Bubbly for your bubble: a guide to Christmas champagne pairing
Françoise Peretti shares her top tips and we pick out some great bottles to try
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 tips on how to entertain loved ones with champagne this Christmas.
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 bottles and gifts
The Week Portfolio picks out some champagne gifts for Christmas
Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée M.V. X.B.
Maison Bruno Paillard is a family-owned house with vineyards located in the heart of the Champagne region. The Première Cuvée, the brand’s flagship, is an assemblage of crus, grape varieties and vintages. It is a very personal interpretation of the region, through the selection of diverse terroirs from 35 different crus. Other options from Bruno Paillard include: Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru MV; Dosage Zero “D : Z”; and MV Vintage - ”Assemblage” 2009.
Lanson: Le Black Réserve and Le Blancs de Blancs
Maison Lanson has unveiled two new cuvées within its core range: Le Black Réserve and Le Blancs de Blancs. A non-vintage brut champagne, combining freshness, complexity and fullness, Le Black Réserve is a descendant of the Black Label. Le Blancs de Blancs, a 100% chardonnay cuvée, is golden in colour with very fine bubbles and is a great champagne for an aperitif and for gastronomy.
Bollinger R D 2004 Champagne 6x75cl Wooden Case
Treat your loved ones to a case of the Queen’s choice, Bollinger, the first champagne to receive the royal stamp of approval. The 2004 vintage, which is produced exclusively with the cuvée juice from 16 crus, pairs well with duck, white meat, seafood and shellfish.
Dom Pérignon Vintage 2010
Dom Pérignon is vintage champagne only and each year is unique. Described as “fruit of intuition and mastery”, Dom Pérignon Vintage 2010 was produced in a challenging year and was quite literally “saved from the waters”. Vincent Chaperon, chef de cave, says: “The creation of Dom Pérignon Vintage 2010 took equal parts mastery and humility. I hope it never ceases to inspire you.”
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.
Champagne Laurent-Perrier Christmas gift sets
Champagne Laurent-Perrier has unveiled two Christmas crackers for 2020: a Cuvée Rosé gift set and a La Cuvée gift set. Both sets are presented inside a luxury gift box with two Laurent-Perrier branded flutes.
Armand de Brignac Harrods Édition Spéciale Brut Gold
For this collectable limited-edition set, Armand de Brignac has turned its handcrafted wooden lacquered gift box “Harrods green”. It is the first time that the prestige brand has changed the outer colour of its box and the first time Harrods has collaborated on a special edition champagne. Just 300 of the Harrods Édition Spéciale Brut Gold sets have been created and each gift box is inscribed with its unique number emblazoned on a special pewter label.