Tag Archives: non vintage champagne

Pairing Foods With Champagne


True champagnes have a richly deserved reputation as some of the finest, most sublime liquors in the entire world. Their sparkling texture and broad range of sweetness, however, sometimes make them difficult to properly pair with the right foods.

Here are just some of our favorites:

Chevre and Peaches.  Do yourself a favor and wait for peaches to be at the height of the summer season before creating this simple dish. A good chevre – that’s goat cheese to you non-cognoscenti – can be found throughout the year. Assembling the dish is a simple as slicing the cheese and fruit, sprinkling with one of the following herbs – we prefer basil, mint or thyme and even lavender – and then complementing with a delicate champagne like Taittinger’s la Francaise.

Apulia Bread w/Olive Oil.  This “crusty on the outside, doughy on the inside” bread is the perfect vector for transporting a load of the Egyptian condiment, dukka, drenched in a grassy olive oil into your mouth. Then add a mouthful of a demi-sec like Heidsieck & Co’s Monopole Red Top and you will be floating on a cushion of pure gastronomic joy.

Oysters Rockefeller.  Created over a century ago in the renowned restaurant, Antoine’s, in New Orleans, the rich buttery sauce of this dish beautifully complements the broiled, breaded oysters underneath. Still, some gourmands find it overly rich unless paired with a little champagne on the fruity side like Moët & Chandon’s Impérial.

Fried Mushrooms.  While many will denigrate the drinking of champagne with any fried food, a blanc de noir – made from darker grapes like pinot noir – actually makes quite a nice complement to the earthiness of the mushrooms. For a truly memorable experience, consider trying Bollinger’s Vieilles Vignes Francaises for a new look at the taste of mushrooms, chanterelles and even truffles.

Poached Eggs with Parmesan.  For a slightly different approach – one without the hollandaise – consider simple poached eggs laced with fresh basil and parmesan. Then, add a glass of a dry brut sparkling wine like Krug’s and you will have a sure-fire winner of a meal for breakfast lunch or dinner. By the way, for a little extra oomph, serve with a side of smoked salmon toast.

Steamed Lobster.  As simple as it gets, preparing lobster in this way with just onion, garlic, red pepper in the bottom of the pot makes a fantastic main course. For a little extra flair or, if it is January 1st, add some leftover champagne as the steaming liquid. Afterwards, a little more of the same – obviously a little fresher – like a dry Napoleon Tradition Brut. It is a great way to end the start of the New Year.

Chocolate Glazed Pound Cake.  This dessert has it all – the firmness and moisture of the cake and the crunchiness that turns to syrup of the bittersweet chocolate are highlighted by the sweetness of a doux champagne like those made by Fleury Pere et Fils Millesime Doux. Fathers and sons have never before made something so decadent.

Foie Gras.  This pairing goes quite far out on the limb but we think you will appreciate it. Most connoisseurs prefer fois gras with a sauterne like Chateau d’Yquem but for something completely different, try Veuvre Cliquot champagne with foie gras, a biscuit – yes, a simple buttermilk biscuit – and, dare I say it? – sausage gravy. Crazy talk. I hear ya‘ but this pairing is simply superb and quite unique.

How to Choose a Champagne

how-to-choose-a-champagneA good champagne can help make or break your next big party, dinner, or celebration. Champagne is a great choice for these kind of events, but choosing the right champagne can often be intimidating, especially to a beginner. With so many different types, brands and prices, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with how to choose a champagne. Thankfully choosing the right champagne is much easier than it looks. The following are just a few tips to help you find the right champagne for your next big event.

Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine

Before purchasing your Champagne, its important to note the difference (and similarities) between it and sparkling wine. Champagne with a capital “C” is produced only in the French Champagne region. These are typically more expensive than most, and are typically of a high quality. Sparkling wines produced elsewhere are also commonly referred to as champagne, but with a lowercase “c”.  However, this does not mean these are necessarily worse than those with a capital “C”.  It is simply a matter of geography, rather than quality. Many of these sparkling wines are labeled as “Methode Traditionelle“, meaning they are produced in the same manner as other Champagnes.

