No beverage says “Happy Holidays!” like champagne. The sound of the popping cork and foaming liquid, the tiny bubbles streaming from the bottom of a tall fluted glass, and the powerful yet delicate flavors: these are the tell-tale signs that the time to celebrate is here. Whether in the style of a lighter non-vintage bottling or majestic tete-du-cuvee champagne, this is the drink for good times.
The world’s best-selling champagnes are those of the large maisons: Veuve-Clicquot, Mumm, Moet & Chandon and Perrier-Jouet, among others. One of my favorites is Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut. A fresh tasting bubbly consisting of a large percentage of pinot noir, this is full of apple and pear aromas with hints of citrus. I think of Piper as the perfect aperitif or brunch champagne: crisp and lively, begging you to take another sip.
Quickly growing in popularity are the so-called grower champagnes. These wines a produced by wineries that own and cultivate their own vineyards, as opposed to the larger houses who purchase grapes from farmers throughout the region. Amongst these, L. Aubry Fils is one I find to be outstanding. The wine geek in me appreciates the fact that their non-vintage brut contains a large percentage of Pinot Meunier as well as the ancient and nearly forgotten varietals Arbanne, Petit Meslier, and Fromenteau. A very low dosage (sugar solution added to kick-start secondary fermentation in the bottle) means this wine has a steely frame with floral and citrus aromas followed by rich flavors of toast and candied lemon zest. This is truly a wine to savor.
Want to really go for the gusto? Champagne’s top-end cuvees are some of the world’s finest wines. One of the first wines that really stopped me in my tracks is Salon Blancs de Blancs. Made from 100% Chardonnay, Salon is only produced in exceptional years (approximately 4 times a decade.) This champagne is typically aged for 10 years in the bottle before release. A paragon of complexity, Salon exhibits aromas of toasted almond, biscuit, candied ginger, citrus and fresh white flowers. This is a wine that will make you say “Wow!”
This holiday season, enjoy your time spent with family and friends and enjoy plenty of one of the world’s finest beverages—Vive Le Champagne!!!