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Talking Bubbles: Champagne for the Holidays

By Abby Weingarten / Photography By Peter Acker | October 01, 2014
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Michael Klauber has been bubbly about champagne since he pioneered the single-glass-serving concept 34 years ago at the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort on Longboat Key.

Today, as the interest in the sparkling beverage grows, the co-owner of Michael’s On East/Michael’s Wine Cellar is expanding on his already encyclopedic knowledge of champagne. He is also traveling the globe—from Northern Italy to South Africa—to discover new varieties and bring them back to his Sarasota regulars.

Q: Why do you think champagne is so in vogue right now, and how has the interest in it changed since you started in the industry?

A: I’ve personally always been interested in champagne. It was at the Colony in 1980 that we were the first to serve good champagnes by the glass anywhere (Dom Perignon for $10 a glass). I was managing the restaurant at the time and came up with the idea. When the people from Moet & Chandon (which makes Dom) found out about it, they sent a gentlemen from the winery to us with 600 Baccarat crystal champagne glasses. He built a pyramid and used a saber to open the bottle and make the champagne cascade, and this was the first time that had happened in the U.S. After that, people really started seeing the appeal of single-serving champagne. Because of the effervescence and high acidity, champagne and sparkling wines are natural palate cleansers that refresh the palate during a meal.

Q: What are some of the varieties of champagne you currently offer at Michael’s and what are your personal favorites?

A: We offer vintage and non-vintage champagnes, luxury Cuvees like Dom Perignon, Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, and varieties from South Africa and all over the world. Domestic sparkling wines such as Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs offer great value for the high quality of wine. I am also a big fan of so-called “grower” champagnes (smaller producers rather than the larger Moet & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot). Grower champagnes are typically small-production wines made by the family growing the grapes. They offer distinct flavor profiles, which represent the terroir they are grown in, and they are slightly different with each release. I tend to look for the producers that are more hands-on like Delamotte, Duval-Leroy and Billecart-Salmon. We just had a fantastic one in Italy from one of the oldest sparkling wine producers there: Contratto. I think growers like these have more control over their vineyards. They grow the grapes, make the wine, and put their name on the bottle—it’s all done right there.

Q: It seems champagne is typically served during holidays/celebrations, but do you think it has yearround appeal?

A: Champagne has the misconception of being purely a festive, celebratory wine due, in large part, to mass-marketing campaigns that feature it in those settings (Christmas, New Year’s). While it does add to festive occasions, it is also a great everyday wine that pairs wonderfully with a wide range of foods. My thought about champagne is that it isn’t just for special occasions; it just makes special occasions special. We always have a big champagne event in December here but we serve sparkling wines and champagnes by the glass all the time.

Michael’s Wine Cellar: 1283 S Tamiami Trl, Sarasota, 941-955-CORK; michaelswinecellar.com

Michael's Annual Holiday Champagne Tasting will be held at Michael’s Wine Cellar on Wed., Dec. 17. There will be more than 40 sparkling wines and champagnes available for sampling, from $14.95 bottles to high-end Dom Perignon. Tickets sell out quickly, so interested parties may make reservations by calling 941-366 0007, ext. 229.

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