Christmas is such a special time where you can meet with family and friends and enjoy a nice drink and it’s always nice to celebrate with Champagne! In Lane Cove we are lucky enough to have an expert on all things Champagne!!
The delightful Sara Underdown was kind enough to put together some suggestions on what you should sip this festive season. Sara has the most brilliant job! She is a die-hard champagne fan, to say the least. Sara fell head-over-heels in love with the drink of kings during her first trip to Champagne in 2011. It was probably inevitable that one day she would combine her love of champagne with her work as a professional writer.
After visiting Champagne in 2012 she started her blog and now reviews champagnes and champagne-inspired events. She also has an Advanced Certificate with the Wine Spirit and Education Trust (WSET). Sara also lives out her love of champagne by spending time with like-minded enthusiasts at regular tastings and events, and by working with former Vin de Champagne Award Winner, Jim Smith, on a book about champagne. Sara was a finalist in the 2016 Vin de Champagne Awards, one of Australia’s most coveted wine awards.
We asked Sara to tell us the Champagnes she recommends for this festive season.
Champagne – What to Serve This Christmas
Champagne celebrates the occasion of Christmas in a way that no other wine can. The scintillating allure of its effervescence, the sound of bubbles popping and the aromas and flavours that can only come from champagne, help to make our greatest season so memorable.
There is a champagne to accompany any festive celebration, compliment any meal and to suit most budgets. But with so much champagne available on our local shelves, it’s hard to know what to choose.
Vintage, non-vintage or prestige champagnes? Grower champagnes or champagnes from the major Houses? The key to serving champagne at Christmas is to keep it fun and to select champagnes that are crowd-pleasers and easy-to-drink. Always remember to serve your champagne chilled, but never too cold. For a non-vintage, serve between 8-10 degrees, and for a vintage, 10-12 degrees. And when it comes to glasses, flutes are fine for youthful non-vintages, but opt for a tulip shaped champagne glass or a white wine glass for vintage champagnes.
As a champagne writer (www.fortheloveofchampagne.com) and finalist in the 2016 Vin de Champagne Awards, I have penned my thoughts on the best champagnes to serve this Christmas. The list showcases champagnes that are easily accessed in and around Lane Cove, of excellent quality and diverse price-points. But above all, they tick all the boxes of drinkability and pleasing your guests this season.
Christmas Eve Champagne
There’s no better time, or reason, to open a gorgeous bottle of prestige champagne than Christmas Eve. It’s a time of genuine relaxation and reflection, before the flurry of Christmas Day.
Prestige cuvées are a special class of champagne made by some producers to highlight exceptional grapes from exceptional years. The winemaking process is given special consideration and they are aged for considerably longer periods of time. Naturally, they come with a higher price-point, but given the exceptional quality, it’s worth the investment.
See yourself reclined in an armchair, watching the twinkling lights in the Christmas tree and sipping on one of these beauties on the night before Christmas.
Krug Grande Cuvée Non-Vintage ($250 – $300) – There is no disputing the lofty heights of the Krug Kingdom. Take a moment to savour the very best ‘drink of kings’ with this fine example of champagne. A blend of 120 wines from 10 years, it has spent six years maturing in Krug’s cellars. This pinot noir dominant champagne offers up a complex bouquet of white flowers, dried fruit, biscuit and citrus. On the palate, it produces hazelnut, nougat, barley sugar, citrus fruits, almonds, brioche and honey. A delicious treat!
Louis Roederer Cristal 2009 ($300 – $350) – Cristal is best described by its chief wine-maker as “invisible concentration”. Indeed, I have always said that it is a feeling, not a taste. There is something cloud-like, almost illusive, about it. Comprised of 60 per cent pinot noir and 40 per cent chardonnay, the nose offers white and orange florals as well as powder-fine chalk. On the palate, there is almost a play of light with colours and textures dancing around. It leads to a long and harmonious finish. A sheer joy and beauty.
Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque 2007 ($220 – $250) – Most will be familiar with the beautifully decorated floral bottles of Perrier-Jouët’s Belle Époque range. Defined by its heavenly floral-like aromas, the 2007 Belle Époque is a blend of 50 per cent chardonnay, 45 per cent pinot noir and 5 per cent meunier. Aged for six years, it is youthful on the nose but displays some lovely complex notes of citrus peel, honeysuckle, red berries, pear, brioche and a chalky minerality. On the palate, it is a sheer delight. Full of creamy bubbles and producing flavours of white stone fruits, pastries, caramel and a hint of minerality. Perfect for warmer weather.
It’s a time of cooking, eating, preparing, present-giving, playing with kids and, inevitably, cleaning up. So my mantra for Christmas Day is to serve champagne that goes with its vibe and the weather.
