Champagne Wishes For Your Holiday Party

By Fabiana Santana

champagne-goldThe holiday season is finally upon us and while its most famous for mistletoe and gift guides, what we single ladies love most about it are the parties! Whether it’s an office event, family get together, or end of the year bash, the opportunity to make merry for a night is always an invitation to accept!

Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan is an acclaimed wine and spirits educator, whose engaging presentations combine wit and sophistication. She excels in helping consumers, restaurateurs and business people understand, purchase and enjoy wine and champagne. Jennifer is one of a select few in the country to hold both international wine credentials of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Diploma (DWS) and Certified Wine Educator (CWE) by the Society of Wine Educators. She has completed her Master of Wine dissertation and is the fourth woman in the country to ever obtain the title of MW. Jennifer is the National Champagne & Wine Educator for Remy Cointreau USA, so when we were in charge of bringing the bubbly to a festive fete, we knew just who to call for advice.

“First of all, in order to choose something to bring to a party, you have to consider the guests,” she says. There are usually three kinds of party guests:

Satisfied sippers – They don’t care what it is, as long as it has alcohol. Don’t waste money on the good stuff for these guys. They will be happy with a $10 bottle of prosecco or cava.

Guests you want to impress – Consider what this group likes and go in that direction. People done know a lot about champagne –they will explore burgundy and Merlot – but not many wine lovers will go the lengths to learn about sparkling wine. So for this group, get a brand that is recognized. Especially in this kind of an economy, people want brands they can trust. So give it to them.

Cork dorks – These guys really want something different – the conversation piece of the night. Maybe try something unique or different with this crowd. Charles Heidsieck champagnes are a good one to bring out with this crowd. There are not many here in the United States, so it is a brand that is not everywhere, even thought it is really well known.

After you have thought about guests, think about price.

“This year, the name of the game is value for your money. So decide if you want to spend $45 on one bottle of Charles Heidsieck or $30 on three $10 bottles of wine,” Jennifer suggests.

Ask questions of the wine buyers and sommeliers at restaurants. “I always ask because these are the people who have tasted the product recently, so they can tell you how it is opening.”

If you happen to be the evening’s host, make sure you are serving champagne properly. “Most people serve it way too cold. It’s a bottle that has been in the fridge for months and is just too cold to drink.”

Drinking at the wrong temperature can force the wine to taste acidic or prevent you from smelling the right aromas, so if you are storing your wine in the fridge, take it out about 30 minutes before serving so you can bring it down in temperature. “The perfect temperature to serve champagne is about 45 or 46 degrees Fahrenheit. So cold, but not freezing.”

Now that you know what you are drinking, figure out what you are eating.

“I like to have French fries with champagne because the potato has a creaminess that can bring gout the nuttiness in the wine. And the fattiness can cut the acidity of the champagne,” says Jennifer. Things like pignoli nuts or sun-dried tomatoes will enhance the flavor, too, so try to choose recipes that include them. “Also, any hot horderves that are pastry based are great, like mini quiches.”

Avoid sauce based snacks like BBQ sauce drenched meat; it will make your champagne taste sour and alcoholic. “And no chocolate! Chocolate is both sweet and it has bitterness. So while it may feel luxurious to eat chocolate with champagne, your cork dorks will not appreciate it at all! It makes the champagne taste sour and is just a terrible pairing,” said Jennifer.

One last dilemma – what if you don’t know your guests that well?

“Go sweet,” she says. The majority of the people who drink champagne for the holidays expect to toast with something sweet. “Sweeter champagnes, like a demi sec, are ideal for a crowd that prefers the cheap and cheerful drinks. Most grandmothers are sweeties.”


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