If anyone knows high-end Champagne, it's Francois Vera. As general manager of Pour Vous, Vera pours Champagne — whether by the glass or for bottle service — on a nightly basis. As burlesque performance adds to the Parisian atmosphere of the bar and you sip a glass of real French bubbly, his lounge is a place where the hustle of Los Angeles gets lost in the luxury of the moment.
Officially, Champagne can only be called "Champagne" if it is from the eponymous French region, and it is generally priced accordingly. There are, of course, plenty of lovely alternative French sparklers (look for bottles labeled Crémant) that offer a great bang for the buck. And you can turn to Spanish Cava or Italian Prosecco for a lower-priced choice.
But somehow, when a truly festive occasion arrives, Champagne seems like an appropriate indulgence. That said, the Champagnes offered here are not cheap, but they won't break the bank, provided you are prepared to pay for the experience.
We asked Vera for his suggestions for New Year's Eve Champagnes. And regardless of which you choose, you won't be sorry about sipping what has often been called liquid gold.
Krug Grand Cuvee (retail: $200)
If you are looking for an after-dinner bubbly, then the beautifully balanced Krug is your bottle. According to Vera, it is "almost like a dessert but not as heavy as port wine or sherry. In my personal opinion, [it is] one of the best Champagnes out there. It's a sensual wine [with a] palate that consists of fresh fruits, perfumed aromatics and silky, chalky tannins with a long finish."
Perrier-Jouet Belle Époque 2004 (retail: $160)
Because of the floral and fruity profile here, Vera notes that Perrier-Jouet is "a great choice for chardonnay lovers who are looking for something a bit more refreshing and, of course, sparkling." With elements of lemon zest, honey and peach, it offers a refreshing flavor profile without being too heavy or intense. And, despite what might seem a high price tag, it's a vintage bottling, which makes the price very attractive.
Ruinart Blanc de Blancs (retail: $80)
Blanc de Blancs means Champagne made solely from chardonnay grapes. It's not your typical style, however, with notes of honey, white peach, peppercorn and a bit of ginger. Neither sweet nor dry, it is extremely well-balanced and very rich. Of all the bottles, this is an amazing value for the money.
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Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame (retail: $170)
The Veuve is one of Vera's favorites because, he says, "The remarkable balance and the finish of the wine makes you feel very sophisticated." There's a lot of acid here — green apple, lemon, flower blossoms — and even an undercurrent of smokiness. The balanced acidity lets this bubbly stand up on its own or with food.
Lesley blogs at 12 Bottle Bar, tweets at @12BottleBar and is the author of the book Gin: A Global History. Her book The 12 Bottle Bar, co-written with David Solmonson, was released July 29. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.