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Sip on this! Best New Year’s bubbly

Ringing in the new year with some bubbly and friends? Leslie Sbrocco, wine connoisseur and author of "The Simple and Savvy Wine Guide," pops the cork on the best champagne, sparkling wine and treats to serve that won't break the bank for your fun, sophisticated celebration.
/ Source: TODAY recipes

One day away from the ball dropping and you don’t want to drop too much money to throw a great party? Host what I call the “bar party.” Simply set up three themed tables, add wine, and you’re ready to celebrate.

Table one: Popcorn Bar
Simply make popcorn and add unique toppings to make savory or sweet versions. What’s an ideal wine to serve with popcorn? Bubbly.

First bowl: Add sea salt and freshly-cracked pepper to give a gourmet kick to basic popcorn.

Wine pairing suggestions:

  • Piper Heidseck Brut, Champagne, France $40 (4 pack Mini bottles) or $43 (750ml bottle)
  • Taittinger Brut La Française, Champagne, France $45
  • Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne, France $90

Reason: The crisp, refreshing quality of Champagne is the perfect foil for the saltiness of popcorn.
Second bowl:
Add truffle or olive oil, parmesan cheese, and a dash of herbs.

Wine pairing suggestions:

  • Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut, Cava, Spain $12
  • Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava, Spain $10

Reason: Cava from Spain is an affordable option for parties. This version is more full-bodied and earthy making it a match for the richer style of popcorn.

Third bowl: For a sweeter style of popcorn, drizzle melted chocolate or honey on the popcorn. Harry & David Moose Munch is also a delicious option for sweet corn.

Wine pairing suggestions:

  • Chandon Brut, California $22 (to make a festive holiday cocktail, add a dash of cranberry or pomegranate juice for a hint of sweetness)
  • Chandon “Riche”, California $22

Reason: The Riche has a touch of sweetness equaling the sweetness of the popcorn.

Table two: Cheese Bar
It’s a snap to make a cheese bar starting with fresh cheese and transitioning to aged cheeses. I’ve paired these all with C white wines: Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.

First dish: Shakalakah and cream cheese When I was in South Africa recently I came across a dish I loved at Fairview Winery. Make a simple American-style version of Shakalakah by blending herbs and spices such as cumin, curry powder, paprika, thyme, and pepper, then form cream cheese into a log, and roll it in the Shakalakah mixture. Serve with crackers or bread.

Wine pairing suggestions:

  • 2008 Indaba Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa $10
  • 2008 Boschendal Chenin Blanc, South Africa $12

Reason: These zesty Chenin Blancs from South Africa make an ideal match for fresh cheeses. As the country’s signature white wine, Chenin Blanc is refreshing and affordable.

Second dish:
Brie or other creamy cheeses show well with dried fruits and nuts such as apricots and almonds. Many head straight for reds with cheese, but with creamy cheeses like the ever-popular brie, pick Chardonnay instead. I’ve chosen two styles here — the unoaked and the big and bold — both great with semi-soft cheeses.

Wine pairing suggestions:

  • 2008 Villa Maria, Private Bin Unoaked Chardonnay, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, $16
  • 2008 Gallo Family Vineyards ,Chardonnay, California, (magnum 1.5 ltr) $8

Reason: Chardonnay is an ideal cheese wine because it matches the texture of creamy cheeses.

Table three: Burger Bar
For the meat lovers in the crowd, make a mass of mini-burgers and set out various toppings to create a build-your-own burger bar. Pair them with M wines — Malbec and Merlot.

Wine pairing suggestions: Malbec from Argentina

  • 2007 FFC Presents Encyclopedia, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina $10
  • 2007 Bodega Septima, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, $12

Wine pairing suggestions: Merlot from Washington State

  • 2007 Washington Hills, Merlot, Washington, $8
  • 2007 The Velvet Devil, Merlot, Washington, $12