Try not to Focus on the Price

A common mistake that many wine enthusiasts and newcomers alike make is judging a bottle’s merit solely on its price tag. While it’s true that many higher priced Champagnes are great choices, you can also find a gem at a bargain. Just as sparkling wines are often just as good as French Champagne, don’t dismiss that $15 bottle of Champagne so readily, many of these cheaper wines are as good or better than their $40 or $50 counterparts.

Dry or Sweet?

When most people think of Champagne, they tend to imagine a dry, bubbly white wine. However, Champagne actually comes in a wide range of sweetness levels. The driest of which is known as Brut or Extra Brut.  Sweeter wines are known as Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux. Deciding between a dry or sweet Champagne comes down to a couple of factors, the most important of which is simply personal preference. Many people dislike the dry taste of Brut, and opt for a Sec Champagne or sweeter, which is great if you have a sweet tooth.  You should also consider how you are serving your Champagne when choosing its sweetness. Dry Champagnes are great on their own and pair well with food, while sweeter Champagnes go great with dessert or for serving after a meal.

Tips for Writing a New Year’s Champagne Toast

tips-for-writing-a-new-years-champagne-toastNew Year’s Eve celebrations typically have one thing in common: people expect a champagne toast of some kind right before the final countdown. The art of writing a great toast is not difficult, but you should start working on what you want to say now, so you have a chance to fine tune it.

  • Know Your Audience.  The most important thing to remember for any toast is to know your audience. A group of friends and family might like to hear a personal anecdote about something that happened in the last year, while co-workers want to hear blessings for a good year of business in 2015. Failure to tailor the toast to the audience makes it seem generic and bland.
  • Build Them Up, Then Take Them Down.  One of the primary rules of giving a speech is that you have to take the audience on a journey. In the case of your toast, you want to start your speech with something light, like a joke or a funny story from the previous year. This will get the audience to laugh and become emotionally invested in what you have to say. Be advised that off-color jokes and raunchy stories are unlikely to get you the positive response that you want from your toast. After the initial levity, you can move on to more serious topics, like wishing an ailing family member good health, telling your friends how much they mean to you and how you look forward to sharing the next year with them, or praising the work and dedication of your co-workers or employees. The more serious tone at the end is quickly lifted by the excitement of the ball drop, bringing your audience on a full circle of emotions.
  • Close With Words Of Wisdom.  Close out the toast itself with a line from one of the many famous figures in history and literature who spoke about the future. Benjamin Franklin and T.S. Eliot are great standards, but a Google search of the term “New Year’s Eve toasts” can help you find the right quote.
  • Practice.  The last thing you want to do is go over time and cut into the countdown. At the same time, you don’t want to be done so quickly that there is awkward silence between the end of your toast and the ball drop. Take the time to go over your toast, out loud with a private audience, so you can get a feel for the amount of time you need and how the audience will react. Practice also helps you to memorize the toast for the big night, so you won’t stumble through cue cards or worry about losing your prompt.
  • Keep It Simple.  No matter how good your toast is, the reason people are at the party is to ring in the new year, not to hear you speak. For that reason, you need to be sure to keep your speech as short and sweet as possible. The attention span of your guests may only be about 30 to 90 seconds. Anything longer than that and they will start to tune out and will miss out on your speech. A good rule of thumb is to make the toast no longer than 200 words, or about half a page of double spaced text.

In general, you need to project an aura of confidence when you start to speak. If you spent time in preparation, this shouldn’t be a problem and your toast will go off without a hitch.

What’s So Great About Dom Perignon and Cristal Champagne?

whats-so-great-about-dom-perignon-and-cristal-champagneFor champagne lovers around the world, two of the bubbly names that top the list are Dom Perignon and Cristal. These high-priced champagnes both offer exceptional flavors and aromas, but their appeal is quite different to true connoisseurs of the world’s best wines and champagnes.

