Opening a bottle of fine Champagne on Christmas Eve is one of life’s greatest luxuries. A flute of Champagne is synonymous with celebration and is one of the simplest ways to get everyone in the holiday spirit. It’s no wonder why this wine is a holiday classic: vintages are often meticulously crafted, age-worthy, and storied. A vintage from a top-rated house can spend a decade or more safely tucked away in the house’s cellars before being sold. This means that not only are these wines deeply complex in flavor, but there’s also a certain degree of fanfare that comes with every new vintage release from a renowned house. Every bottle of Champagne is a celebration of craftsmanship. This fact alone makes it worthy of a place on your Christmas dinner table this year.
Champagne is also one of the most versatile wines to pair with food. If you’re ever in doubt about which wine to pair with a complex or unusual dish, chances are Champagne is an appropriate choice. However, although Champagne complements most foods, not every Champagne pairs equally well with every food. To find the best Christmas Champagne to serve with dinner or dessert, consider the style and sweetness of the wine as well as which flavors you want to highlight in the meal.
The Best Christmas Champagne to Serve with Dinner
Some casual wine drinkers and beginner investors are surprised to learn that the right Champagne pairs well with nearly any dish, including hearty red meats that most people ordinarily pair with bold red wines. That’s because Champagne comes in a wide range of styles, from rich and creamy to delicate and floral. Another benefit of serving Champagne with Christmas dinner is that it’s a nice change of pace from the typical choice of Bordeaux or California Cabernet Sauvignon. A dinner host who knows which bottle of Champagne pairs best with a traditional Christmas ham is sure to impress guests, particularly those who appreciate fine wine.
To pair Champagne with fish over the holidays, look for lighter, more floral wines that contrast with the fatty seafood.
The key to finding the best Christmas Champagne is to research tasting notes for each wine in advance—don’t make assumptions based solely on the Champagne’s overall style. For example, not all rosé Champagne tastes as full-bodied and complex as Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé. If you choose a rosé Champagne that is too delicate, then a rich, hearty dish will likely overpower the wine.
Here are a few Champagne recommendations for Christmas dinner:
Roast turkey is a Christmas staple in many homes, and this dish pairs well with just about any type of Champagne. However, a quality rosé Champagne is the best choice because it brings tart red fruit flavors to the table, which beautifully complement any poultry. These red fruit flavors also match the tart fruit notes in cranberry sauce. Cranberries can easily overpower lighter wines, so if you plan on serving a turkey with cranberry, it’s especially important to select a bottle of rich rosé or Blanc de Noirs. Consider:
Champagne pairs surprisingly well with certain types of beef, though not all. Some dishes, like beef bourguignon, are too rich for even the creamiest bottle of Champagne, so a still red wine would be a better choice. Generally speaking, any beef-based dishes that are cooked in red wine or served with a red wine sauce are going to be too intense for Champagne. However, fine cuts of beef like prime rib or tenderloin pair perfectly with Champagne. Any beef that is cooked simply, to underscore the quality of the cut itself, is a good candidate for a Champagne pairing. A rich, full-bodied wine is the best type of Champagne to serve with beef dishes like these. Some options are:
Ham or Pork:
Spiral-sliced ham and pork tenderloin are on the menu in many households this time of the year. The problem with these dishes is that they often have very assertive flavors. Many traditional pork tenderloin recipes involve lots of herbs, while hams tend to be sweet, smoky, and salty. On the other hand, pork is also a relatively delicate meat, so serving a bold California Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t the best choice either. For this type of holiday dinner, rich Champagne that isn’t bone dry will work perfectly. The sweetness in the wine will balance the richness and saltiness of the food, yet won’t overpower the dish, either. Here are a few great wines to serve with ham or other pork dishes:
Lutefisk, Salmon, and Other Seafood:
Some households skip turkey and ham in favor of seafood for the holidays. Traditional seafood Christmas dishes like lutefisk and baked or broiled salmon are rich and oily, making Champagne an ideal accompaniment. Some of the most interesting Champagne pairings are with oily or fried foods, as the Champagne helps refresh the palate in between bites. To pair Champagne with fish over the holidays, look for wines with deeply concentrated fruit flavors and bright acidity that contrasts against the fatty seafood. Two good options are:
Root Vegetables and Squash:
Vegetarian dishes are also perfect candidates for a Champagne accompaniment. Typically, plant-based Christmas dinners are full of dense, buttery squash and starchy root vegetables like potatoes and parsnips. Brut and extra brut Champagnes brighten these dishes, making them feel less dense and heavy. Two good options to serve with a vegetarian meal are:
- 2014 Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Spécial Club Chouilly Grand Cru Brut
- 2006 Philipponnat Extra Brut Les Cintres
If you’re unsure whether your wine will be overpowered by the main course, save it for before or after dinner. A fine bottle of Champagne that’s aged for decades deserves your full attention. You’ll be able to appreciate the nuances in flavor more easily if you don’t have any other flavors distracting you.
