Christmas champagne:how to match your fizz to every stage of the festive feast - from canapés to pudding

Champagne isn’t just an aperitif, there’s a fizz fit for every course of the Christmas feast. Here's what you need to know.

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A party without champagne is just a meeting — and who wants a meeting at Christmas? Any get-together at this time of year is poorer without bubbles. But which to buy?

With 15,000 growers and 290 champagne houses in France’s Champagne wine region, it’s a tough call. You need to understand your labels so that when you pop the cork, the flavour will be fabulous.

And remember that while champagne is an excellent aperitif, it can also be an elegant accompaniment throughout a meal.

When it comes to pairing fizz with food, Master of Wine David Hesketh, managing director of Laurent-Perrier, says: “There are no hard and fast rules. Basically, when pairing any food and wine, whatever a person thinks is a good match, is! But I’ve found certain pairings do work better than others.”

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Laurent-Perrier lies in the heart of the grand cru village Tours-sur-Marne, at the crossroads of the three main wine-growing areas of Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs. Founded in 1812, the house has enough tradition behind it, and sufficient styles to choose from, to suit any festive occasion.

The grapes: the three main grape varieties used in the making of champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Chardonnay adds light-bodied wine with high acidity and a floral and citrus fruit character; Pinot Noir gives body and length, the defining structure of the wine, along with red fruit character, while Meunier adds a softer, fruity component.

The bubbles: a second fermentation in the bottle is kick-started by adding a liqueur de tirage — a mix of wine, sugar, yeast, yeast nutrients and clarifying agent. The bottle is sealed and stacked horizontally in cool cellars for six to eight weeks to ferment, raising the alcohol, adding complexity and creating carbon dioxide bubbles as the yeast dissolves.

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For those planning to serve alternative roasts such as veal, duck or venison, this 100 per cent Pinot Noir-based Cuvée Rosé by Laurent-Perrier creates the ideal “sauce” for the meat

WHAT TO DRINK ON
CHRISTMAS EVE

Laurent-Perrier Brut NV
£39.99, Majestic Wine

A non-vintage champagne, this is the house’s most popular wine. Styles can vary from light and crisp to rich, full-bodied and yeasty. With a high percentage of Chardonnay, the Laurent-Perrier Brut is a fresh, light and elegant champagne, making it ideal for an evening with friends, family and a selection of delicious canapés.


WHAT TO DRINK ON
CHRISTMAS MORNING

Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut
£40, Majestic Wine

This is the one morning of the year when you could argue champagne is obligatory at breakfast. Make the right choice, and it’s guaranteed to be the perfect partner for a meal of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, or oysters; serve them with a glass of Ultra Brut to clear the fog from the night before.

The term Ultra Brut refers to the sugar, or “dosage”, in the liqueur d’expédition — a mixture of wine and cane sugar solution that is added at the end of the secondary fermentation to balance out acidity in champagne or sparkling wine and help develop the flavours during the ageing process.

Brut styles can have anywhere from zero to 12 grams of residual sugar per litre of wine, whereas Ultra Brut or Brut Nature is bone-dry with zero-dosage — ie, there’s no added sugar but up to three grams of residual sugar is permitted. Extra Brut, with a dosage of 0-6 grams, lies in between the two.


WHAT TO DRINK
WITH THE TURKEY

Laurent-Perrier Brut Millésimé 2006
£49.99, Majestic Wine

Vintage champagnes are only made in the best years, and from grapes that come from the stated year’s harvest.

Only the best parcels of wine are blended, revealing the house style while also expressing vintage characteristics. By law, they must spend a minimum of three years ageing “on lees” — on the sediment from fermentation — and most benefit from further ageing to develop the pronounced yeasty quality.

The Brut Millésimé is a blend of equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and with more than eight years ageing, this is an extra-special champagne that’s perfect for Christmas turkey or goose. Elegant and complex with ripe stone fruit, toasted almonds, honey and brioche, it has a fresh citrus acidity that balances the intensity of flavour.


WHAT TO DRINK
WITH OTHER MEATS

Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé
£59.99, Majestic Wine

For those planning to serve alternative roasts such as veal, duck or venison, this 100 per cent Pinot Noir-based rosé creates the ideal “sauce” for the meat, with the depth of the fresh, red-berry fruit, more defined structure and firm acidity balancing out the stronger flavours on the plate.

Rosé champagnes are the only wines in the EU that can be made by blending red wine with white. Laurent-Perrier has unusually chosen to use the saignée method of bleeding colour from the dark grapes. The best rosés have a delicate red fruit character, perfect to be enjoyed young.


WHAT TO DRINK
WITH THE PUDDING

Laurent-Perrier Demi-Sec
£40, Majestic Wine

Meaning half-dry or semi-sweet, demi-sec has a higher level of added sugar, from 33 to 50 grams per litre, and is generally a blend of the three different grapes. For an ideal pudding match, the sweetness of the wine has to match the sweetness in the dish.

With lightly honeyed notes, dried fruit, toasted hazelnuts and almonds, this one from Laurent-Perrier pairs beautifully with fruity pastries and crumbles.


WHAT TO GIVE YOUR HOST
AS A GIFT

You can’t go wrong with a gift of champagne. Sipped throughout the fraught hours preparing the feast, it will keep the host’s mood sweet. Laurent-Perrier has a selection of elegant boxed styles, such as the Cuvée Rosé Ribbon Cage from John Lewis. At £70, this is a beautifully designed gift, with rose-gold ribbons wrapped around a “birdcage” containing the wine.

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As a party gift, take the Laurent-Perrier Brut Champagne and Crate, £86, also from John Lewis. This pair of bottles comes with a reusable carrying crate.

 

 


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