There are several types of Champagne drinker: there’s the college student gussying up a dorm party with a few bottles of André Brut California champagne, which of course isn’t Champagne at all; the “day and night” partier showers under a magnum of Dom Perignon while dancing on the table between poached eggs during Sunday brunch; and there’s Hemingway’s Count Mippipopolous, the type of guy who wears an elk’s tooth on his watch chain and carries his cigars in a pigskin case, who is always in love, who has been shot through with arrows. Among the wisest Champagne drinkers is the sommelier, and we consulted with one of the country’s best: Paul Grieco, owner of Hearth restaurant and Terroir, a wine bar with five locations in New York City. He helped us choose five bottles of Champagne to drink right now — and not just as a toast before dinner.
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Grieco is a widely respected som in the industry and also something of a contrarian, an advocate of under-appreciated wines that pair exceptionally with food, particularly Riesling. What makes Grieco stand out among your average Champagne drinkers is that he sees the wine’s potential beyond just a celebratory drink or aperitif. He’s not splashing back three bottles before dinner and pontificating like Mippipopolous; he’s pouring it with your dinner. And pontificating.
“Champagne is one of those few beverages with unbridled acidity that, with food over the course of a meal, shines”, Grieco says. “I’m treating Champagne like a wine. Therefore the world of Champagne has increased in size exponentially. Not that they need to sell any more goddam wine. Lord and behold, they sell enough throughout the course of the fucking year.”
While most of the Champagne we’re familiar with comes from grandes marques like Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, there’s increasingly more grower Champagne — wine made by the grape growers themselves, who otherwise sell it to the big houses — available in the U.S., often of a quality and value that makes it an intelligent alternative to your Bollinger or Krug. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Krug. “Krug is fucking Krug and deserves our respect — let me just say that”, Grieco says. “I’m sure everyone will acknowledge that.”) Here are five he recommends.