Champagne’s newfound popularity is prompting pours long after the holiday season in Philadelphia.
Kir, a Burgundian apéritif classically made with one of the region’s white wines—Volvér’s variation subs fruity Spanish cava—was popularized by the mayor of Dijon, who served it to visiting delegates following the Second World War.
Champagne, long known as the quintessential celebratory tipple, is having a bit of a renaissance right now. Rather than being opened to mark great occasions, Champagne is finding itself increasingly consumed like all other wines: As a way to accompany a great meal. Which makes sense, since Champagne is among the most food-friendly of beverages. And with the holidays upon us, this is the perfect time to expand your bubbly horizons.
“You don’t need an occasion to drink Champagne anymore,” says Gordana Kostovski, sommelier at Volvér and Bar Volvér (300 S. Broad St., 215-670-2303). “You create the occasion by actually drinking it.” Whether that means enjoying a glass of Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut with Bar Volvér’s excellent caviar service, or a Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Rosé 2004 with, say, lamb chops from your home grill, the moment is elevated anytime you anoint it with a great bottle of bubbly.
This focus on pairing Champagne with food is something of a new development in the US. “It [has taken] the sommelier, wine steward, or retail sales consultant to suggest and remind consumers about the versatility of Champagne—it pairs incredibly well with so many foods and styles of cuisine,” says Wendy Wolf, sommelier and manager of Paris Bistro (8229 Germantown Ave., 215-242-6200). “Champagne doesn’t overpower the flavor of food, but truly enhances it. When the menu is varied, it can be difficult to choose a red or white that works with all the courses—Champagne is very often the answer. When all the guests can’t agree on a wine, Champagne can usually bring people to consensus.”
Of course, there are plenty of excellent sparkling wines produced around the world, and their merits cannot and should not be discounted. But Champagne, with its centuries-old winemaking traditions and uniquely chalky soils, is in a class by itself. And whether you purchase a bottle for drinking that evening—Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé is a personal favorite of mine—or find a bottle like the Taittinger Comtes de Champagne that will continue to evolve for years to come, the result is the same: a moment that’s elevated, and made infinitely tastier than it otherwise would have been.
And with a Champagne program like the one that Kostovski has created—approximately 120 Champagnes and 40 or so sparkling wines not from the Champagne region—the opportunities for discovery are seemingly infinite. These days, she says, that often means “a lot of the grower Champagnes, certainly the rosés have definitely been a lot more food-friendly, because obviously there’s red wine as the base,” which means they can pair well with a huge range of foods. With a menu as broad and appealing as the one at Volvér and Bar Volvér, that’s a very good thing, indeed.
RECIPE: Kir Pétillant
This cocktail, by sommelier Gordana Kostovski, is crafted with cava, not Champagne. The reason is simple: Cava’s fruitiness lends itself better to the favors of the drink, and it costs less, too. If you choose to use Champagne, however, look for more fruit-forward bottlings like Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label.
.5 oz. crème de cassis (Jules Theuriet, if possible)
.25 oz. star anise-infused simple syrup
.25 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
5 oz. cava (Segura Viudas Brut or another brut sparkling)
Combine crème de cassis, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a Champagne fute. Tilt the glass and gradually straighten while slowly pouring the sparkling wine to the top of the glass.