New Year’s Eve is right around the corner, which means that Americans are stocking up on their champagne. It is estimated that the US will pour some-360 million glasses of bubbly as the ball drops. In fact, nearly a third of all drinking-age adults will enjoy a sip at some point on December 31st.
But as Alessandra Esteves is quick to point out: some sparkling wines are better suited to celebration than others. The director of wine education for the Florida Wine Academy in Miami is also a Stage 2 Master of Wine Candidate. In other words, she knows a thing or two about fermented grape juice. Champagne, specifically, is a passion of hers. And so she’s quite heartened to observe a marked uptick in sales of the category here in the US…Not just during the holiday season, but all year long.
“We are now the largest export market for champagne in the world,” Esteves tells Forbes. “The fresh, bright acidity also makes it great for [food] pairing.”
When asked for her favorite bottle to pop over the holiday season, she is effusive in her praise of Perrier-Jouët. It’s been a solid year for the famed producer out of Épernay. Perrier celebrated its 211th birthday with the opening of a stately wine bar and cellar in its French hometown. And in November it released the latest vintage of its ultra-luxe Belle Epoque Brut, an annual release stretching back more than a century. The $190 bottle features artwork from Austrian design duo mischer’ traxler, depicting 70 wildlife species native to the vineyards of Champagne.
As stunning as the presentation is, Esteves is even more impressed by the liquid inside, of course. Here she shares her thoughts on why Belle Epoque is so perfect for the occasion. And what to look for in any great champagne.
What makes Perrier- Jouët stand out for you?
Alessandra Esteves: “Perrier-Jouet has a great tradition of quality and elegance, and makes wines that are long lived. I had the opportunity to taste a 1982 Belle Epoque at the Maison and was amazed how fresh and young the wine was.”
Why is the house style so good for celebration?
AE: “Perrier-Jouet produces a range of styles, from mineral lively Blanc de Blanc champagne to ultra complex and rich vintage Belle Epoque rose. The focus on elegance and purity of fruit makes it an easy champagne to sip and savor. And it just instantly brightens your spirits.”
What makes Belle Epoque stand out, in particular?
AE: “[These bottlings are] certainly among my favorite champagnes, both Brut and Rosé, as they are only made in great vintage years and have rich concentration and balance. A few years ago I tried a special edition of Belle Epoque, called Premiere, which had a touch of rose color, notes of fresh flowers and an elegant seamless palate. Unforgettable.”
When you’re not using champagne to toast, how do you suggest pairing it with food?
AE: “I would recommend trying the Rosé with shrimp cocktail, and Belle Epoque Brut with a main course of turkey.”