A guide to Christmas champagne pairing
Françoise Peretti shares her top tips for the festive season and we pick out some great gifts to buy
As the ultimate drink of celebration, champagne quite rightly goes hand in hand with the festive season.
Whether you’re planning to buy one special bottle, or to treat your family and friends to a wonderful selection, there’s a style of champagne to choose for each moment of the big day.
Françoise Peretti, director of the UK’s Champagne Bureau, shares her top champagne style tips to ensure you pick the right one for your festivities. Plus, we pick out some of the best champagne bottles, hampers and gifts to buy.
Champagne for Christmas day
Blanc de Blancs: a perfect beginning
When the family is gathered around the tree opening presents, excitement is high and the day is young, opt for a lovely, refreshing Blanc de Blancs. Meaning “White of Whites”, this style is made from 100% white grapes and its lively nature will start everyone’s day on an upwards-note.
Typically chardonnay, Blanc de Blancs are usually a bright, white gold and exhibit beautiful notes of white flowers (think hawthorn, honey-suckle, jasmine and orange blossom), citrus and exotic fruits (like lychee and pineapple).
As dinner roasts slowly in the oven, I’d recommend serving this as an apéritif with tasty canapes and nibbles to tide everyone over. Think smoked salmon or trout blinis, daubed with crème fraiche, basil and lemon; devilled quails eggs, macadamias or Marcona almonds.
Vintage: the main event
Nothing produces a wow-factor more than unveiling a beautifully aged vintage champagne to serve alongside a glorious, golden roasted bird. Whether you’re having a Goodman’s goose, bronze turkey or Poulet de Bresse, ageing brings complexity to a champagne that gives it the ability to pair happily with all poultry (and to hold its own among the plethora of dishes that come with Christmas dinner).
Vintage champagne is made from grapes collected from a single harvest and will have the year of that harvest mentioned on the bottle. It is often described as “the expression of a year”. In Champagne, a vintage must be aged by law for at least three years, but usually we leave it in the cellar for six to eight years to enable it to reach its full potential before releasing it to the market. Typically, you can expect notes of brioche and Danish pastry to have developed; ripe, stewed fruits, or even hazelnuts and almonds.
Depending on the size of your gathering, I would recommend choosing a magnum, which adds magnificent theatre and drama to your dining table. There are a great array of current vintages to look out for at the moment, including 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012.
Rosé: enhance your cheese course
On what other day is it acceptable to consume one’s own body weight in cheese? Would we even recognise Christmas if we didn’t have 30 types of cheese and the chutneys to match? My advice to you this year is to experiment and pair it with rosé champagne. At the cheesemonger my rule for cow’s milk-based cheese is: “don’t think blue – think ewe!”. Or, select goat’s cheese.
To curate your tower of cheese, British options include Perroche, Ragston, Spenwood and Berkeswell, among many fabulous others. These delicate, yet flavourful cheeses pair beautifully with the round fruitiness of rosé champagne, which often releases the delicious aromas of berries – such as strawberries, raspberries – and soft fruits like cherries. Not to mention, the stunning array of pink hues look exquisite in a candle-lit glass…
Demi-Sec: delicious with dessert
Demi-sec and Sec are two terms scarcely whispered in the UK, but I implore you to try something new. Try a sweeter style with a lavish chocolate Yule log, or with a dark chocolate Pavlova smothered with fresh cream and raspberries.
With champagne, you will find that the sweeter styles are not cloying, but maintain the wine’s signature freshness that shines through. This makes it a delightful evening treat and pick-me-up after a generous meal. The beauty of keeping to champagne throughout the celebrations also means that you can avoid mixing your drinks, while having an immense variety of styles to choose from – so it’s likely that your head will be thanking you on Boxing Day. Christmas is a great time to experiment, so don’t be afraid – be in the know!
Champagne for special occasions
Best champagne for the office party
The Christmas office party brings all personality types together, so it may seem like a tricky task to choose a style that will please everyone. Brut NV is a fail safe. The “flagship” cuvée of each champagne house, Brut NV is the ultimate “party style” and can be served throughout the evening. Easy if you are the party planner!
Best champagne with Boxing Day leftovers
The day after the big feast, bubble and squeak and cold meat will likely make their appearance on your table. In true hair-of-the-dog style, pair these with a lovely Blanc de Noirs, which is white champagne made exclusively from black grapes – Pinot Noir and Meunier. The use of black grapes means that Blanc de Noirs is full-bodied and complements poultry, pork and other rich foods well.
Best champagne for New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve is the perfect time to put on a show and up the ante. To really impress your guests, I recommend choosing a bigger bottle size. A vintage champagne in magnums (equivalent to two 75cl bottles), or jeroboams (equivalent to four bottles) are ideal to create some drama and make this a night to remember, particularly if the party is quite large and you will be providing that quantity of wine in smaller bottles anyway.
Champagne gifts and bottles
Regency indulgence hamper with Bollinger champagne
Go all out this Christmas with a luxury treat from Regency Hampers. Regency’s indulgence hamper with Bollinger champagne is an extravagant collection of spirits and fine wines plus a wide selection of seasonal foods, snacks and confectionery.
To raise your Christmas spirits bottles of Hennessy Fine de Cognac, Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky and Cotswold Gin from The Cotswolds Distillery are included with the Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut Champagne.
The hamper also features wines – a Zonin 1821 Prosecco Doc Spumante sparkling Italian white wine, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Griottes Pouilly Fumé, and Laroche Chablis La Collegiale – two traditional Christmas puddings and a pack of six golden “touch of sparkle” Christmas crackers.
Bubbleshop festive champagne case
Bubbleshop by Sandia Chang has launched a festive collection featuring six exciting bottles like George Laval Garennes; Mottes 2011, Olivier Horiot Solera; and Françoise Bedel Entre Ciel et Terre. These six champagnes have been handpicked by Chang and are designed to enjoy at different parts of the festive feast. The Dhondt-Grellet makes for a great aperitif, the Hautes Mottes will go perfectly with roasted meat, and the Tarlant Rosé Zero is ideal as a dessert pairing. Available for nationwide delivery every Friday.
Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Gift Set
Adding an extra touch to any special occasion this Christmas, Champagne Laurent-Perrier’s Cuvée Rosé is accompanied with two glasses, perfect for toasting to intimate merry festivities with family and friends.
The Vintage Brut Champagne Collection Case
This collection features six different unique vintage champagnes from both Grand Marques champagne houses and champagne growers. The case contains the following 75cl bottles: Vilmart et Cie Grand Cellier d’Or 2015; Charles Heidsieck Brut Millesime 2006; Pol Roger Brut 2012; Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage 2012; and Drappier Millesime Exception 2013.
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