How to Pick the Perfect Dinner Party Bubbly

 


Few beverages are as closely linked with a day of year as Champagne is with New Year’s Eve. There is just something about golden bubbles making their way up an elegant long flute that screams “let’s get this party started”. Whether you are hosting a tête-a-tête with lobster and candle light or inviting the whole block to watch the ball drop, there is a perfect bottle out there for you. Follow these guidelines and you can’t go wrong on your last day of the year.
 
Different types of bubbly, and when to serve them.
 
Personally, I find nothing beats drinking champagne solidly from aperitif to midnight. Not everyone enjoys that much acidity but whatever you do, make sure to stick a glass of golden goodness in the hands of your guests the moment they arrive. Set the tone, so to speak. If there are many of you, magnum bottles ooze style. 

Champagne & Appetizers

Dosage (the sugar added to a sparkling wine at the end of the second fermentation) and body are key features to consider when deciding when to serve which wine. A perfect, classic aperitif Champagne like the creamy Louis Roederer Brut Premier has a balanced dosage of nine grams, making it stand on its own or match a hors d’oeuvre like salmon and créme fraiche on butter-fried toast. 
 
A super-crisp, sugar-free, zero dosage/brut does get juices flowing but can be perceived as a bit sharp on its own. Serve it with a starter such as oysters or ceviche. The Tarlant Zero Dosage, from a grower outside Epernay, is a favorite for its rich nose and subtle minerality. 
 
Champagne & Main Courses
 
If your main course has a bit of weight - pork roast, veal scallopini or salmon with citrus - match it with a Champagne with body such as Bollinger Special Cuvée or the “thinking man’s Champagne” Agrapart Blanc de Blancs “7 Crus”. If you are hitting heavy, such as lamb or duck breast, nothing but a serious Rosé Champagne will stand the test.
 
Champagne & Dessert
 
Serve a dry “Brut” or bone dry “extra brut” Champagne with dessert and you are not doing yourself any favours. The sweetness in the dish will make the Champagne taste sour. Go for a lightly sweet Champagne, called “sec” or “demi-sec”, instead. Taittinger Nocturne is a lovely, rich crowd-pleaser with the added party feeling imbued in a bottle imitating a purple disco ball. (It’s much classier than it might sound.)
 
Champagne at Midnight
 
Who says you should save the best for last? When it comes to the bubbles, most people are too preoccupied (and let’s admit it, fuzzy) by midnight to place a lot of emphasis on quality. Splurge on real Champagne in your first glass, when taste buds are sharp. The Cuvée St Anne from Chartogne-Taillet is one of my favorite well distributed grower champagnes. If you have a vintage or prestige cuvée, like 2002 Lanson Gold Label or Krug Grande Cuvée, let it charm your crowd with the first course, when everyone is still paying attention. When singing Auld Lang Syne at the top of your lungs, on the other hand, drink some slightly less pricey bubbles. 
 
Value Bubbly
 
If Black Friday has left you in the red, there are excellent alternatives out there. 
 
Cloudy Bay “Pelorus” from New Zealand can be mistaken for Champagne, even by an expert. I would know.
 
Roederer Estate Brut is a charming, balanced and fruit-forward alternative if you want to drink American (though its ancestry is decidedly Champenoise). 
 
Louis Buillot Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé “Perle d’Aurore” from Burgundy (not so far from Champagne now is it?) is a rose-colored steal.
 
An alternative, if you are inviting on a budget, is to throw a party and tell everyone to bring a bottle or two of their favorite bubbles instead of a host(ess) gift. In addition to spreading the costs, you will have fun trying your way through the selection. One of the best parties I went to in 2014 did this and the guests went all out. I also went all out, trying to sample every. single. bottle. Not a strategy to recommend. Not even if there was Krug , Comtes and Cristal  hiding in the mix.
 
Cheers to making better decisions in 2015!
 
 
Want to learn more about the author of this article, Erica Landin? Click here

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