Champagne and cold weather may not be something you immediately associate BUT depending on where in the world you live, it can be cold for months and months.
To help you get through the season, I have drafted my top five winter champagnes… because no one wants to live without champagne for too long!
My top five winter champagnes
The colder weather most commonly brings the heavy red wines out of the cellar, winter months also beg for heavy champagnes, full of pinot noir or Meunier grapes, loaded with reserve wines and aged in barrels. Catch up on the three grapes used to make champagne – pinot noir and meunier (both red or black) and chardonnay (white).
And so, here are my top five Winter champagnes… perfect to bust out in the northern hemisphere from December to March.
1. Bollinger Special Cuvée
Bollinger is the perfect place to start this list of winter champagnes. The Bollinger style is timeless and distinct, characterised by full-bodied richness, complexity, power and robustness. Technically, the pinot-heavy blend contains up to 60% reserve wines, 40% of which is famously fermented in oak barrels and produces a complex and rich wine, perfect for warming up on cold nights. Below is an image of the famous barrel room at Bollinger, where they have the most barrels of any producer in Champagne.
60% Pinot Noir
Dosage: 8 to 9 grams per litre up to 40% reserve wines, some of which have been aged in magnums for 5 to 15 years.
You can buy the Bollinger Special Cuvée at Dan Murphy’s for about $80.
2. Philipponnat Royale Réserve NV
Philipponnat has a very distinctive and individual style and is located in the heart of a region that arguably produces the best pinot noir grapes in all of Champagne.
Its blend brings the structure and body and full fruit flavours from mostly the pinot noir, while the chardonnay brings some freshness and minerality.
Philipponnat Royale Réserve NV is made using the solera technique for its reserve wines. Stick with me while I explain what that means and why it makes this champagne a perfect winter cuvee. Solera technique involves using a giant tank of reserve wine. Each year at bottling, some of the reserve wine from the tank is used and blended into the house’s NV champagnes. And after harvest, more wine is added back into the tank to ‘top up’ what has been used so the tank is perpetually refreshed or replenished, giving the effect of aged wines but without any loss of freshness.
65% pinot noir
5% pinot meunier
25-35% solera technique reserve wines
3. Laurent-Perrier Brut Rosé
I love rosé champagne and usually characterise it as the perfect Spring or summer champagne. So why do I have a rosé in my Winter champagne list?
Because this is no ordinary rosé. This is the rosé champagne I pour for red wine lovers who don’t think they like champagne and certainly not rosé.
The house of Laurent-Perrier is a BIG champagne brand (in fact the 5th highest selling house) but this is a rosé with a twist. It is 100% pinot noir, aged on lees for five years, and made with the maceration technique (Read more about the technique here) but the result is a stunning, fully developed champagne.
This wine can handle almost any food pairing – the house even suggests (or dares) you to serve it with spicy Asian or Indian – as well as the colder months if you are not quite ready for red wine but want to warm up with some devastatingly pretty and equally punchy pink bubbles. A great winter champagne.
4. Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 2004
Another rosé for the list.
Madame Bollinger agreed to a Bollinger rosé under one condition, it had to be extraordinary. And that is how La Grande Année Rosé was born.
The unique blend lies somewhere between a great vintage champagne and a red wine from a unique plot, the legendary Côte aux Enfants.
I remember the first time I tried this champagne and all I could think of was liquid Christmas cake.
Blend of the 2004 vintage
68% Pinot Noir
16 crus: 89% Grands crus, 11% Premiers crus.
6% red Côte aux Enfants wine. Vintage 2004 gave beautifully wine-like champagne, with pleasant hints of a great Pinot Noir.
Cellar aged for 8.5 years on less
8 to 9 grams per litre dosage
5. Ratafia de Champagne
This isn’t a specific champagne but more like a style of champagne that is truly perfect for winter because ratafia tastes nothing like champagne.
I find it to be sweeter (but not overly) and more syrup-y… on my first try I thought it tasted like a light port. And I say light because it’s only 17 or 18% alcohol and the French actually serve it chilled as an aperitif or with dessert at the end of a meal.
Ratafia de Champagne is a grape based spirit they make in the Champagne region.
The word ratafia comes from Latin Rata Fiat meaning it is ratified. A traditional spirit made in Champagne from the must of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.
The must (which is grape juice) that goes into Ratafia comes from the third or fourth press. The first two presses are used to make champagne, although many producers only use the juice of their first press (the cuvee) for their wines and sell the juice from the second press (the taille) to larger houses. The third and fourth presses are called the rebeche (which sounds like rubbish when the French say it!)
The most likely place you can order Ratafia in Australia is from Emperor… they currently stock Chevreux-Bournazel Ratafia for $69 but earlier this year I ordered a bottle of Cédric Moussé Ratafia La Vie en Meunier to get my through winter in Australia.
Do you have a winter go-to champagne? If you are warming up with a heavy champagne this winter, make sure you post a pic and tag @bubbleandflute #happychamper #winterchampagnes e
Bubble & Flute promotes the responsible consumption of alcohol for individuals of legal drinking age in their country. Prices and links are given as guides and correct at time of writing.