For better or worse, geek culture is thriving all over the world. As comedian Patton Oswalt said in an issue of Wired from last year, “Our below-the-topsoil passions have been rudely dug up and displayed in the noonday sun.” Luckily for your taste buds, though, the triumph of geekery coincides deliciously with the current Golden Age of Beverages. Microbreweries, single-brew coffee joints, and artisan soda jerks are popping up in trendy neighborhoods across the country. Sipping has never been so exciting. But the one beverage that should make an enthusiast’s eyes really sparkle, argues Alex Halberstadt for Gilt Taste, is from a small region in France: “No wine has as much to offer the die-hard geek as champagne.”
“It takes years to begin making sense of the region’s multitude of villages,” Halberstadt explains, “each with its unique microclimates and soils, the intricacies of contact with yeasts—resting “on the lees”—and dosage, the relationships between the growers and the large firms that buy their grapes, the potential of each growing season, the science and craft of the blend.”
Halberstadt is aware of the bias (or stigma, perhaps) that champagne is solely the nectar of Top 40 rappers and hedge fund managers. “Of course,” he writes, “in times of obdurate recession and ballooning fiscal inequality . . . [it’s] tempting to dismiss these wines as little more than carbonated bling as they become associated with their most publicized modes of misuse: sprayed onto the custom-ostrich upholstery of Navigators and Escalades, popped among the flickering monitors of derivatives traders, splashed into the downy clefts of A-list strippers and C-list starlets at St. Tropez’s Les Caves du Roy.”
But Halberstadt challenges that prevailing notion, claiming that “when it comes to champagne, the relationship between enjoyment and price tends to be anything but linear.”(It’s worth pointing out that Gilt Taste’s main business is selling luxury food products. Did you notice the gleaming green bottles to the right of the article? Are you getting a little thirsty?) Forget about Cristal, move over Dom Pérignon.
For starters, Halberstadt provides insight on getting into the champagne game—both consumer tips and industry constraints. They’re too various and detailed to reproduce here, but there’s a hope (at least in this debt-laden college grad’s mind) that an appreciation for nice champagne doesn’t need to break the bank.