How To Choose The Best Champagne This New Year’s Eve

Food editor Kristen Eppich demystifies Champagne with tips from an expert. 

Want to know a little bit more about the bottle of Champagne you bring to your holiday party this year? I reached out to Montecito’s Heather McDougall for a lesson — and boy did she give me one! Thanks to Heather, we’ll all kind of look like we know what we’re doing when picking up a bottle this New Year’s Eve. Here’s what I learned…

The Basics
Champagne is a sparkling wine produced in northwest France, and can only be produced within the borders of the Champagne region. The wines are mostly based on blends of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier.

Learn What You Like
The flavor spectrum of Champagne runs from bone dry and mineral all to way to rich and luscious. If you are unsure of what you like, get something similar to your favorite Chardonnay… Is it citrusy, mineral, and light, like Chablis? Medium bodied, a bit nutty, but still fresh, like white Burgundy? Do you prefer California Chardonnay that’s toasty, rich and full-bodied? Here are some of Heather’s picks…

Mineral & Lean:

  • Pierre Peters, Cuvée de Réserve, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru, N.V.  (Locally Through Groupe Soleil, National Availability)
  • Champagne Delamotte, Brut, N.V. (Locally Through Rogers, National Availability)
  • Gourtorbe Bouillot, ‘Reflects de Rivière’ N.V., $56 (Locally through Nicholas Pearce Imports, in Manitoba through Banville & Jones)

Medium & Textured:

  • Louis Roederer, Brut Premiere, N.V., $73 (National Availability)
  • Pol Roger, Extra Cuvée de Réserve, Brut, N.V.,  $73 (National Availability) “The Classic Champagne”
  • Pierre Paillard, Grand Cru, Brut Rosé, N.V.,  $55 (National Availability)
  • C. Bouchard, Rose de Jeanne, Blanc de Noirs, Les Ursules, $155 (AB, ON, QC)

Rich & Full:

  • Bollinger, Special Cuvée, Brut, N.V., $80 (National Availability)
  • Diebolt Vallois, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, 2007, $75 (National Availability)
  • Vilmart & Cie, Grand Cellier, Brut, N.V., $78 (QC, ON, MB, AB)

Label Language, Decoded
Confused by the label? You’re not alone. Here’s what all those words on the bottle mean…

  • Non Vintage (N.V.) – A blended wine from several vintages.
  • Vintage (usually expressed as a year) – A wine made from grapes grown in one vintage with extended aging on the lees and are only produced in years of great quality.
  • Blanc de Blancs – A white wine made from white grapes; usually Chardonnay.
  • Blanc de Noir – A white wine made from red grapes, usually Pinot Noir and / or Pinot Meunier.
  • Rosé –  A wine made pink by either contact with the skins of red grapes or by blending red wine into a white base wine.
  • Brut – This indicates a dry wine with no more than 12 grams per liter of residual sugar.
  • Extra Brut / Brut Zero – The driest of Champagnes, and have little to zero sugar added as part of the dosage.
  • Demi-Sec / Doux – The sweeter side of Champagne. Both styles are noticeably off dry.
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Author:
Kristen Eppich
Photographer:
Angus Fergusson
Source:
House & Home December 2013
Stylist:
Ashley Denton (food) Sasha Seymour (prop)
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