Every year, I think of ways to make each year’s holiday dinner celebration extra special. I strategize, research and mull over new side dishes, decorations, place cards, linens…paying special attention to the beverages. Perhaps this year I will try new pairings?
For this tasty question, I turn to my friend, Ruth Frantz, President at Henri’s Reserve Family Estate Champagnes, a curated e-boutique of exquisite artisanal French Family Estate Champagnes — a hot, hot, hot foodie topic these days!
Ruth offers a gem of an idea – an oh-so decadent, never-to-be-forgotten Champagne dinner! Pairing Champagne with courses, just as one would with other wines, we call this holiday dining “chateaux style.” Please enjoy Ruth’s advice (I know I will!)
First a quick explanation of the term “Family Estate Champagnes.” Unlike mass produced operations, such as Moët and Veuve Clicquot, which produce millions of cases a year, Family Estate Champagnes reflect the terroir (complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced) of France’s finest private estates, the artistry of the winemakers, and the legacies of the families behind them.
Family Estate Champagnes are the darlings of the world’s toughest wine critics and sommeliers. Just as the culinary world has focused on locally sourced, artisanal cheeses, and micro-brews, Family Estate Champagnes are for those ready to graduate from the mass produced to the seductive and delicious treasures.
These Champagnes are featured on the wine lists of five star restaurants (such as French Laundry, Per Se, NOMA, Eleven Madison Park, among others) and rarely make more than 5,000 cases per year — with just a fraction of those making it to the U.S.
For this season, Henri’s Reserve offers three exquisite Champagne pairing recommendations to complement traditional holiday favorites. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Create a Show-Stopping Menu with Champagne Pairings
“Apéritif” is a French word derived from the Latin verb aperire, which means “to open.” An alcoholic beverage served before a meal to stimulate the appetite, an apéritif is therefore dry rather than sweet. Champagne is a quite suitable and delicious choice for an apéritif.
For our Champagne apéritif, Henri’s Reserve suggests a light, delicate Blanc de Blancs (made with 100% Chardonnay grapes and pronounced blahnk duh blahnk). Pair with caviar, Foie Gras, Oysters, Salmon and/or sharp cheeses such as Parmesan.
Recommendation: Guiborat Blanc de Blancs ($60). All you would ever want in a blanc de blancs …crisp, with a fine, heady mousse and delicate citrus flavors – an exquisite Champagne for celebrating the holidays! (100% Chardonnay grapes)
The Fouquet family has farmed deep chalk 8 hectares in Cramant since 1885 – by hand until this day. At the helm now is 5th generation Richard Fouquet and his wife Karine (though if you were to visit you may find his grandmother keeping a watchful eye – in her mid 90’s and sharp as a tack!).
For the Main Course, serve a rich, full-bodied Rosé Champagne. Not only will it look incredibly festive, but it beautifully complements the “complex” flavors from turkey to cranberry sauce to sweet potato pie. Should you venture away from turkey, Rosés are also perfect with duck, quail, filet or game.
Recommendation: BilliotRosé ($65). We first discovered this treasure with Peter Liem, the Champagne guru’s guru, who names it one of his most favorite rosés in all of Champagne. It is 80% Pinot Noir & 20% Chardonnay – rich, full-bodied and deliciously fruity – an exquisite complement to the complex flavors of holiday meals.
The Billiot estate is in Ambonnay, the famed Grand Cru village of the Montagne de Reims. Their 12 acre vineyard produces less than 4,000 cases a year. Today the House is led by Serge Billiot, who insiders say cultivates a playful mystery about his craft – with no secrets shared. But, soon we will have a woman at the helm of this great House. Serge is slowly turning over the estate to his lovely daughter, Laetitia. We anticipate great things from her!
For a truly decadent dessert finale: pair a Demi-Sec Champagne (Champagne with a hint of sweetness) with pumpkin pie and/or other sweets.
“Lively richness from the additional dosage yet never loses its essential minerality and sheer brilliance.” – Robert M. Parker, Jr. (of The Wine Advocate 100 point rating system fame)
Recommendation: A. Margaine Demi-Sec ($60), A hint of sweetness from 90% Chardonnay & 10% Pinot Noir.
generation of his family to work these vineyards in the Mogntagne de Reims. Arnaud prefers to make decisions in the cellar based on what he feels the wines need, rather than what was done in the previous year. Villers-Marmery is an anomaly in the Montagne de Reims region, an island of Chardonnay in a sea of Pinot Noir.
Make Thanksgiving easier this year! Consider M. Henri’s Reserve Estate Champagnes “Dinner is Served” package, in which many of these delicious recommendations are offered – 2 Blanc de Blancs for apéritifs, 1 Rosé for the main course, 1 Demi-Sec treasure for a decadent dessert finale. (The package is $250 and serves 6-8 guests. Champagnes are also available separately.)
For our Champagne Connoisseurs: When placing your order, use coupon code “Bettie” for complimentary upgrade to 2-day shipping. Click here. For guaranteed delivery by Wed., 11/25, please place your order on or before Sunday,11/22.
Here’s to holiday dinners to remember! Santé! To your health!
Images provided by Henri Reserves Family Estate Champagnes