The rain stopped. The snow washed away. I fetched my bicycle from the rear of my tenement. And there, tumbling from the garbage pails next to my little bike housing, were bottles of spent Moet et Chandon. I wondered, which one of my neighbors needed remedial bubble help? I had a suspicion the victims were my immediate downstairs neighbors, one French, one Australian. For years that apartment was haunted. First it was the heroin addict. Then there were a series of alcoholics, young ones, who mistook my door for theirs, sometimes rather aggressively. Now, the ghosts were renovated out, and this lovely and sweet but gullible couple moved in and they pay close to $3500 a month. Looking at the detritus, I felt sorry for them. For one, they over pay greatly for real estate. Two, They couldn't really like the stuff, could they? And even if they paid $25 a bottle, that was too much for sugar water and bubbles. After all, don't they make Moet in China these days? Here's the deal: this year if you're having a party for more than ten people, most likely real champagne is not on your list of bouvables. But splitting a champagne for a celebration a deux? There's no reason not to spend $20-$60 a pop. Or just have the damned party but make bringing a GREAT bottle of champagne a requirement by your guests...a modern form of rent party. But do email them the list of approved champagnes. Because you don't want to repeat the fate of a California friend who hosted a peanut butter and champagne party and had to contend with the headaches from down-market prosecco. CHAMPAGNES I LOVE They are all in the states and good luck finding them. I'm not giving descriptions for the most part, because it just doesn't matter. As far as dosage, they either have none or minimal, except for the De Meric...which has a bit more than the rest. Prices, like for the Boulard, can be as low as $35. If you drink these you'll never look at any of the LVMH big boys again. *Francoise Bedel (LOVE! Floral, complex. All black grapes, from a mere 45 minutes outside of paris) * Lassaigne (LIQUID LOVE and elegance from the chalk hills of Mongeueux far away from the primary grape growing area. See earlier entry from the champagne trip.) *Raymond Boulard (What this version lacks in acidity it makes up in minerality and complexity. Had this for the first time last night. What have I been missing? And it's $32 at Astor.) Guy Charlemagne (What can I say? Yum?) De Meric (Absolutely poor man's Krug) David Leclapart (Quirky. Glug. Glug.) Pierre Moncuit (Classic, adore the rose) Champagne Fleury (Cuvee Robert & the rose are the favs.) Larmandier-Bernier (Life will never be the same) Selosse (If I could find it and afford it I have no doubt I would worship its bubbles) Roger Pouillon & Fils (Wonderful complexity, rich) Pierre Brigandat. (Under $30. Tremendous steel for a steely champers.) All of these are small houses, those growers who do the best work. There are others I am so happy to drink that are not on the list merely because, they are not in my line of vision. But I didn't want you to think I'm a total snob. For me, the best big house champagne I never refuse is Bollinger.