For our Christmas Day culture in Australia, it’s best to choose easy-drinking, youthful and refreshing champagnes. They act as wonderful aperitifs and go well with lighter foods such as seafood, ham, chicken and salads.
Here are my picks to quench your thirst and complement your festive menu.
Gosset Grande Reserve Brut Non-Vintage ($90 – $100) – Gosset is one of the great Houses (and the oldest wine house) in Champagne. It’s known for producing champagnes of wonderful finesse, creaminess and longevity. Their non-vintage is an exceptional one. Led by chardonnay, its healthy dose of reserve wine and long maturation produces a nose of pear, white stone fruits, white flowers and toast. On the palate, it’s creamy and intense, yet light, and offers a chalky mineral expression. Oh-so refined.
Bollinger Special Cuvée Non-Vintage ($65 – $75) – This delightfully expressive champagne has a nose of lemon meringue, honeysuckle and a creamy, yeasty complexity. On the palate, it is fresh yet rich. Mouth-watering and delicious, it’s relatively full-bodied but has a good amount of youthful fruits and acidity to lighten it up. There are notes of lemon sorbet, white stone fruits, toasted almonds, brioche and a hint of oak, leading to a long and creamy finish.
Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut Non-Vintage ($40 – $50) – Don’t’ scoff at the price point, one of the lowest you’ll see on the shelf. It’s actually a surprisingly good champagne, made by a producer who has taken dramatic steps to improve quality over recent years. Led by pinot noir, it contains 15 per cent reserve wine and matured for up to three years in the cellar. It’s known for its ‘apple, pear and toast’ profile and delivers in spades! So fresh yet toasty and complex and deliciously dry. [ITC note – this champagne is available at Cellarbrations Lane Cove]
Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Brut Non-Vintage ($100 – $120) – All lovers of champagne love Ruinart’s blanc de blancs, the cuvée they are best known for. Made from 100 per cent chardonnay, it’s a very refined, easy-drinking and elegant champagne. On the nose it’s youthful with notes of lemon zest, coconut, yellow flowers, pastries and chalky minerality. The palate is balanced and harmonious and has a creamy, soft and silky mouthfeel. Perfect on its own or with seafood. [ITC note – this champagne is available at Cellarbrations Lane Cove]
Veuve Clicquot Rosé Non-Vintage ($100 – $110) – There is nothing better than a glass of rosé champagne on a hot Christmas day. Those light berry notes, complemented by the champagne’s effervescence, make for a wonderful refreshment and goes well with pork and poultry. Veuve Clicquot’s non-vintage rosé is excellent quality on account of its high percentage of reserve wine (up to 40 per cent). Its complex nose abounds with strawberry leaf and cream, white pepper, red apples and smoke. On the palate, there is grapefruit, fresh strawberries, strawberry hull, cherries, quince jam and a touch of gravelly minerality. It’s delightfully fleshy and juicy, leading to a flavoursome finish that is dry and a little dusty. Fabulous! [ITC note – this champagne is available at Cellarbrations Lane Cove]
Taittinger 2008 Vintage ($110 – $120) – Taittinger is known for its ability to produce champagnes of intensity and lightness, and the 2008 vintage does exactly that. An equal blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, it produces a nose of wattle, brioche, red apples, butter, flinty minerality and toast. The palate is medium bodied, offering notes of lemon zest, baked bread, red apples and yellow stone fruits as well as grilled nuts and toast. Flavours build in intensity, leading to a very long and dry finish with a touch of bitterness. A lovely champagne to serve with mains.
G.H Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut Millésime 2006 Vintage ($75 – $85) – For something with a little more depth and complexity, without being overly developed, this is a wonderful example. Mumm’s 2006 vintage is a blend of 64 per cent pinot noir and 36 per cent chardonnay and offers a complex nose of toffee apple, pastries, grass, red apples and candied orange peel. On the palate it’s full-bodied, rounded and approachable and reflects everything noticed on the nose. Best served with heavier mains, especially roasted chicken, duck and turkey. [ITC note – this champagne is available at Cellarbrations Lane Cove]
For more information on champagne, or to contact Sara, go to fortheloveofchampagne.com
A little more about Sara – Champagne aside, her first and foremost passion is her family; husband, Rob, and two gorgeous boys, Oscar and Hugo. Whilst her days are largely spent as a full-time mum, she undertakes occasional freelance work as a Corporate Writer/Bid Manager working – Words on Demand. She specialises in winning major civil infrastructure bids for ASX100 companies and training technical people in the art of clear communication, persuasion and understanding government processes.
In the Cove is supported by some brilliant sponsors (without their support we could not undertake the community and charity work we do!!). Cellarbrations Lane Cove is a gold sponsor and they would love you to pop in and say hi to them. #itcgoldsponsor.
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