CROSS RIVER, N.Y. - People have been celebrating the beginning of a New Year since the Babylonians marked the occasion as a reason to party some 4,000 years ago. Today, we mark the turning of the calendar by singing Auld Lang Syne - which means times gone by - and toasting the New Year with a glass of something special.
The idea of the New Year toast can be traced back to 18th century England, where revelers would drink spiced ale from the wassail bowl and toast each other waes-hael Gaelic for good health. Today, the spiced ale has been replaced by Champagne and sparkling wine.
It has to come from the Champagne region of France to be called Champagne, said Mike Novak, owner of Cross River Wine Merchants in Orchard Square Plaza, formerly the Cross River Plaza. Everything else is just sparkling wine. But anything bubbly is good for New Years.
This year, Novak said his store has noticed a trend in customers buying the pricier Champagnes and sparkling wines.
Last year we sold a lot of $30 stuff. This year its more $45 stuff with people moving from sparkling wines into Champagnes, he said.
Novak said that may be because people are opting to stay home and celebrate rather than spend a lot of money at a restaurant or nightclub, which leaves more disposable cash in the budget for beverages.
People dont go out as much as they used to, he said. Its more neighborhood parties with smaller groups where they serve a mixture of stuff some wine, some Champagne.
This season, one of Novaks most popular choices for New Years has been Moutard Champagne at $34.99 a bottle.
But we try to pick out a few different things, he said. We have California sparkling wines and some from Italy and Spain. We like to sell a lot of grower champagnes as well, like Piere Grimonnet.
Novak explained that grower Champagnes are artisanal Champagnes produced by small vineyards that grow their own grapes. Theyre marked by the letters RM on the label.
The grapes come from the estate that the winery is on, he said. We push them because theyre better quality.
Alex Rubio, proprietor of Pound Ridge Wines and Spirits, said his store has been selling a lot of the bubbly this past week.
This time of year, its tons of Champagne, he said. And not just Champagne, but sparkling wines from all over the place Spain, Italy and California.
Rubio said customers can get good quality sparkling wines at a reasonable price.
We have a broad range, he said. But its more the Cavas and Proseccos than anything else and you can get them from $10 to $15 a bottle. And theres also a great sparkling wine from New Mexico called Gruet.
For those looking for an even better deal, Pound Ridge Wines & Spirits sells cases of Cava and Prosecco at a 15 percent discount.
Rubio also features many of the prestige labels such as Moet, Cristal and Dom Perignon, which he said despite their costs Cristal goes for $225 a bottle, Dom Perignon for $160 are still selling.
But according to Rubio, Champagne isnt just for New Years anymore. He said he sells plenty of it now all year round.
Its growing across the board, he said. People are drinking it all year round because its a very food-friendly wine. The segment is growing constantly.
Rubios assistant, David Prunier, agreed.
We did a sparkling rose for Thanksgiving, he said. Its always the right time for Champagne.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.