Champagne in Good Times and Bad | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Champagne in Good Times and Bad

Champagne in Good Times and Bad

L’Chaim’s Recommendations for Champagnes at a Variety of Price Points

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As Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it.” Just so.

Regardless of whether you are continuing to sit shivah politically and praying extra hard for the welfare of the government, or are a wearing a “proudly deplorable” t-shirt and are looking forward to something like a “Celebrity Apprentice: White House Cabinet Special,” we should all be able to agree that a little Champagne can help brighten and lighten the mood. I hope.

Champagne is usually associated with celebrations and secular holidays, but is so pleasing to the senses and so food friendly, that it really should be enjoyed anytime. Or even all the time, budget permitting. Served chilled, Champagnes and other sparkling wines go with most foods and are generally very refreshing. The wines of Champagne are, of course, known the world over for their brilliance and sparkle, and although other countries and regions have tried to expropriate the name, only the wines produced exclusively in the eponymous French appellation northeast of Paris can rightly be called Champagne.

The climate in the Champagne region is notoriously difficult, so the overwhelming majority of Champagnes are produced from a cuvée, or blend, of different vintages to achieve consistency, and to make up for what nature did not otherwise provide. Only in exceptional vintages, are some vintage dated wines released—so far, there have been no kosher vintage dated Champagnes produced that I am aware of.

The region allows just three grape varieties: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier (the last two are red wine grapes). All Champagne is sparkling wine made from these three grapes, and made in the traditional “Méthode Champenoise” (the Champagne method) – a natural method in which all the wines are made sparkling by way of a second fermentation of the still wine inside of the bottle.

Most often a dry wine, Champagne can be made to varying levels of sweetness. The gradation, from most dry to most sweet runs Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux. Note that whenever purchasing a kosher edition of a Champagne that is otherwise most widely available in its regular non-kosher version, make sure to check for the kashrut certification when shopping outside of a kosher-only store. There are a thankfully increasing number of kosher champagnes available in the US, both mevushal and non-mevushal, and all are delicious. Consider the following examples during this period of political transition:

Champagne Bonnet-Ponson, Brut, Premier Cru, Kosher Edition: This wonderfully fruited, creamy Champagne with fine, intense, and endless bubbles, is a blend of 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent chardonnay, with 30 percent reserve wines blended in for greater depth and finesse. It offers deep aromas and lovely flavors of lemon zest, baked apple, green apple, citrus, peach, and cream, with flaky and buttery pie crust, toasted brioche, almonds, and fresh yeasty bread. Refreshing and delicious. (Available at www.jwines.com 866-567-4370 for $58.27)

Champagne Laurent-Perrier, Brut, Kosher Edition: This first-rate, light to medium-bodied blend of 45 percent chardonnay, 40 percent pinot noir and 15 percent pinot meunier (different from their usual house blend of 50-35-15) is refined and balanced, yet fun and easy, with fine, concentrated, many bubbles, and lovely notes of citrus peel, minerals, and nuts, and all with a lovely dollop of fresh berries in the lengthy finish. This is really superb champagne. (Available at Skyview Wine & Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Avenue, www.skyviewwine.com, 888-759-8466 for $92.99)

Champagne Laurent-Perrier, Cuvée Rose, Brut, Kosher Edition: Strawberry, raspberry, and floral aromas predominate in this delightful medium-bodied sparkler that opens into bright blackberry, cherry, and strawberry flavors. This is extravagant, but excellent, fun, and really lovely. (Available at Columbus Avenue Wine and Spirits, 730 Columbus Avenue, www.columbuswines.com, 212-865-7070 for $74.99)

Champagne Louis de Sacy, Brut, Kosher Edition: This very dry delight is a blend of 60 percent pinot noir, 35 percent chardonnay and 5 percent pinot meunier that opens with scents of lemons, apples, and pastry. Creamy but with bracing acidity for balance, it shows red berry, citrus, and slight honey flavors that lead to a mineral infused, toasty finish. (Available at Sherry-Lehmann, 505 Park Avenue, 212-838-7500 for $59.95)

Champagne Drappier, Carte d’Or, Brut: Opens with citrus, tart apple, and toasty aromas that lead into lemon, stone fruit, red berry, and yeasty bread flavors with accents of spice and minerals extending into a lingering brightly acidic finish. A solid and most enjoyable bubbly. (Available at Beacon Wines, 2120 Broadway, 212-877-1128 for 55.99)

Champagne Pommery, Brut Royal, Champagne, Kosher Edition: This lovely if somewhat fruity blend of one-third chardonnay, one-third pinot noir, and one-third pinot meunier, is full-bodied and offers large, vibrant bubbles, with full aromas of ripe peaches, cream, and toasted white bread, with a flowery something in the background. This is followed by flavors of the same along with some mid-palate raspberry notes, a touch of citrus in the lengthy finish, and all with an appealing earthy quality. Delicious.  (Available at MacAdams Buy Rite, 398 Third Avenue, 212-679-1224 for $38.99)

Champagne Barons de Rothschild Brut Cuvée: A complex assemblage of 60 percent chardonnay and 40 percent pinot noir, with 40 percent reserve wines blended in for added quality and consistency; this is dry, elegant, and restrained with aromas and flavors of green apple, pear, lemon peel, white peach, toast, pie-crust, almonds and hazelnuts, and with a lovely, chalky minerality and wonderfully balancing acidity. Managing to be austere and creamy, focused yet breezy, this is delightful and entertaining now, but holds much promise of things to come with some additional aging.  (Available at Columbus Avenue Wines and Spirits, 730 Columbus Avenue, 212-865-7070 for $79.99)

L’Chaim!

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