Parisian Living

How to Choose Champagne for New Year’s Eve

by Lily Heise

A couple clinking glasses of champagne and about to kiss on New Year's Eve (left). Sparklers that spell out '2019' for New Year's Eve in Paris (right).

No other beverage is more associated with New Year’s Eve 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 choose the best champagne for New Year’s Eve, whether you’re celebrate in Paris or elsewhere in the world.

A woman pouring a glass of champagne at an outdoor candle-lit dinner on New Year's Eve.Top: Joshua Chun / Nordwood. 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 been giving food tours and wine tastings in Paris via his company Paris By The Glass for almost a decade. Preston has a WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Level 4 Diploma and has undertaken 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, experience which has provided him impressive knowledge on this divine bubbly. He’s given us these valuable pointers on buying the right champagne for the New Year’s Eve:

  • Buy several bottles of the same champagne and chill them well in advance (several days before). 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.
Two champagne bottles and glasses waiting to be filled for New Year's Eve (left). Baguette canapés on a tray (right). David Von Diemar / Anna Sullivan
  • Choose a versatile style of champagne. 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.
  • Buy lots so you don’t run out! Your guests may bring bottles with them, but you shouldn’t count on this, so 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 and you’re 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.
A beautifully set table for New Year's Eve with ivy set across the middle (left). Glasses filled with champagne for celebrating the New Year in Paris (right).Rawpixel / Henry Fournier
  • 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.
Champagne also goes very well with a pre-desert course of cheese, olives, grapes and baguette.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:

Best 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, 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.

A top shot of a beautifully laid-out platter of French cheeses with chutney, grapes and crackers (left) and champagne being served for New Year's (right).Lindsay Moe / Tristan Gassert

Best Overall Crowd Pleaser: Pommery Brut Royal. If you’re having a large celebration with a diverse range of guests, this reasonably priced favorite is 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.

Best Boutique Brand: AR Lenoble Brut Intense.If you would like to serve a more unique and lesser-known brand, Preston recommends this bottle, 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.”

Champagne can go really well with dessert cake (left) or seafood appetizers (right).Brooke Lark / Alice Pasqual

Best Rosé: Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé. Add a little color to your New Year’s Eve celebration with some beautiful 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.

Best for a Glamorous New Year’s Eve: Vranken Cuvée Diamant Brut Special. If you’re looking to impress stylish guests, then splurge on this 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.

Champagne can be found everywhere in Paris, but we like buying our champagne at Dilettante, a champagne-focused wine shop in the 6th arrondissementBilly Huynh

As indicated above, most of these champagnes are available outside France. However, if you are spending the holidays in Paris, you should be able to find them at your local cave à vin or could make a trip to Dilettante, a champagne-focused wine shop found in the 6th arrondissement. Alternatively, decide which brand is best for you on a private Sparkling Paris & Champagne tasting with Preston.

Wishing you all a beautifully bubbly holiday season!

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Written by Lily Heise for HiP Paris. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, Tuscany, Umbria or Liguria? Check out Haven In. Mention the code: HiPParis18 for special deals and a bottle of champagne with every booking for all HiP Paris readers!

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. View Lily Heise's Website

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