Last week’s presidential election reminded me of a famous quote attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte: “Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it.”
Champagne is usually associated with celebrations and secular holidays, but is so pleasing to the senses and so food friendly that it should be enjoyed anytime. Served chilled, Champagnes and other sparkling wines go with most foods and are generally refreshing.
The climate in France’s 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. I’m not aware of any kosher vintage-dated Champagnes.
The region allows just three grape varieties: chardonnay, pinot noir, 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) — in which all the wines are made sparkling by way of a second fermentation of the still wine inside of the bottle.
Most commonly 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. Whenever purchasing a “kosher edition” bottling of a Champagne that is otherwise most widely available in its regular nonkosher version, make sure to check for the kosher certification when shopping outside of a kosher-only source. There are an increasing number of kosher champagnes available in the United States and all are delicious. Consider the following examples during this post-election period:
Champagne Bonnet-Ponson, Brut, Premier Cru, Kosher Edition ($65): 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.
Champagne Laurent-Perrier, Brut, Kosher Edition ($80): 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, endless bubbles, and lovely notes of citrus peel, minerals and nuts and all with a lovely dollop of fresh berries in the lengthy finish.
Champagne Louis de Sacy, Brut, Kosher Edition ($65): 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.
Champagne Drappier, Carte d’Or, Brut (in the $50 range; mevushal): 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.
Champagne Pommery, Brut Royal, Champagne, Kosher Edition ($40): 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. L’chaim!