Welcome to Pick Your Poison, wherein the world’s best bartenders help stock your bar, one spirit at a time.
You’re gonna need to pick up a bottle (or two, or three) of Champagne this year.
And yes, you should start thinking about it now. Because you probably haven’t been thinking about it properly.
“Champagne has been depicted historically as a celebratory beverage, and I think that’s appropriate,” says Rafael Sanchez, the Wine Director at Addison — Southern California’s only AAA Five Diamond restaurant. “However, Champagne is, first and foremost, a wine. And when you think of it as such, you’ll see the dynamic range of styles, textures, and flavors that you can use throughout a meal.”
A certified Sommelier, Sanchez was also the former manager of POP Champagne Bar in Pasadena. The man knows his bubbly, and he wants to help you elevate your tastes beyond whatever bottle you usually like popping at 11:59 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
Which means he’s an admitted “proponent of pushing the envelope with Champagne pairings.” At Addison, Sanchez recently hosted a Krug dinner where all six courses were paired with different vintage champagnes. (The pairing that stood out? A 2004 Krug with aged Comte and a curried currant confiture.)
But don’t be scared. Below, Sanchez outlines bubbles perfect for all occasions, from those looking to save a few bucks to one great for sparkling wine cocktails — and one where money is no object.
Budget friendly: Champagne Bernard Remy – Carte Blanche NV
“This entry level brut is a classically styled Champagne. It has beautiful toasty notes, as well as some bright citrus on the finish. This will fit most people’s idea of what ‘Champagne’ tastes like. And it’s very affordable.”
Champagne Cocktails: Laherte Frères – Ultradition Rosé
“I love Champagne and Champagne cocktails. I especially love them with a Rosé base. This is relatively affordable for a small production artisanal producer, and with great flavor. What I love the best is that the dosage is low. So, when you add a sugar cube it doesn’t get too sweet.”
When money's no object: Krug
“If you’re looking for something really special and unique, it has to be Krug. No one has higher standards and a more rigorous process in Champagne. Look for two very special bottlings, their Clos du Mesnil Blanc de blanc and the Clos d’Ambonnay Blanc de Noir. 100% Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, respectively.”
For a non-Champagne alternative: Parigot - Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc Tradition
“This sparkling wine comes from the burgundy region, so it doesn’t carry the ‘Champagne’ designation. Instead the term ‘Crémant’ appears on the label. You will see this work when you find a traditional method sparkling wine from France that is not from Champagne. This has beautiful richness with juicy fruit flavors on the finish. And, you can buy 2-3 of these for the price of a solid Non-Vintage Champagne.”
For a winner no matter what: Jacques Selosse
“This producer is the father of biodynamic farming in Champagne. He makes singular wines with incredible passion and drive. He’s known for a distinctive style of wine. Implementing oak barrels, he strives for an oxidative style that is not for everyone. To get to know his style, first start with his ‘Initiale’ bottling. Then graduate to his ‘Substance,’ lieux-dits and vintage Champagnes. This may make an appearance on New Year’s Eve at Addison.”