Champagne Tips for the Holidays

© Daniel Krieger
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Newly anointed Master Sommelier Jack Mason believes fervently that the world’s greatest food and wine pairing is pizza and Champagne.

As wine director at New York City’s Marta, Mason has created a stellar Champagne list to go with the restaurant’s cracker-thin, Roman-style pizzas. “Structurally, it just makes sense,” says Mason. “The Champagne has bright acidity that’s very refreshing. When you take a bite of pizza topped with salty cheese and a tangy red sauce, then have a sip of rosé Champagne, it’s just explosive.” He keeps about 50 Champagnes on his list, which is otherwise made up entirely of Italian wines. “I try to offer Champagne at a lower price point so I can get people excited about it—we have 26 of them for under $100.”

The Perfect Pour
First, ditch the flute and choose a white wine glass, which will amplify the aromas and flavors of the wine. Pour one and a half ounces into the glass and wait for the foam to subside; then fill the rest of the glass.

Mason's Favorite Value Champagnes

  • NV J-M Sélèque Brut Tradition ($49)
  • 2008 René Geoffroy Empreinte ($60)
  • NV Laherte Frères Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature ($55)

CHAMPAGNE + PIZZA
Buying a bunch of different pizzas and popping some Champagne is a relatively low-stress way to entertain during the holidays. Here, Mason’s favorite pairings:

Mushroom
“At Marta, the best pairing is our funghi pizza—hen-of-the-woods, chanterelles, fontina and fresh thyme—with a richer Champagne, like an oak-aged Blanc de Blancs or a rosé that’s based on Pinot Noir. We love Paul Bara’s Grand Rosé.”

Meat
“Champagnes that are a bit rounder and juicier are best with meats like pepperoni, soppressata or sausage, which all have a little spice. Look for a riper, red-fruit-driven style of Champagne. I like André Clouet’s vintage bottling—it’s all Pinot Noir from the grand cru village of Bouzy.”

Margherita
“Champagnes that have gone through malolactic fermentation often have creamy flavors that are great with fresh mozzarella. Try the 2004 Laurent-Perrier Brut or Jacquesson’s 737.”

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