How to choose the perfect bottle of champagne


We chat to champagne expert Clovis Taittinger to find out everything you need to know about choosing the best bottle of bubbly.


1. Champagne is usually seen as a special occasions drink, can it also be paired well with food? If so, can you recommend some lesser known food matches?

Champagne can absolutely be the perfect match for fine food, as it has the quality of lightening the dishes and make them softer. Of course the classical seafood and fish dishes work very well, but you can also take a daring approach and pair a Champagne Rosé and red meat. People also don’t think to enjoy a fine Champagne with premium cheese which can be magnificent. The only problem is that  when we pair champagne with food we run the risk of getting addicted!


Clovis Taittinger, deputy export director for Champagne Taittinger.

Clovis Taittinger, deputy export director for Champagne Taittinger.

2. What are some key terms to use when describing what kind of champagne or sparkling wine you like? Are they similar to wine tasting notes? (ie. Dry/ Sweet, Light/ Full bodied etc)


Describing a Champagne like a wine firstly consists of expressing feelings - so emotional vocabulary is perfectly appropriate. When you are categorizing Champagne you would refer to dryness and sweetness mainly. The body would only apply to Rosé and/or oak aged Champagnes. But the main qualities that are often looked for a sparkling wine are freshness, purity, a good tension/vivacity and light pure aromas.


3. You often see terms like "Brut" and "Demi-sec" on champagne labels. What do they refer to?

That refers to the degree of sweetness, our AOC defines several categories in function of the “dosage” (grams of sugar/liter). The most produced category is Brut, sec and demi sec being sweeter.


4. What are the hallmarks of a good champagne? What should you be tasting for? (People often talk about a 'broiche' or biscuity' flavour -- is that important?)

Flavours will obviously depend on many factors and numerous styles are represented in Champagne region. As for any wine, quality will be reflected by balance, richness of aromas and finish. But we should be tasting for the love and happiness it brings us.


5. If you can't finish a bottle of champagne right away (for reasons beyond me), how long can you keep it in the fridge for?

All depends on the quantity left in the bottle, it can go from 2 or 3 days to a few hours only, with the help of a stopper. Of course the only recommendation we would give is to drink it all!


6. Does vintage matter for champagne?

Most of the Champagne are NV which means that several vintages are blend together, the idea being to reach a constant level of quality from year to year.


Vintage Champagnes are produced to highlight the specificities of a year, which means that with same style you will get different nuances every year. But we are not pushed to create a vintage every year and at some point it was quite rare for us too as we are living in the north part of Europe.


7. Pink sparkling wine -- eschew or embrace?

Embrace of course! "Live la Vie en Rose". But to enjoy it the maximum you should get the right one. We believe in addition Rosé meaning we add some premium red wine to our blends, it gives a unique richness of taste and flavours and gives enough body to make extravagant food pairings which you couldn’t do with any other wine. Make your life more sexy and spicy!


8. Is 'Methode Chamenoise' comparable to 'real' champagne? Taste-wise, is the difference significant?

Methode Champenoise only means that the process used to create bubbles is the same as in Champagne AOC, in any case it does not give you any guarantee on the origin of the grapes, quality of the soil and knowledge of producer - all the elements which really define the style of a Champagne and make is uniqueness. Every region has a specific identity and that is what makes Champagne beautiful. Each one is different and with over 2000 years of history and strong tradition, creating this fine wine can only be partially reproduced elsewhere.