Resolved! More Champagne

I’m about to give you one of the best New Year’s resolutions ever.

Repeat after me: “I, (state your name), resolve that in 2013, I will drink a lot more Champagne.”

Resolved. (I hope with a glass of Champagne in your hand.) Now we’re going to face what it will take to make this resolution reality.

First, I’m going to ask you to step past the two juggernauts of Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot. There’s nothing wrong with them, but Champagne is like any other wine region in the world: There are distinct styles and many top producers and vineyards. You don’t eat the same meal every night, right? There are dozens of other producers worth your attention.

Second, I’m suggesting Champagne should be more than just a celebratory beverage. Don’t spray it around a victorious locker room or smash it against a yacht. Champagne is a joyful wine when shared with a large group, but I love enjoying it slowly in a quiet setting with someone close.

Third, please try Champagne with food. All too often, Champagne is treated as an aperitif at dinner when, in fact, it would work as well, if not better, with many of the dishes on the table as the still wines that follow it.

The higher acidity, lower alcohol and effervescence of Champagne make it incredibly versatile and appropriate with just about anything short of a rare steak. One of the best pairings I ever had was a rosé Champagne with pork and morels at a Champagne dinner at Bluestem.

Fourth, I’m going to ask you to learn a few useful Champagne terms:

Brüt:  A dry Champagne. Almost all Champagne sold in the United States is brüt champagne.

Blanc de Blancs: A Champagne made entirely from chardonnay.

Blanc de Noirs: A Champagne made entirely from a combination of the red grapes pinot noir and pinot meunier. It will still be a “white” wine.

Rosé: Pink Champagne. Made by adding a slug of red wine during production, or more rarely, by leaving the base wine briefly on the red grape skins.

Non-vintage: The baseline Champagne of most producers is a blend of multiple vintages, and these are often referred to as “non-vintage” Champagne or “NV” for short.

Vintage: Champagne Bubbly made from one year’s grapes, usually made only in the best years.

Tête de Cuvée: A house’s best Champagne. Think Dom Pérignon, Cristal, Grand Siecle, etc. These are remarkably age-worthy wines and often consumed way too young.

Lastly, I will ask you to seek out a category called “grower Champagne.” These are Champagnes produced in small quantities, usually less than 20,000 cases, made by the kind of farmers whom, in other regions, would be as beloved as cult cabernet producers in Napa Valley. This is often Champagne at its very finest and makes up most of the fizz I consume at home. Many restaurants and retailers carry them and a few even give them a separate section. Try one in 2013!

Categories: Beer, Wine, Spirits, Food