Pass The Bubbly This Holiday Season!

December 5, 2018

What should you toast with this Holiday season? Chef Ryan Smith of Fork and Saber gives us a quick exercise in the history of Champagne.

The Holidays are Here

As someone who works in the wine industry, the question I get most frequently is, what do you drink? Or more importantly, what should I bring to a Friendsgiving, New Year’s, or office party that will make me look good? Luckily, there is one style of wine that undoubtedly goes with any food or holiday occasion, and that's Champagne!

History of Champagne

Ever wonder why we celebrate with Champagne? Champagne became an essential fixture in France after King Hugh Capet's coronation at the Reims Cathedral in 987. Crowning of kings continued for the next eight centuries at the Reims Cathedral, each one celebrated with the local wine, Champagne! (Perhaps, if it were a Cathedral in St. Emilion, we would all be celebrating with Merlot.)

How is Champagne Made

All sparkling wine begins as still wine. The winemakers in the Champagne region of France use three grapes to produce this still wine: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. These still wines are bottled then the winemaker adds more yeast and sugar. The yeast eats the sugar creating co2 and alcohol. Once the yeast eats all the sugar, it dies and sinks to the bottom of the bottle. The wine is left on the Lees (dead yeast) for at least 12 months. After months of riddling - regularly twisting the bottles ensuring the Champagne remains free of sediment - the winemaker disgorges (pops the top off) thereby releasing the yeast stored in the neck. The flavor changes the longer the wine is on the Lees.

Three quick tips for choosing the best Champagne for that special Holiday moment:

  1. Drink Me to Get the Party Started
    Non-vintage Champagne, made by blending base wines from different vintages. I typically use Non-vintage Champagne as an aperitif, something to pop when your guests walk in the door or with light hors-d'oeuvres. This is also what you want to pop when the ball drops!

  2. Drink Me at the Beginning of the Meal, I'm Fancy
    Blanc De Blanc, made with only white grapes (100% Chardonnay), has crisp, refreshing acidity. This acidity makes it especially suitable to pair with heavier food. Remember fat coats your palate and acid cuts through the fat.

  3. Drink Me on a Special Occasion
    Vintage Champagne, easily spotted by the date on the front of the bottle. Made of grapes from only one particularly good year's harvest, this champagne makes a great holiday gift. Because these wines spend more time on the lees, by law 3 years but in practice 4-10 years, it makes them much richer in style. These are genuinely gastronomic wines that can be paired with much heavier dishes (roast meats, etc.).

Special Offer

Neighborhood Partner, Wright & Goebel, has offered all Chelsea Piers Fitness members a 25% discount on purchases in-store and online! Please use code: CHELSEAPIERS. Good now through the end of February 2019.