How to Choose and Serve Champagne: 9 Expert Tips

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No other beverage is more associated with special occasions than champagne. Viewed by many as the pinnacle of sparkling wines, the art of champagne making has been perfected in the eponymous French region for centuries. Considering the vast array of labels, selecting the right bottle for the most sparkling night of the year can be a daunting task. These expert tips and suggested producers will help guide you on how to choose and serve the best champagne, whether you’re celebrating in Paris or elsewhere in the world.

A person pours champagne to a flute glass during a party.
Top: Tristan Gassert / Above: Dave Lastovskiy

I’ve often been confronted with this dilemma, so I sought out some qualified advice from Paris-based wine expert Preston Mohr. The Franco-American has given food tours and wine tastings in Paris via his company Paris By The Glass. Preston has a WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Level 4 Diploma and a range of other prestigious wine trainings. In addition to introductory wine lessons, he does champagne-focused tastings in Paris and excursions to the Champagne region. This experience has provided him with impressive knowledge on this divine bubbly. Here are his invaluable pointers on buying the right champagne for any special occasion.

1. Buy several bottles of the same champagne and chill them well in advance

For a large gathering, it’s always best to have multiple bottles of the same champagne (or wine). This allows you to re-serve your guest before they finish their glass, ensuring that you haven’t mixed two different champagnes.

2.How to Choose a Variety of Champagne: Pick Something Versatile

Just like wine, champagne is made in many different styles with varying proportions of grape varieties (typically a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier). If you buy a large maison’s champagne in a non-vintage blend, it will often be composed of all three grape varieties, which gives balance to the champagne and usually pleases the whole crowd. They are often the most affordable, too, and considered the house’s “calling card,” meaning they will taste the same bottle after bottle, year after year. Avoid more specialty champagne styles like blanc de blancs (made only from Chardonnay) or extra brut (very little sugar added). These can be enjoyable, but are often more situational wines and may not suit all palates.

Champagne and Canapes
David Von Diemar / Anna Sullivan

3. Buy lots so you don’t run out!

Your guests may bring bottles with them, but you shouldn’t count on this. Make sure you have enough of your own champagne properly chilled to last the entire party. Your guests’ bottles should be considered a host/hostess gift. It is not required to drink them. Your fridge is sure to be jammed with other goodies at this time of the year, so chances are the lukewarm bottle your friend brought will never get cold enough to enjoy that evening anyhow. Place these bottles elsewhere and enjoy them in the post-party weeks to come.

Left: A beautiful dinner table for 5 that is nicely decorated with green vine leaves and candles; Right: Wine glasses with golden-colored white wine.
Rawpixel / Henry Fournier

4. Serve foods that flatter champagne

Foods that are rich, creamy, and slightly salty all typically compliment sparkling wines. The acidity of champagne and other sparkling wines offsets the richness and keeps you going back for more. Canapés made with puff pastry, mushroom and cream appetizers, seafood snacks with their salty ocean tinge, and rich and silky cheeses all go marvelously with champagne.

A circular charcuterie platter full of cheese, ham, olives, peanuts, grapes, and bread.
Erik Dungan

With the above advice in mind, here is our selection of excellent champagnes to suit different styles and desires, including several hand picked by Preston:

5. Best Champagne For the Refined Wine Palate: Bollinger Special Cuvée

You’re bound to get nods of approval after your wine-loving friends take their first sip of this outstanding champagne, Bollinger Special Cuvée, chosen by Preston and sold all over the globe. “It has an elegant yeasty and biscuity richness that comes from the 5-15-year-old reserve wine (older wines blended in) that’s added to increase complexity,” explains Preston.

Left: A wooden charcuterie platter full of cheese, grapes, dips, and bread; Right: Champagne is being poured in a group of champagne glasses.
Lindsay Moe / Tristan Gassert

6. Best Overall Crowd Pleaser ChamPagne: Pommery Brut Royal

If you’re having a large celebration with a diverse range of guests, Pommery Brut Royal is a reasonably priced favorite that’s guaranteed to delight all and keep the festive ambiance flowing throughout the night. A well-loved classic champagne, the light golden bubbly has mild notes of citrus and a creamy finish.

7. Best Boutique Champagne Brand: AR Lenoble Extra Brut

If you would like to serve a more unique and lesser-known brand, Preston recommends AR Lenoble Extra Brut, now more widely available on the export market. “This is the fruit of a truly family-owned-and-operated champagne house,” he says. “It’s also excellent value for money and extremely balanced and pleasurable to drink, from the beginning to the end of an evening.”

Left: A party table with cakes, cupcakes, and champagne bottles; Right: A platter of shrimp appetizers served in tiny tin pots.
Brooke Lark / Alice Pasqual

8. Best Rosé: Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé

Add a little color to your New Year’s Eve celebration with some beautiful rosé from Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé. Preston’s favorite rosé champagne, this label comes from a lesser-known major champagne house, yet is still widely available. “The pink hue comes from a small percentage of still red Pinot Noir that is added to the blend, adding luscious berry aromas and flavors,” details Preston.

9. Best for a Glamorous Choice: William Deutz Meurtet Parcelle d’Ay 2015

If you’re looking to impress stylish guests, then splurge on William Deutz Meurtet Parcelle d’Ay 2015— a classy champagne in a sleek bottle, cut like a diamond and a favorite of ours. The sublime, light-colored bubbly maintains the perfect balance between powerful and refined.

A platter full of champagne glasses with champagne, ready for serving.
Billy Huynh

As indicated above, most of these champagnes are available outside France. However, if you are in Paris, you should be able to find them at your local cave à vin. You could also make a trip to Dilettante, a champagne-focused wine shop found in the 6th arrondissement.

Wishing you all a beautifully bubbly season!

Written by Lily Heise for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.

WRITTEN BY

Lily Heise

Lily Heise has been living in Paris for more than 10 years. When she’s not getting into romantic mischief, she writes on dating, travel, and culture. Her writing has been featured in Frommer’s Guides, the Huffington Post, Conde Nast Traveler, City Secrets, DK Eyewitness Guides, and other local and international publications. She is the author of Je T’Aime, Me Neither, and Je T’Aime… Maybe? lively novelized memoirs on her romantic misadventures, and continues to share dating tips, stories and travel features on her blog www.jetaimemeneither.com.

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