Friday, December 2, 2011

The Sparkling Season

Happy weekend, friends! What are you up to? Any plans for holiday cheer? We’re looking forward to a little “mingle and jingle” as the Christmas party circuit really kicks into high gear. 

 Carolyne Roehm

Our holiday party season actually starts in mid-November when our friends Bob and Christina host their annual Champagne Party.  

Bob is a gemologist, who also knows volumes and volumes about wine – a pretty good guy to have on your speed dial. Lucky for me, my dear friend Christina married him!  

 The Sparkling Couple

The party started 15 years ago, when some friends who knew of Bob’s passion for wine and Champagne asked him to arrange a blind Champagne tasting. The idea was to sample a range of bubbly from low to high ($15 - $120) to see what they would like best. “The group had so much fun that before the night was over, they told me that I needed to start the planning for next year,” Bob says.  

Style Me Pretty  

Thanks to Christina’s introduction, I was invited to my first Champagne Party a dozen or so years ago, and I haven’t missed one since. 

 Martha Stewart 

The mid-November timing has always been perfect for the bubbly-themed bash. “At some point during the holidays people will generally open a bottle of Champagne,” Bob says. “The party has been a great way for people to find out what Champagnes they like most and is a great way to start the holidays”

 Country Living

In the spirit of getting our holiday social swirl off to a sparking start, I thought I’d ask Bob what he’s learned over the years about Champagne and the way people enjoy it. 
“Bubbly just makes people happy, and it’s a great icebreaker to start an event,” he says. “Champagne puts people in a great mood and they will talk with one another.”

 Style Me Pretty
Bob explains that while most people think of Champagne as a bubbly liquid, they don't often actually take the time to really taste the wine.  “A lot of people only have Champagne for special occasions, so the bottles are far and few between.”  This, he explains, makes it tough to compare the different bottles and get to know what stands out.  

 Style Me Pretty

“Some Champagnes are great food wines,” he says. “Champagne goes great with seafood, rosé Champagne with sushi is a dynamite combination.  I personally feel that people are missing out by not trying more Champagne.”

Bob says that it’s the surprises that make the evening fun. “There are ALWAYS surprises with blind tastings. You will always get an honest answer on how one wine compares to another. Wine labels will sway a person's decision, even if tasted non-blind side by side. People have a perception of quality for some wines based upon the label.”  

Bob points out that if you asked someone if they’d prefer a free glass of Dom Perignon or a free glass of a domestic sparkling wine, the price and perception of quality would typically sway them toward the Dom. But at his first Champagne party, 26 out of 27 people blindly picked the non-vintage Argyle sparkling wine from Oregon over the Dom Perignon.  

“Everyone, including myself was shocked that the group placed Dom Perignon as the worst wine of the night.”

 Style Me Pretty

But it’s actually style more than price or vintage that can have the strongest influence one’s preferences, and champagne can be separated into two general styles—masculine and feminine. 

“A masculine-styled Champagne will generally be fuller-bodied and can have flavors of toast, yeast, dough, breadcrumbs, nuts, and sometimes ginger. Feminine-styled Champagne can be lighter in body, but not always, and will be softer, buttery and creamy in texture, with more citrus fruit and what seems like higher acidity.”

 Style Me Pretty

Our group trends to prefer masculine-style Champagnes over feminine-style Champagnes.  After 15 years of blind tasting, the Champagne house with the best track record is Krug followed by Veuve Clicquot, both masculine-style wines, along with Bollinger and Pol Roger, which have done well over the years, too.  And the least favorite?  “Dom Perignon (extreme feminine) has been ranked in last place twice and has ranked in the bottom three, four out of seven times,” Bob says. 

So what’s his favorite? “If I could have any Champagne in the world and price was no object, I would have to pick the Champagnes from Krug.”  Which makes sense, because Bob prefers Champagnes that are masculine in style and Krug is one of the most masculine-styled Champagnes made. “They are big bodied and bold in flavor, but have a sense of refinement and elegance that lingers on in the mouth long after you have swallowed. In general, they are very balanced and complete wines.”

Bob actually sees it as a bit of a personal curse to love one of the most expensive Champagnes made. “I constantly try to find a Champagne that I like better than the ones produced by Krug, but I keep coming back to my favorite.” 

 Style Me Pretty

That said, Bob believes that regardless of price, the best Champagne is the one that you like the best –and again it comes back to style preference. 

“Generally, if someone prefers a very masculine styled Champagne, like Krug, they will usually prefer an inexpensive masculine styled Champagne, such as Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label at $40, over an expensive feminine styled Champagne like Dom Perignon at $120. The exact opposite is true for someone who preferred the feminine styled Champagnes. They would probably prefer the feminine Taittinger Brut La Francais at $35 a bottle over the masculine-styled Veuve Clicquot La Grand Dame at  $150.”

