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The Champagne Guide
Whether for an aperitif or a drinks party, Brut or Vintage, coupe or flute, make sure all your festive occasions sparkle with our Champagne guide from our expert, Harrods Wine and Spirits Buyer, Edward Gerard.
And with seasonal offers across Harrods' Champagne from 3rd November - 30th November, stock up on your favourite bubbles with Edward's Top 5 must-haves below.
What To Consider When Buying Champagne...
We have a large range available within the Wine Rooms in the Lower Ground Floor at Harrods, and certainly have something to satisfy all palates.
When it comes to festive entertaining, the big demand will be for the larger brands such as Veuve Clicquot and Moet et Chandon, however we would highly recommend trying other top quality houses such as Charles Heidsieck and Piper Heidseick, both of whom produce fantastic NV Bruts that over-deliver on the palate.
As for different tastes and flavours, if you're after an elegant style then go with a Blanc de Blanc and for this, I would steer you towards Ruinart Blanc de Blanc, our own Harrods Grande Reserve or at the top end Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne. If you're after a richer style, then the Pinot Noir-dominated blend from Bollinger is always a good choice and tends to pair well with most festive canapés, as is the superb Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois. There is also the Vintage Champagne category, which always tends towards the bolder styles.
What Are The Best Vintages?
There have been some superb vintages over the last few decades but for the greatest complexity and richness go with 1996, 2002 and 2006. If you're after finesse and elegance then 1995, 2004 and 2005 are all fine examples; should you want an opulent style then the atypical 2003 vintage is one to search out.
The Perfect Glassware...
In terms of best glassware, the historic coupe is making a return among the fashionistas but actually does nothing good for the wine and, in fact, is detrimental to the intensity of bubbles. Conversely the more modern flute is perfect for retaining the bubbles, but does not allow the wine to express its full flavour - this is why glass-makers are tending to produce wider styles of flutes. Our favourite is the Zalto Champagne glass - you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.
Champagne is very susceptible to bottle variation if stored badly and at Christmas the market is flooded with 'Grey Market' stock. For assurances stick to traditional retailers and merchants and be wary of deals that look too good to be true.
Unlikely as it might be that you would need to store an open bottle of Champagne, if it is necessary then it is imperative to use a proper Champagne stopper. This will help keep the wine fresh and as many of the bubbles contained as possible. There is yet to be a perfect solution to this scenario so I recommend having few half bottles at home for the occasions when you just want a couple of glasses. My pick of our half bottles is the Gosset Grande Reserve which truly over-delivers on every occasion.
I have always preferred to drink my Champagne unhindered by making it into a cocktail. However, I can occasionally be convinced into a Kir Royale, and for this you need a top quality Cassis - look no further than the epically good Joannet Creme De Cassis. Use Cassis sparingly when making a Kir Royale, there should just be enough Cassis to coat the inside of the glass with a light film before you add in the Champagne.
My Top Five:
N.V. Harrods Grand Reserve – simply put, this is exceptional quality for the price and as it is a Blanc de Blanc its elegance makes it the perfect aperitif. Or you can pair with shellfish.
2005 Charles Heidseick Brut Vintage - This has great depth, balance and richness but also a lovely freshness that you come to expect from Charles Heidsieck. A great pairing for the majority of fish and white meats but could also handle all festive canapés.
N.V. Gosset Grande Reserve Brut - A stalwart for many of us in the trade, this never fails to impress. It has the depth of flavour to pair with more robust dishes such as pheasant and pigeon.
N.V. Billecart Salmon Rose – Again another favourite among the trade, this delivers great value for money in the Rose category. Try this with a roast loin of venison and you will be amazed at the results - the best pairing for venison I have ever had was Krug Rose but that puts the cost of the meal up considerably!
2005 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne* – I have never failed to be impressed with Comtes de Champagne and their 2005 is no different. The elegance is evident from the first encounter but it is the depth and complexity of the mid palate that is so impressive here. I would normally enjoy this as an aperitif but if you were to serve it with lobster or even a roast chicken you will be in for a treat.
*Available to buy in-store at Harrods.
Discover more Champagne options in our edit below.