The Christmas meal and New Year’s Eve may be the two big moments for Champagne during the festive season, but it’s such a terrible waste not to drink it up and down the Holidays too, says Erik Leidholm, master sommelier and head distiller at Wildwood Spirits. “I never need an excuse to drink champagne. And I think others shouldn’t either, particularly during this time of year. If people tried it more, they would drink it more.”
Just like Lily Bollinger, head of Bollinger Champagne, who famously said in defense of the world’s best anytime-drink: “”I only drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not in a hurry and drink it when I am, otherwise I never touch the stuff unless I am thirsty.”
It’s a little-known fact that champagne goes beautifully with food, and by pairing the celebration fizz with every special Holiday meal, you’ll really lift your heart and find the Joy this season is supposed to bring.
The Holidays present big variables on the types of food people eat and champagne will work with just about anything. It’s one of those special kind of communion wines that will work perfectly with whatever you choose to serve with it.
Champagne comes from a very cool climate (from the northernmost vineyards of France, in the valley of the river Marne) and so it has a very high level of acidity. The high-latitude terroir (soil) there is unique, and all these factors contribute to make champagne a champagne. All champagnes may be sparkling wines, but all sparkling wines are not champagne for this very good reason.
“Because it’s from a cool climate and has high acidity, it has a relatively low amount of alcohol too, so there is no excuse to not drink more of it,” says Leidholm. “And because champagne has bubbles and texture, it works with many different kinds of food, from bland to spicy.”
“You can find a rich champagne that has been aged for a long time, for example, that will work with steak,” he suggests. “With a really rich style of champagne like a Krug Grande Cuvee, have it with a nice prime rib or roast beef or a big steak with blue cheese butter and it’s going to be a magnificent pairing. Or you could pick a much lighter style with less weight, like a Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, which is made with chardonnay grapes and you could easily pair it with oysters.”
There are so many different styles of champagne that you can even find a sweeter style that works with desserts. “The rule of thumb for pairing wine with dessert is that wine has to be as sweet or sweeter than the dessert you pair it with. You can get a Demi-Sec, which has a lot of residual sugar and it will play nicely with very sweet desserts like a panettone, creme brulee or ginger bread.”
There is a big spectrum that you can experience when you’re pairing champagne with food. And what better time than the Holidays to hear the satisfying pop of the cork, announcing the release of aromas and flavors that have been years in the making, and exploiting all that potential in the bottle by not saving it just for a celebratory toast?