Proof’s effervescent elixir-loving sommelier dishes on the iconic bubbly and why we should be drinking it every day.
By Kelly A. Magyarics
Say what you will about all the marketed “holidays” out there for beverages (World Malbec Day, National Bourbon Month, National Daiquiri Day, etc.). I for one can get behind any opportunity to raise a glass and indulge in a drink that perhaps has been absent lately from my lips. These celebrations, contrived as they may be, also have the added benefit of introducing newbies to a wine, spirit or cocktail that they may not be all that familiar with. Win-win, in my book.
My favorite drink holiday is a great excuse (not that I ever need one) to pop open a bottle of bubbly. The fourth annual Champagne Day is celebrated this year on Friday, October 25, and I can’t think of a more perfect way to start the weekend. I asked my good friend Jennifer Foucher, sommelier at Proof and an admitted Champagne-ophile, for her picks, pairings and philosophy on her favorite style of wine.
Foucher is originally from Toronto, and both her parents come from the hotel industry. Her father hails from France, and growing up, she remembers wine always being part of the meal. Her family was known to uncork the bubbly for any and every celebration, so early on Foucher gained an honest appreciation for it. She started working in restaurants when she was 18; began working for the Four Seasons Toronto a few years later, and moved to Washington in 2008. She began her current stint at Proof in 2011, and is currently working toward her diploma in wine and spirits from the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust.)
Why She Adores Champagne
I love the bubbles and the acidity. I generally always eat when I am having wine, and Champagne makes me hungry because it is meant to go with food. It’s perfect as an aperitif and hors d’oeuvres and with the main course. Then you can have demi-sec with dessert. Not too many wines can do that; its versatility is underestimated. When you look at wine quotes, most people (like Winston Churchill and Lady Bollinger) waxed poetic about it, not zinfandel or pinot grigio. No brag, just fact.
Favorite Splurge Bottles
I would splurge on a Tête de Cuvée, as I love older Champagne, like a 1985 Krug, 1982 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne or a 1999 Jacques Selosse. Those are really up there as the best wines I have had the privilege to not just taste but drink. Go big or go home.
Favorite Value Bottles
Pierre Peters Cuvée de Reserve NV, which I sell for $95 at Proof, is wonderful. I love Blanc de Blancs as a go-to style. It’s crisp and refreshing, and whets your palate, which is what most acid hounds like us are looking for. Growers’ Champagne (look for “RM” or récoltant-manipulant on the label) can offer great value. You can buy mass-produced Champagne in questionable retail stores for a few dollars less, but you get far less in your glass as quality goes.
I know that Champagne and fried food are the cool pairing — French fries, potato chips, fried chicken — which I do enjoy, but I like gougères with it. You can’t go wrong with pâté a choux with gruyère. When I host parties, I make them as the bite my guests enjoy before dinner. Everyone eats too many, but that is because it takes a lot longer to make dinner while you are drinking Champagne and everyone is so hungry. Rich foods likes carbonara and mac and cheese — basically anything creamy and cheesy — goes great with Champagne.
Champagne is misunderstood. Seen as a celebration wine, it doesn’t get enough love. It also has a reputation for being expensive and it doesn’t have to be. Every wine category has the premium side to it. There are far more expensive cult cabernets and people drink cab all of the time without complaint. It can also be seen just as an aperitif, just something to toast with and then get into the “real” wine. Champagne is real wine, more food friendly than most other options! It is great to celebrate with it, but it is better to drink it because it’s any day of the week.
Every glass I have had with my mom is my favorite memory. She always says, “You can’t have _____ without bubbles,” whether it’s an anniversary, New Year’s Eve, birthdays or any kind of celebration. She taught me that Champagne is meant to be enjoyed, and you don’t need a special reason. My grandmother in France drank it right up until she passed away at age 96. When I was a kid, she bought me Champagne-flavored sorbet because it was served in a coupe!
Proof’s Champagne Day Promotions on October 25
- 2004 Paul Bara Special Club ($20/glass), a richer style that is pinot noir heavy with baked apples, honey and caramel.
- 1999 Pol Roger BDB ($28/glass). This one is 100 percent Chardonnay and all grand cru. It’s developing nicely and showing some toastiness.
- 2002 Dom Perignon ($38/glass). This is quite possibly the most well-known associated with being classic but actually quite diverse in style. The 2002 shows ripe tropical fruits, creamy texture and vanilla.
- 2004 Bollinger Rose ($45/glass), which is extremely complex with a beautiful long finish. It’s pinot noir heavy with floral notes and bright red fruits.
- 1999 Jacques Selosse ($60/glass). A legend. All chardonnay, all grand cru, but extra brut and made in an oxidative style. It’s full bodied, intensely complex, rich and honeyed, with dried fruit and an incredible length. It’s fermented and aged in barrel on the lees for a while, with a minimum dosage because Selosse says, “Great Champagne needs no makeup.”
We just want everyone to celebrate Global Champagne Day. It is all about understanding that these wines only come from Champagne and are unparalleled. Chin chin.
Wine Director Joe Quinn and Sommelier Jennifer Foucher will be on hand at Proof on October 25, pouring special Champagnes by the glass; all Champagnes will be offered at a 30 percent discount.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter @kmagyarics and on Instagram @kmagyarics.