Dom Perignon.  The history of Dom Perignon is as intriguing as it’s distinguished reputation. In 1868 in Champagne, France, a young monk named Pierre Perignon was appointed procurator of the wine cellars at Benedictine Abbey. Under his faithful watch until his death in 1715, his wine making techniques created one of the world’s greatest wines. Through the centuries, Dom Perignon gained recognition as the perfect champagne with a taste and reputation that was unequaled.

Dom Perignon, now produced by Moet & Chandon, is a brand of vintage champagne that serves as the producer’s prestige label. It stands out among vintage wines because it’s never produced in weak years, and all grapes used to make each bottle are always harvested in the same year. This special wine making technique produces exceptional quality and flavor in vintage champagne with rare bottles that date back to 1921. Since grapes are harvested each year, the flavor of Dom Perignon varies by label date. Hot, dry harvest seasons produced aromas of spicy, nutty flavors like sandalwood, praline and marzipan, while wet harvest seasons produced floral bouquets with hints of vanilla, honey and almond.

The perfection of Dom Perignon lies in it’s grapes and harvest seasons. Only produced in certain years from 1921 to 2004, it is one of the most sought after champagnes in the world. Wine collectors and connoisseurs are willing to pay staggering prices for a bottle of Dom Perignon in certain vintage years.

Cristal.  Like Dom Perignon, Cristal also comes from the Champagne region of France. Started in 1833 by a young entrepreneur, Louis Roederer, these wines developed with rich, flavorful, fruity flavors in contrast to the more pungent flavors of Dom Perignon. Instead of putting focus on the grapes and harvest seasons, Louis Roederer put his focus on the soil where vineyards were nurtured with rich, robust soil that produced a different caliber of grapes.

In 1876, Louis Roederer II made a special champagne with a subtle, fruity flavor for Tsar Alesander II. As a huge success, the special blend was christened “Cristal”, and it paved the way for a different type of taste and aroma that had not been seen before in the world of great wines.

Cristal is a balanced blend of Chardonnay (40 percent) and Pinot Noir (60 percent). Produced only during years when grapes reached perfect maturity, Cristal has a delicate balance with a silky texture and fruity aroma. Flavors are enhanced by a high mineral soil content that brings out citrus notes. Cristal Rose, a blend of Chardonnay (45 percent) and Pinot Noir (55 percent) offers a smooth sweet flavor that brings out hints of red fruits, white flowers and sweet caramel. All Cristal champagne is aged for at least six years and left for eight more months to age. A welcome note to collectors and connoisseurs, Cristal can be stored for more than twenty years in the right environment without losing any freshness or flavor.

Why Is Champagne So Darn Expensive?

why-is-champagne-so-darn-expensiveAs a connoisseur of goods and services, the facts about products means something. You may be one who doesn’t take that much stock in something like a brand or a name. Still, you might be wondering why there is all this reverence for champagne. Why is this bubbly stuff so expensive? What is it about this particular beverage that keeps people coming back and consistently paying so much? It’s a good question and one that deserves closer scrutiny.

Facts: Just because something has a cork or is golden and sparkly, that does not make it “champagne.” In fact most of the time if you are drinking what you think is champagne it might not even be so. The fact is that this elixir comes from a very specific region of France; aptly named the Champagne region. This region of the world is markedly small and the costs of land here is among the most expensive anywhere in the world.

Another thing about this part of France is that it’s among the coolest wine regions in the world. The natural secondary fermentation that produces the bubbles we all know and love are a token of this climate. Still this small land area, unique climate, and cool temperatures make the amount of grapes you can grow here quite small. Supply and demand dictates that this specific type of wine made here is going to cost more simply because there is less of it to sell!

