed at which the cork leaves the bottle thereby increasing your chances of severe eye injury.
  • Point the bottle at a 45-degree angle away from yourself and any bystanders and hold down the cork with the palm of your hand while removing the wire hood on the bottle.
  • Place a towel over the entire top of the bottle and grasp the cork. 
  • Twist the bottle while holding the cork at a 45 degree angle to break the seal. Counter the force of the cork using downward pressure as the cork breaks free from the bottle. 

View a video demonstration of proper champagne cork removal, and see how the force of a champagne cork can shatter glass. Help get the word out to your friends about champagne cork safety by entering EyeSmart’s Facebook contest, for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

If you do experience an eye injury from a champagne cork, seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist – an eye physician and surgeon. For more information about keeping eyes healthy during holiday celebrations and all year round, visit www.geteyesmart.org.

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