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Sparkling Stories

And so another year is coming to a close, this one especially marked by the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy and of the March on Washington. And just last week, Nelson Mandela died.

Kennedy and Martin Luther King drove a quest for equal rights that fueled my desire to be a journalist. So during a 40-year career writing mostly about race in America, I also wrote about apartheid. On the morning of February 11, 1990, holding my first infant, I watched Mandela emerge from prison to change his country and the world. When I think about the difference that one person can make, I think about those three men and, of course, many women as well.

There are many things to toast during the holidays, and many choices of beverages with which to toast. Graham Beck’s nonvintage Brut from South Africa has significant history. Made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Western Cape’s wine-centric Robertson Valley, it was served at Mandela’s inauguration as South Africa’s first democratically elected president on May 10, 1994, and at a private celebration of Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States in 2008. The varietals were fermented separately, then blended and kept on their lees for 18 months. The result is an elegant, light and lemony sparkler that you can pour all night long.

If you want classics, there are the nonvintage Heidsiecks Champagnes: Piper-Heidsieck, Charles Heidsieck and Heidsieck & Co. Monopole, three companies once owned by relatives but no longer. Piper-Heidsieck, mostly Pinot Noir with some Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, has lovely bubbles and hints of apples and brioche. Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve is a blend of the three grape types, some of them reserve wines that are older than a decade. The result is a complex, honeyed wine. The Monopole was the Titanic’s house Champagne, but nevertheless it can float your boat, with hints of toasted nuts and brioche.

Here’s to making every day count!

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