Process: Champagne is made by what’s known as “Methode Champenoise.” First the fermentation takes place in steel barrels. It is then followed by a secondary fermentation once it has been bottled; this process is yeast and sugar focused. Then there are four more processes that take place, aging, riddling, disgorging and dosage. This lengthy strategy for making champagne is obviously going to drive up costs.

Labor: Another component to the high cost of this stuff is the labor that is involved. As if the makers were sticking their noses up at us, many of the most revered champagne houses still use manual labor for these processes. There are some houses or some sections that still use machines but in many of the finest bottles of champagne you will see that hand skilled labor cost passed on to you who’s holding the bottle.

So, when you take into account all of the different factors standing before you, holding this bottle of bubbly it should be no surprise that champagne is so expensive. Maybe the final mythic component to this high cost is that people continue to pay for it. If there were not such a high demand or the bottles just sat on the shelves, then the cost would inexorably come down. But that doesn’t appear likely to happen at any point in the near future because any time there is a real celebration; birthday, wedding, anniversary, engagement, holiday, etc. people will inevitably reach for that bottle of bubbly.

So, until there is no more reason for people to buy it you should just hold your nose at the costs and raise your glass high! Champagne is the nectar of the gods!

The Proper Way to Drink Champagne

the-proper-way-to-drink-champagneSome people drink champagne as casually as any other wine, and that’s a great way to enjoy it. For most of us, only special occasions call for sparkling and it’s normal to have some apprehension: am I pouring it right? Can my guests tell that I have no idea what I’m doing?

The good news is that we do have rules and best practices for enjoying and serving champagne. When in doubt, fall back on these “proper” ways to drink champagne:

Know your varieties.

You may already know that sparkling wine and champagne are not necessarily the same thing — the real stuff only comes from the Champagne region, according to French law — but there’s more worth knowing.

Traditional champagne consists of three grapes: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. We think of it as a white wine, but it really comes from about two-thirds red grapes. Ah, the complexity.

Blanc de blancs uses only white grapes, while blanc de noirs uses mostly red pinot noir grapes. Other names generally refer to production methods.

Store it correctly. Champagne should be chilled, but not over-refrigerated. The best temperature range is 45° to 48°F, so if you do not have a wine chiller you can place the bottle in the fridge for a few hours before serving. To make it classier, use a nice ice bucket.

Besides the fact that you don’t want frigidly cold wine, the refrigerator also dries out the cork and ruins the bubbles. Saving the good stuff? Leave it in a cool, dark place until the occasion arrives.

Open it like a pro. No sword necessary; but the real trick is twisting the bottle while holding the cork, rather than the other way around. Professionals also swear by loosening, but not removing, the wire top.

Choose the right glass. Flutes serve formal and celebratory occasions, but only for style points. For regular enjoyment, use white wine glasses to let the champagne breathe a little.

Don’t overpour. Err on the side of smaller glasses and you’ll enjoy every sip with the right temperature and bubbles. Pour too much and the second half of your glass will get warm and flat.

If you pour heavy out of fear that the bottle itself will get flat, you need to upgrade your stopper.

Hold it by the stem. Pinky out, pinky in… it’s really up to you. Just don’t hold the bowl because it warms and alters the champagne.

Pair it with the right foods. The romantic view of champagne often leads people to drink it without food or with ironically bad choices like delicate foods and desserts.

Sparkling wine pairs best with savory, salty, fatty foods. A gourmet steak or a fried chicken sandwich would do equally well, and much better than a salad or slice of cake.

Know how to mix it. Mimosas aren’t the only way to go — you can create stunning combinations with St. Germain and other liqueurs, cognac, brandy, various citric and tart fruits, or other sweet-bitter additions.

Just be sure not to waste money on a complex, upscale champagne since you won’t be noticing all the flavors anyway. Stick with something dry and practice your pouring (you don’t want to use a jigger with something sparkling).

Remember that champagne is a wine meant to be enjoyed — not a sticking point for good manners. The rules exist not to exclude anyone, but to make sure everyone can discover the best route to great-tasting champagne in every glass.

