New Year’s Eve is the perfect time to Sparkle. And to really sparkle, I mean drink French champagne! I wish I didn’t have to say ‘French’ champagne, because champagne by definition is French, but it seems to be taking a while to get the message through!
Back in the mid- 18th century, Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV, famously proclaimed that champagne is the only drink that enhances a woman’s beauty. It just wouldn’t have had quite the same zest had she said “Mousseaux is the only drink that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it!”.
We have a tradition with some friends of ours to meet on the afternoon of New Years Eve and each chose a bottle from our cellar that best represents the year we have had and the hopes we have for the new one to come. These are usually pretty special bottles that come out, and because there are only four of us, we really appreciate the bubbles that are within. This is the special time we usually break out the Krug or the Pol Roger Winston Churchill, or the Belle Epoque, or the Bollinger R.D. Always a closely guarded secret until we are together, then our elected ‘chef de cave’ does the big reveal – my husband in our case, the wife firmly in charge of the cellar at our friend’s place. We are never disappointed, and it doesn’t matter what New Year’s Eve function we have on afterwards, we have our palettes seasoned for the night ahead. Often the magnificence of what we have shared together means that we don’t want to drink anything else for the rest of the night – scared that beauty that is lingering in our mouth won’t last.
This year we will have to delay our tradition as they have gone to celebrate the very safe arrival of their first beautiful grand-daughter overseas. It will be the first time in about 5 years that we haven’t shared this beautiful moment with them, but good things are worth waiting for!
So it seems to me that it is a good time to write a guide to help everyone choose what they will drink, and at the same time help me with my choices!
Tasting the Stars Guide to Choosing New Year’s Champagne
For small groups of 6 or less champagne lovers
This is the perfect time to pull out the big bottles. Knowing that you only get about 6 serves of champagne per bottle, you really want to share your best bottles with those who appreciate it and at the same time make sure everyone gets a decent sized serve! Some wonderful Vintage champagnes that are still available through retail are:
Bollinger R.D. 2002
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé 2005 Hummingbird
Pol Roger Winston Churchill 2000
Mumm Cuvée R. Lalou 2002
Krug Vintage 1998
Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 1995
Billecart Salmon Blanc de Blanc 1999
Vilmart Coeur de Cuvée 2005
Any of these or any other older vintages would be more than sublime, but harder to buy retail right now. This is where the beauty of a wine cellar to store wines (if you have the patience) comes into its own. A good tip is to always by 2 or 3 bottles of any special champagne – one for now and one for 5 or 10 years down the track!
For medium sized groups up to 20 champagne lovers
You would probably need to get a couple of cases to cater for that many people if all they were drinking was champagne. But, that being said, champagne lovers would really appreciate some of the more easier to obtain vintages now available. And nothing sets the tone of a party like vintage champagne! Why not set a budget and ask each couple to bring a champagne from your list?
Moët et Chandon 2004
Canard Duchene Authentique Vintage 2006
Louis Roederer 2008
Pol Roger 2004
Gosset Grand Vintage 2004
Veuve Clicquot Rosé 2004
For the revellers (more than 20)
When you have a big party, it is still possible to have some decent non-vintage champagne on hand without breaking the budget. The following is a list of what I have found available in Australia at less than $50 a bottle (sometimes less than $30!) and are all wonderful ‘party’ champagnes.
Moët et Chandon Brut Imperial N.V.
Piper Heidsieck N.V.
Mumm Cordon Rouge N.V.
Aubert et Fils Brut N.V.
Taittinger Brut Reserve N.V.
Lanson Black Label N.V.
Champagne Duperrey N.V.
Veuve Monsigny Premier Cru N.V.
I hope this helps! It is by no means definitive. At least the research stage should prove to be very fulfilling! It’s worth looking around and trying to budget champagne into your celebrations. For starters, it is usually cost prohibitive for most people to over indulge. And secondly, even if you are one of the lucky ones who can sip it all through the night, you won’t be left with the horrible hangover effects of other alcohols!
May your New Year be filled with bubbles of laughter, good health, happiness and magic moments shared with friends!