Champagne: an easy and festive holiday gift

Wine can be the perfect holiday gift, especially for those people who have already have everything they need! Bottles don’t take up so much space and specially gifted bottles can make memories of the holidays last a bit into the New Year. I love gifting consumables (specialty foods & wines) as we all live around so much clutter these days.

 

Frédéric Duverger, our resident sommelier of Cook’n With Class Uzes has written a wonderful guide to some other wines to accompany your holiday meals here

 

Since I’ve lived abroad for over 10 years, I often do much of my holiday shopping online and have the items shipped directly. We don’t often think of buying wine online, but this is typically how I order wine, especially for gift giving and even during the year to stock my cellar.

 

With the end of the year celebrations quickly approaching, I will highlight a few websites throughout the world that specialize in shipping wine. I’ve listed my favorite small-grower champagne that is sold at each of these websites.

Champagne Bottles

The small grower champagnes offer a great introduction into the world of boutique winery champagne, one that is overshadowed by the big name brand champagnes that everyone can easily get his or her hands on.

 

The champagnes featured below will be a more special experience, giving a greater expression of the unique terroirs in Champagne. Gifts with a story behind them and ones made with the own two hands of the wine-maker are the best.

 

USA

 

Premier Champagne: http://www.premierchampagne.com/

 

This user-friendly website has thousands of references. I used them last year for much of my holiday shopping and the bottles arrived in perfect condition. There are a few states in the US that do not allow for direct shipping of wine, so please check the list.

 

Preston’s pick: Diebolt-Vallois Prestige Blanc de Blancs, $59.95

 

CANADA

 

Each province has different rules, but the BC wine shipper Everything Wine (http://www.everythingwine.ca/) has a great selection. Amongst the smaller grower champagnes, my pick is:

 

Preston’s pick: Veuve Fourny & Fils Grand Reserve, $65.49

 

AUSTRALIA

 

In Australia, Langton’s (https://www.langtons.com.au/) has an excellent selection of grower champagnes.

 

Preston’s pick: Agrapart & Fils l’Avizoise Extra Brut 2006, $175.00

 

UK

 

Berry Brother’s & Rudd (http://www.bbr.com/buy-wine), one of London’s best wine merchants has set up a beautiful and easy to use website which allows for UK shipping. They also have a great selection of other wines.

 

Preston’s pick: Eric Rodez Blanc de Noirs, £37.95

 

FRANCE & ABROAD 

 

Lastly, I must mention my friend Fanny Heucq’s champagne boutique in Paris, Dilettantes, that ships to many countries in the world! http://www.dilettantes.fr/

 

Their website does not yet accept orders to be sent abroad, but you can either e-mail or call to place an order. And the best part is you do not pay the 20% VAT tax as the bottles are being shipped outside of France!

Trying Champagne

Enjoy!

Preston

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé

There are a few things that can make champagne more festive and impressive than it already is by nature : rosé champagne and magnum sized bottles. Pair them together and your guests are sure to have a memorable evening.

 

I am often asked to divulge my favorite champagne. That is like a parent having to chose a favorite child as each bubbly has its own application and perfect time to be enjoyed and it’s so difficult for me to chose.

 

But if you asked me for my favorite all-around rosé, it would have to be Billecart-Salmon’s Brut Rosé Non-Vintage. I was first introduced to this delicious champagne over 10 years ago by a friend of mine while dining at a Michelin starred restaurant. This is the one sparkler that has found its way onto the better part of top restaurants’ wine lists. It’s become the chou-chou of the fine dining world because of its consistent quality, its ability to pair well with food and its gorgeous pinky-salmony color causes people to go wild!

 

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé NV

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé NV

 

What makes me adore this wine even more are all of the visits I’ve made to the house of Billecart-Salmon in the town of Mareuil-sur-Ay, just north of Epernay. I’ve always been welcomed so warmly by this family-owned and operated champagne house. They make somewhere between 2-3 million bottles a year, which sounds enormous, but in the grand scheme of “big brands” like Mumm, Moet et Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, etc. this is tiny, and in my opinion allows them to keep the quality alive in each bottle. Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé is also a remarkable value for money, retailing for roughly 60 Euros/bottle in Paris.

 

Billecart-Samon Brut Rosé NV

Billecart-Samon Brut Rosé NV

 

What’s also unique about touring their facilities and the family’s most prized vineyard, Le Clos St. Hilaire, is you get to see the entire process from grape to the bottling line, something many of the producers are reluctant to show you.  Many other houses expect us to believe that making Champagne should remain a mystery or that it involves fairy dust or magic. In fact, a visit to Billecart will enlighten even those experienced wine drinkers and show you the high level of technology and precision that making good quality champagne requires.

 

Clos St-Hilaire Vineyard, Billecart-Salmon

Clos St-Hilaire Vineyard, Billecart-Salmon

 

The champagne itself is a delightful and lively blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier with just enough “dosage” (sugar added before final bottling which determines final sweetness) to make it a perfect balance with things like hard, aged cheeses or fish in creamy sauces. The addition of 8-10% still red Pinot noir wine from Champagne region adds to the fruitiness and makes for the gorgeous color.  The complex bouquet of raspberries & kirch combined with the small and delicate bubbles make for an intoxicating aperitif.

 

Rosé champagnes have been increasingly popular due to their festive nature and easy to like fruitiness. Billecart-Salmon, founded in 1818, was one of the first houses to make an excellent quality rosé. Overall, rosés only represent 10% of all Champagne sold. Billecart has become popular throughout the world with their rosé, but they also make an entire range of other skilly-fully crafted wines. Some of which use barrel ageing for some of the wines to build complexity, richness and roundness.

 

Billecart-Salmon Barrel Ageing

Billecart-Salmon Barrel Ageing

Barrel ageing at Billecart-Salmon

Barrel ageing at Billecart-Salmon

 

On a side note, I embarrassingly mis-identified this wine during a blind tasting practice test for my WSET Diploma in London. I was so used to the French “dosage” and had never had in its drier UK version. Yes, indeed, Champagne is tailored to different markets based on consumer preferences for sweetness.

 

You can now find this wine sold at fine wine shops throughout the UK, USA and Australia. Try a bottle and let me know what you think!

 

Don’t forgot that I offer customized private day trips to Champagne where you can visit Billecart-Salmon yourself, along with another house. Please e-mail me for more details! You can see more information here.

 

Santé!

Preston