Identifying Different Types of Champagne

Identifying Different Types of Champagne

There is a fine line that can be drawn between champagne and sparkling wine. While sparkling wine can come from anywhere in the world, champagne can only come from the Northern France region of Champagne. The fizzy cocktail comes in many varieties, but it is not as hard to tell them apart as you may think. There are a few ways you can identify the subtle differences in this increasingly popular drink.

Non-Vintage Champagne

Non-vintage champagne is made every single year by producers, whether the harvest is good or bad. When poured into a glass, this brand’s bubbles dissipate quickly and will have a very distinct taste of citrus flavors. Honeysuckle and candied orange peel will cover your tongue with its acidic backbone and it comes from a different blend of wines.

Vintage Champagne

Vintage champagne is different than non-vintage in the sense that it is only produced in years that are considered to have a very good harvest. To give the champagne its complexity, only the current year’s grapes are used to produce this wine. Fermentation comes from the aging process when the wine is in close contact with the yeast, adding certain characteristics to the wine. When you open a bottle of vintage champagne, you will notice a more pronounced aroma of yeast on your nose and it will have a strong breadiness taste to it.

Tete de Cuvee, or Prestige Champagne

This is the best wine that a champagne producer will yield. Tete de Cuvee means Head Of The Year and these fine wines are only made every three to four times in a decade, during exceptional years only. Brands such as Dom Perignon carry this prestigious title and if you have ever had a glass of Dom, you will notice that the bubbles are much smaller and will linger for a considerable period of time. Prestige champagnes have a scent that is reminiscent of ripe peaches and fresh baked bread. These wines are also aged for a longer time in order to mature them beyond any other vintage brands.

Rose Champagne

There are several champagne houses that produce Rose Champagne. Since two of the grapes used to make this wine are red, exposure to the skins of these grapes are all that is needed to produce a Rose Champagne. The smooth citrus scent will heighten your sense of smell when you open a bottle of Rose, and you will notice a strong peach and under-ripened strawberry aroma accompanied by mild yeast tones.

Becoming a champagne connoisseur isn’t as difficult as it once seemed to be. Distinction among the various wines is rather easy to dictate once you know what to look out for. So, the next time you are in the wine aisle and are looking for a good bottle of celebratory champagne, you will now be equipped to make an educated and informed decision.

The Busiest Times of Year for Purchasing Champagne


Champagne, a type of sparkling wine produced from grapes from the Champagne region of France, is among the most recognizable drinks in the world. It is used across the globe in times of celebration, and is often seen as an indulgent and luxurious beverage. With that being sad, it should come as no surprise that champagne is particularly popular during certain times of the year. In fact, champagne sales and consumption dip and peak throughout the 12-month calendar year, but their popularity always takes over during periods of significant celebration and, in particular, romance.

The Winter Holidays

New Year’s Eve is the biggest day for the consumption of champagne across the United States and in Europe, as well. Champagne toasts have become synonymous with ringing in the new year. According to experts, 360 million glasses of champagne are served across the United States on New Year’s eve. Many of those glasses are used for midnight toasts. According to restaurateurs, they do not sell as many individual bottles of champagne to table as many people would expect.

Christmas and Thanksgiving are also fairly popular holidays for champagne, as well. According to experts, champagne is a popular gift, as well as a popular drink during the holiday season. The same is true for Thanksgiving, which also has hardy champagne sales in the week leading up to the holiday.

Valentine’s Day

The week leading up to Valentine’s day sees a balloon in sales for champagne and other sparkling beverages. According to experts, about 1.6 million bottles of champagne are sold during Valentine’s day. While the numbers trail that of New Year’s Eve and Thanksgiving,it is all relative. According to experts, sales of champagne dip heavily after New Years, spike again during Valentine’s day, the drop off once again until wedding season approaches. Valentine’s day is trumped only by the winter holiday’s in champagne sales.

