Two Glasses of Rose / Pink Champagne, selective focus

Wine

What to Drink Now: Champagne and French Sparklers

Toast the season with these bubbles.

Nothing says celebration like sparkling wine. Whether it’s your favorite vintage or non-vintage sparkler from an established Champagne House, like Taittinger or Veuve Clicquot, or a lively Cremant made in the traditional method throughout France, sparkling wine is the ideal way to celebrate. Here are a few French selections to toast the season, some were sent for editorial consideration.

Laurent Perrier recently launched a new sparkler, their La Cuvée Brut, blending predominantly Chardonnay (mostly from Côtes de Blancs), with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, and then aging it for four years, giving depth, texture and richness to the elegant, golden apple and pear filled sparkler. ($49.99 at Total Wine.)

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Complex, expressive Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial Rosé ($60) is ideal to be served at the end of a meal to highlight anything from chocolate to red fruit-filled desserts. Prefer to keep it classic, Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut is dressed for the holidays with a new sparkling gold bottle wrapping ($40, both at Pogo’s).

For something unique, and utterly delicious, try Bruno Paillard Extra Brut Première Cuvée MV, a small producer in Champagne dedicated to crafting a multi-vintage blend from vineyards scattered throughout Champagne and from vintages dating back over 25 years. The resulting wine is layered with toasted brioche and creamy lemon mousse. ($50, at Royal Blue Grocery.)

Frederic Azler

For those looking for a holiday splurge, Champagne House Charles Heidsieck will release a selection of prized, vintage bottles through Christies Auction House on December 9 that are a part of their “La Collection Crayères” program. In 1867 Heidsieck purchased 47 chalk cellars, or Crayères, in Champagne to age their wines, believing the caves allowed for the ideal atmosphere to age precious Champagne. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of this purchase, select bottles will go up for auction, including 1985 Rose Millésime, 1983 Brut Millésime in magnum, and 1981 Cuvée Royale. Details are available here.

If you love a bubbly any time of year, but don’t have a fortune to spend on a classic Champagne, consider one of the traditional method Cremant wines from France. Selections from Loire, Limoux, and Burgundy deliver the quality expected from any French bubbly, without Champagne’s price.

Though Champagne gets the flare, truth-be-told, sparkling wine’s roots are not in the famous region, they actually started a little bit further south in the region of Limoux. As the story goes, the monks of Saint Hilaire Abbey near Limoux perfected the winemaking method for sparkling wines around 1531. When Dom Perignon made a pilgrimage to Saint Hilaire Abbey, he was taught the method, which he experimented on with Champagne wines when he came back to Hautvillers Abbey. In Languedoc-Roussillon, Limoux has been producing high quality, highly affordable sparkling options for centuries.  Faire La Fete Cremant de Limoux captures the sense of celebration and revelry that sparkling wine brings out in every joyful gathering. Light and frothy, but also complex, with layers of baked apple, fresh bread and crisp citrus. ($17 at Pogo’s.)

Prestigious Burgundy also produces elegant, elevated Cremant. Though prized vineyards known for producing Grand Cru wines are saved for still wine production, all Burgundy villages produce grapes for Cremant, maintaining the strictest guidelines for how wines are made. Grapes for Cremant de Bourgogne are hand harvested in small bins and pressed using the same standards at Champagne. But the wine is decidedly Burgundian, with earthiness and tannin, while highlighting the delicate nature of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore Brut Rose blends Pinot Noir with Gamay and a touch of Chardonnay for a berry and red-fruit-filled sparkler that is ideal to be enjoyed with food. ($20, at Total Wine.)

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