Now that the holidays are over, you’ve probably buried your Champagne flutes in the back of the cabinet, not expecting to need them until the holidays roll around again in 12 months. Would you mind if we tried to gently help you see the errors of your way? For one, you shouldn’t use Champagne flutes – they’re little better than decorative and a normal Bordeaux or Chardonnay glass does a better job of bringing out the aromatics.
The bigger mistake is to think that Champagne should only be consumed during the holidays or other special occasions. Here’s how you should really think about Champagne: It is a wine with bubbles that can be paired with a greater variety of dishes than perhaps any other wine and that ought to be drunk more regularly. This isn’t a new idea, but it has lately become mantra among wine writers and sommeliers in the United States. That’s largely due to the fashionableness of so-called grower Champagnes. These are bubblies produced by grape farmers in the Champagne region of France who opt to make their own wines rather than sell their fruit to major houses like Veuve Clicquot and Taittinger. Grower Champagnes aren’t necessarily better than those of the big producers, but the good ones are seriously good and quite distinctive. The growers work on a much smaller scale – their wines often come from a single village or even a single vineyard and are made in far smaller quantities – and are emphatic that their wines be regarded as wines, rather than just festive fizz. Some of our favorites include Pierre Moncuit ($35 for the nonvintage bottling), Gimmonnet ($40), Lassaigne ($40), and Billiott ($50).
Another one we love is Champagne Pierre Péters, a producer located in the village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, in a part of Champagne known as the Côte des Blancs. This is chardonnay country, and Pierre Peters specializes in all-chardonnay Champagnes (what is known as blanc de blancs). The nonvintage Pierre Péters Cuvée de Réserve Brut Blanc de Blancs ($60) is killer juice. It sports a nose evocative of roasted nuts, tangerine, and pastry shop aromas (no, really). On the palate, it has a creamy texture, great energy and elegance, and is cut through with the telltale chalky minerality that sets Champagne apart from other sparkling wines. The Cuvée de Réserve can be drunk with poultry or fish dishes (if they have a cream sauce, even better), but the really key point is that it can be drunk with pleasure any day of the year. Champagne this good needs no more justification.