“Once someone finds out which style of Champagne they have a preference for, they can seek out the less expensive Champagnes in that style and get greater enjoyment from them for less money,” Bob says. 

 Country Living

Thanks to Bob for teaching us all so much about wine, and of course, to Christina, too, for throwing such a fabulous bash every year. For the record, I never like the Krug in the blind tasting. And this year, the $40-a-bottle Michel Arnould Brut Reserve was my favorite, which I guess makes me lucky. 

More money to spend on shoes. 

Do you love champagne? What's your favorite bottle? 

Cheers! Here's to a sparkling weekend!


  1. What fun!!! I love the idea of a champagne party and around the holidays how perfect. I am a champagne girl, could easily have it all the time, as in daily as in an IV drip (Just kidding, well kinda)
    I think this is a wonderful theme for a party and obviously its been a big hit over there for 15 years! Have a wonderful time...and we too are attending a holiday party on Sat. Guess its the kickoff to the holidays...enjoy!

  2. What a fun idea for a party and I agree on the timing - that sets people up perfectly for enjoying/serving/giving their favorite throughout the season!

  3. Wonderful post... so informative with beautiful images. The Champagne party sounds amazing. The season is all about friends coming together and celebrating... even better when the friends are like Bob! Aslo thanks for following and commenting!!

  4. Hey Sweet Girl!

    Isn't it fun to see how the party has evolved through the years? I'm so glad you've been there through most all of it! Thanks for the truly lovely post.

    Merry, merry!



  5. Christina, it is fun to see the party evolve and I think it gets better every year --- just like us, right? Wish I had a photo of us at our 1st bash -- I'm sure our fashion choices were spectacular! Thanks to both of you for my favorite way to start the season!!! XO

  6. One of our favorite holiday traditions and perennial "party of the year", not to mention fabulous friends and champagne! Bob and Christina continue to raise the bar..can't wait 'til next year!

  7. One of our favorite holiday traditions and perennial "party of the year", not to mention fabulous friends and champagne! Bob and Christina continue to raise the bar..can't wait 'til next year!

  8. Wow - Bob is a virtual fountain of knowledge! My favorite bottle is a Nicolas Feuillate Brut Rose and it's not widly expensive... as you say, more $$ for shoes!

  9. What a wonderful tradition - and so completely up my alley. I ADORE champagne and serve it at most occasions. Love all Bob's informative tidbits - and must agree with his love of Krug. Another favorite is Ruinart and I'm also loving rosé lately. Cheers!!

  10. Q.--I was thinking of you when I pulled together this post and knew it would be right up your alley! Bob is talking about making next year's bash an all rosé tasting... maybe you should come out for a visit ;-)
    Cheers to you!

  11. Oh I might just have to come out next year - came back to tell you and Bob that Terry (my compatriot in Wednesday Wines) just sent me this:

    When we were in Paris and Reims with Maggie Henriques the President of Krug she was kind enough to offer the following when the Champagne was released.

    For all you Krug lovers; here it is!!

    2000 Krug Vintage Brut – “Beautiful texture and mouthwatering acidity bolster a rich, nutty undercurrent and layers of quince paste, dried apricot, mineral, lemon curd and fleur de sel. A note of coffee grounds lingers on the subtle finish. Drink now through 2018. 949 cases made.” 94 Points

    $250. per bottle $1300 per 6pk

    2000 Krug Clos du Mesnil – “Rich and layered, with a lovely aromatic accent of dried flowers, cumin and ground ginger notes. The flavors range from glazed apple, crystallized honey, kumquat and dried pineapple to roast almond, brioche and coffee liqueur. Gracefully integrates the complex flavor range with near seamless texture and vibrant acidity that keeps you coming back for another sip. Drink now through 2025. 1,029 cases made.” 97 Points.

    $859 per bottle $4200 per 6pk

    Also in the stable:

    Krug Grand Cuvee $169 per bottle

    Krug Rose $379 per bottle

    Just in case you were interested. :-)))

  12. Thanks Q! I will make sure Bob sees this-- he loves his Krug!

    Merry, merry!

  13. What a fun this idea. Nothing like champagne to kick off the holiday season. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!!

  14. A brilliant way to start the festive season... My favourite... Ruinart....and the rosé champagne for the summer...xv

  15. What an amazing post. I adore champagne and loved learning why I like what I do as well as that I am not alone in finding Dom P odd--it is almost like a whiskey to me. My price range is fairly limited most of the time so I will choose Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé when appropriate. But dear friends of ours (that had a winery for 20 years) turned us on to a crémant that is great for parties--at only around $5 a bottle! Hard to believe but true...



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