Wedding Season

While, pound for pound, New Year’s eve and Valentine’s day, utilize the most bubbly out of any single calendar day, it can be argued that the wedding season is the biggest season for champagne consumption, and, thus sales. Running from early April, through early October, the wedding season kicks off quickly, but lulls in the deep summer months, only to pick back up in September, when temperatures begin to dip again. Wedding season, as many insiders call it, puts a premium on venues, photographers, and even florists, so it would stand to reason that the season, packed with love and commitment,would be a huge time for champagne sales and usage.

Most weddings include, at the very least, a champagne toast. When wedding season officially is, however, differs based on location. For example, in the east, it begins a bit later, often in May, but in the South it begins in March and lulls during the oppressive heat of July and August.

When to Buy

While champagne sales have their peak, buying champagne,for the most part, is a relatively easy process and is a simply transaction regardless of the time of year. If you, however, are searching for a particular vintage, brand or style of champagne, it is best to head into the store you are shopping at at least two weeks before you need the item, to ensure it is either in stock, or can be ordered in time for your celebration or romantic evening. Dealing with retailers directly may yield you the best results in finding a particular vintage.

The Difference Between Champagne and Sparkling Wine

the-difference-between-champagne-and-sparkling-wineCould you, if put on the spot, tell the difference between champagne and sparkling wine? If not, the difference between the two could be far more intuitive than you realize.

Differences Between Champagne and Sparkling Wine 

Champagne is a type of sparkling wine that comes from the Champaign region of France. That’s really the chief difference between champagne and sparkling wine – champagne comes exclusively from the Champagne wine region.

Secondary Fermentation Vs. Carbon Dioxide Injection.  There are some other differences, though.  Champagne usually gains its fizzy properties from a natural process known as secondary fermentation.

With sparkling wine, contrastingly, you sometimes will get carbonation through a man-made process of carbon dioxide injection. There’s nothing intrinsically dangerous about carbon dioxide or injecting it into drinks – that’s how most sodas get their zing!

There’s actually more to the differences between champagne and sparkling wine that this processes of secondary fermentation (champagne) or carbon dioxide injection (sparkling wine).

Appellation Rules and Grapes.  The appellation – the geographical marker that designates the region in which the grapes were grown and harvested – of champagne differs from sparkling wine in a few important ways.

Champagne often uses pinot meunier (black wine grapes) or pinot noir (red wine grapes) to ultimately produce champagne. Green-skinned chardonnay grapes from the Champagne region of France are also sometimes used to make champagne.

The champagne in the Champagne region of France has been associated with France’s aristocracy for over four hundred years. In fact, appellation rules and labeling are taken very seriously and it’s illegal to falsely claim that your champagne derives from the Champagne region of France when it, in fact, does not.

Advantages of Sparkling Wine: Variety and Flavor.  A good way to think about the difference between champagne and sparkling wine is to say that all champagne is sparkling wine whereas not all sparkling wine derives from the Champagne region and can therefore be called champagne.

In many ways you could actually get more variety from sparkling wine than you can from champagne since sparkling wines are created around the globe. Austria, for instance, is a leader of high-end sparkling wines.

Flavor.  In terms of the flavors that champagne and sparkling wine offer, some people believe champagne has more of a creamy, nutty flavor whereas sparkling wine can have more of a fruity kick.

Price and Pairings.  Sparkling wine tends to be more affordably priced and more versatile in terms of pairings and the array of foods that go well with sparkling wine.

Cava (spanish wine) and prosecco (sparkling white wine) tend to be some of the more versatile kinds of sparkling wine. They go great with richer desserts as well as spicier entrees.

Recap of Differences 

Summing up, the chief difference between champagne and sparkling wine is that the former comes exclusively from the champagne region of France.

Sometimes sparkling wine is given its fizzy properties from a process known as carbon dioxide injection whereas champagne usually goes through secondary fermentation to get its bubbly qualities.

Sparkling wine comes from all around the world and has a greater versatility when it comes to the time of day in which it can be sipped and the food that it can be paired with.