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A guide to French Champagne

David Rosentgarten, author of “The Rosengarten Report,” gives tips on the best types to go with our New Year’s celebration — including some that won’t break the bank
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As you prepare your last minute shopping list for your New Year’s celebration, don’t forget the Champagne! Nothing’s better than a chilled bottle of bubbly. But if your champagne wish-list doesn’t include Dom Perignon or Cristal, don’t worries. David Rosentgarten, author of”The Rosengarten Report,” gives tips on the best types of champagne to go with our New Year’s celebration — including some that won’t break the bank.

YOU’LL FIND THAT different Champagnes have different weights, and that this makes a big difference in your enjoyment. Some people prefer lighter Champagne, some prefer heavier Champagne. Here are some differences among major houses:


Besserat de Bellefon, Bricout, H. Germain, J. Lasalle, Jacquesson, Lanson, Larmandier, Legras, Perrier-Jouet.


Ayala, Billecart-Salmon, Deutz, Dom Ruinart, Gosset, Charles Heidsieck, Jacquart, Moet & Chandon, Mumm, Joseph Perrier, Louis Roederer, Pol Roger, Pommery, Taittinger.


Bollinger, Krug, Veuve Clicquot.

A basic Brut Champagne is supposed to be dry — but some are drier than others. Here’s a breakdown:

Drier ones: Bollinger, Deutz, H. Germain, Gosset, Charles Heidsieck, Jacqart, Jacquesson, Krug, Laurent-Perrier, Mumm, Josepg Perrier, Piper-Heidsieck, Pol Roger

Less dry ones: Billecart-Salmon, Nicolas Feuillate, Moet & Chandon, Perrier-Jouet, Pommery, Louis Roederer, Taittinger


Champagne is the proper drink with caviar

Rubbish! Most of the time, the match leaves a sugary-fishy taste in your mouth. Only the very driest and most acidic Champagnes, or the oldest Champagnes, have a chance. There’s a strong psychological bond between the two items — luxury food, luxury beverage — but I prefer vodka or cold beer almost every time. Don’t compromise the exquisite harmony of your Champagne by pouring it over fish eggs.

Champagne is the proper drink with smoked salmon

Another loser. The fish oils of smoked salmon go to work just as the fish oils of caviar do, making the Champagne unpleasantly fishy. Some people recommend rosé Champagne with smoked salmon, but that’s just color-coding. Rosés generally have less acid than other Champagnes, and are usually even less satisfactory with smoked salmon.

Champagne is the perfect compromise wine and can be drunk all through the meal

Well, it can — but, like any other wine, it’s going to go well with some things and poorly with some things.

Great champagne is perfect for dessert, the climax of the meal

I shudder at the amount of great Champagne that gets consumed with wedding cakes and other confections. Yes, it is celebratory to end a meal with Champagne — but if the wine is to accompany dessert you must make sure that it’s a sweeter Champagne, labeled extra dry or demi-sec. Dry Champagne tastes tart and lean with sweet foods.

Champagne is best when it’s young

I say it’s not so — especially when you’re drinking Champagne with food. Young fruitiness in Champagne causes lots of problems for food. As the wine ages, and develops more mellow character, it becomes easier to match with a range of foods.


Salty foods (except salty/fishy foods)

Deep-fried foods

Sushi and sashimi


Egg dishes

David Rosengarten is the author of The Rosengarten Report. You can get more of David’s gastronomic picks by visiting his Web site at