Michael Edwards, author of The Finest Wines of Champagne: A Guide to the Best Cuvées, Houses, and Growers, suggests Champagne pairings for each course in a New Year’s Eve feast.
Champagne is the ultimate pre-dinner restorer. Its restrained exuberance—white flowers, citrus and orchard fruits, a dancing effervescence—make the best palate-reviver for fresh appetisers and canapés. At a recent dinner in New York, I immensely enjoyed a raw bar of oysters and Nantucket Bay scallops with an extra-brut (bone-dry) Chardonnay champagne, the Cuvée ‘R’ of Veuve Fourny, a family of fine growers at Vertus on the Cote des Blancs. The mineral flavours of these chalky soils matched the saline sea flavours of these bivalves perfectly. Or you could have gone for gougères (fresh-baked cheese choux-pastry buns) or played it safe with caviar and blinis. Here my favourite Grande Marque Champagne, Pol Roger Brut Réserve White Foil—delicate, subtle, yet generous—was just the ticket.
With fine fish cuisine, touched with a subtle richness, something more complex is called for. Here, sea scallops lightly cooked with a nage of Champagne and leeks has enough character to match the intensity of Chardonnay flavours in a great vintage, such as Fourny’s Brut 2002, which like their Cuvee ‘R’ is now widely available in America through Kermit Lynch Associates—and at a much keener price than a similar blanc de blancs from a big house. Post-Thanksgiving and Christmas appetites might then be revived by light game, as a change from turkey and goose. So how about roast quail stuffed with cepes mushrooms and chestnuts to go with a fuller, Pinot-led Champagne? The most original candidate would be the Jacquesson Cuvée 733, a medley of mouthfilllling Pinot Noir and Meunier flavours, brilliantly lightened with top-grade Chardonnay. A stunning alternative might be the spendidly vinous Veuve Clicquot Vintage Réserve Rosé 2002, which is a much deeper and more serious wine than the average charge of the pink brigade. Onto cheese, especially the powerful Burgundian Epoisses, the one Champagne I know which would not be upstaged by this assertive grand fromage is Jacquesson’s Terres Rouges Rosé 2003, which is really a red in all but name, its intense ruby colour created by seeping the black grapes in the pressed juice for a few days rather than the easier Champenois method of adding a little red wine to colour a white Champagne. Finally, to end the dinner, on a refreshing note, may I suggest maybe a Champagne sorbet with red berries and an apricot mousse. Here for grace and beauty, Fourny’s Rosé, would be a suitable finale and you could keep a glass to toast in the New Year.