JULIAN HITNER TORONTO WINE CONSULTANT

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JULIAN'S FINE WINE BLOG

Beer or champagne?

Posted by hitnerwine on December 28, 2011 at 4:05 PM

Just read Toronto Star beer critic Josh Rubin’s short piece (or insinuation) on how one might view it as questionable that people are so quick to gravitate towards champagne or other types of sparkling wine to celebrate the New Year. In short, Rubin argues “why not go for a change and toast [the New Year] with a beer?”

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A fair argument from a beer critic, who, almost by definition, is in constant competition with wine writers to promote his suggestions. After all, there are many beers of outstanding quality, even complexity, which I would have no objection enjoying for celebratory purposes. Plus, the fact that beer’s carbonated is also in its favour (more on this in a moment).

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But sparkling wine, particularly champagne, is different. Most famously used for celebration, this is both fortunate and unfortunate. On the one hand, it ensures that there will always be a ready market for champagne at a particular time of year. On the other hand, it leads people to believe that champagne can, or should, only be enjoyed on special occasions. Why, if it were up to me, I’d have a glass or two of champagne every day.

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Back to the subject at hand. What I think I dislike most about Rubin’s approach is his suggestive, almost grandiloquent stance that wine enthusiasts, high and mighty as they supposedly are, may not be capable of appreciating fine beers, in this case for celebrating the New Year.

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Assuming I am gauging his position accurately, is such an intimation correct? If I’m anything to go by, it isn’t. I see nothing wrong with using beer to toast the New Year; although my first choice would be wine. Truly, is there anything finer than popping open a cork of Charles Heidsieck, watching as its frothy contents are poured into a slender flute, its tiny bubbles exciting the tongue and going right to my head (via the bloodstream)? No doubt this has been a primary reason why champagne has had such a success at becoming the drink of choice on celebratory occasions.

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But this is beside the point. In the end, it all comes down to choice; and Rubin would be well reminded that not everything is a competition, even if, in my point of view, champagne is a better celebratory drink than beer. Oh, how I adore (near-) self-contradictions!

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