This could become a new holiday tradition in your family. You could kick off each Christmas Eve with an aged bottle from your cellar, or open a fine vintage together at the end of the night. In this case, you may want to buy multiple bottles of fine vintage Champagne in advance and keep a number of them in storage between holiday seasons. You could earmark certain bottles for future Christmas dinners, particularly if you know the wine will be reaching peak maturity five or ten years from now. This also makes the holidays feel more special, as you’ll look forward to opening that bottle all year.
However, if you’re just looking for a crowd-pleasing wine to serve with Christmas dinner, consider non-vintage Champagne instead. These wines can still be high-quality, especially if they’re made by top-rated houses, but they’re designed to be more approachable and can be found for less than $200 per bottle. They can often stand up to rich holiday dishes without any of the wine’s character getting lost.
The Best Christmas Champagne to Serve with Dessert
A Christmas celebration isn’t complete until you’ve indulged in a few holiday desserts. Christmas desserts are often rich and very sweet, so the wine you serve should complement these flavors. However, you don’t have to stick with doux Champagne. There are plenty of wines that have a high dosage but that don’t come across as overly sweet on the palate. The key to a perfect dessert and wine pairing is to consider not just the sweetness level of the wine, but also its subtler flavors, like spice, earthiness, and fruit. Here are some of the best Christmas Champagnes to serve with traditional holiday desserts:
Pumpkin or Sweet Potato Pie:
A demi-sec or doux rosé Champagne complements the subtle spice in a pumpkin or sweet potato pie, however, brut rosé can also pair well with these dishes. Many of these rosé blends have a notable minerality and spice which pairs well with baking spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg. Consider:
The best Christmas Champagne to pair with chocolate truffles or simple chocolate desserts (like a chocolate cake) is a fruit-forward vintage. Because chocolate can be slightly bitter, your Champagne choice doesn’t have to be exceptionally sweet to complement this dessert. A brut vintage with a citrusy flavor profile will bring out the sweetness in the chocolate. A good example of this type of wine is:
Biscotti, Shortbread, and Gingerbread Cookies:
Just about any Champagne will complement a shortbread, gingerbread, or other simple cookie, as long as the cookie doesn’t have a thick layer of frosting on top. Buttery cookies pair well with brut or extra brut Champagne, including:
This is a spectacular and rare wine that could be enjoyed on its own, however, if you’re going to pair it with food, a simple shortbread cookie or biscotti is a great option that allows the wine to be the star of the show.
For gingerbread or other spiced cookies, look for a wine that has some subtle spice notes, such as:
As with the Taittinger vintage, this vintage is truly exceptional, so it’s a good idea to pair it with a simple (and not supremely sweet) Christmas dessert, like gingerbread.
Doux and even most demi-sec vintages are harder to find nowadays than brut Champagne. The most popular Champagne vintages are on the dry side because these often have more complex flavors and a greater potential for aging. However, as shown above, even if you can’t locate any quality bottles of demi-sec or doux Champagne this holiday season, you can still pair a great brut vintage with many classic holiday desserts. These wines can either complement or contrast with a dessert in interesting ways to elevate the entire experience.
How to Buy the Best Christmas Champagne for Your Celebration
The best Christmas Champagne to serve with dinner or dessert depends entirely on what your family’s traditional dishes are and the flavors that appeal most to you. Regardless of what your annual Christmas celebration entails, you’ll find the best Champagne by shopping online. Relying on your local wine shop to supply all of your Christmas Champagne makes it much more difficult to compare the flavor profiles of the wines, and your selection will be very limited. Shopping online allows you to compare tasting notes from dozens of different wine critics and select the wines that will complement every course on your holiday menu. Moreover, you can order all of your wine weeks in advance from the comfort of your home, allowing you to skip the holiday crowds. With hundreds of bottles to choose from, finding a delicious Champagne online to serve with this year’s Christmas ham is a fun process that will get you in the holiday spirit.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.