Special Wines for Special Occasions: Champagne! It’s Not Just for Giving Toasts! #Winophiles

Special Wines for Special Occasions: Champagne!

For winophiles like me, it’s exciting to find a special bottle of wine for a special occasion. We all have our favorite sources, and we know who we can trust with recommendations. We love going and perusing the bottles and learning more about the wines inside, imagining the pleasures within, especially when we see the Demeter insignia on the labeling indicating that the wine is certified biodynamic. Sue and I love Point du Chene in Ojai which has a nice selection of organic and biodynamic wines made by small producers, and here in Midtown Ventura near my home, there’s a new wine store specializing in natural wine that I look forward to visiting. In Los Angeles, Sliver Lake Wine has a great selection of interesting wines while Wine House LA seems to have everything.   

But sometimes, we’re already on our way to the special occasion gathering when the call comes with a request: “Can you stop by the store and get some Champagne?”

The store, in most cases, is whichever grocery is on the way, and by Champagne, they probably mean a sparkling wine. But sparkling wine could mean it’s from the New World including the US, or a Cava from Spain, a Prosecco from Italy, a Sekt from Germany or Austria, a Cremant from various regions of  France… But the only a bottle of bubbles that says Champagne comes from that region of France. 

Because while sparkling wine can be made from any grape from anywhere in the world:

  • Prosecco is made from at least 85% of the glera grape, and the best is from Prosecco DOCG, a steeply mountainous region in northern Italy
  • Cava can come from anywhere in Spain and is made from indigenous and other grapes
  • Champagne is ONLY from the Champagne region of France and can only use a limited number of grapes

So there you are at the store, looking at the line-up with the tell tale foil and the bulge of the cage that holds the cork in place, and none of them are organic or biodynamic, or have the RM for faRMer fizz Champagne in tiny print, and what does NM mean again? (NM means the wine is a “Negotiant Maker” meaning they buy the grapes and then make the wine).

So you’re trying to decide which Champagne to get when two in red and gold on sale catch your eye: but which one? Is one better than the other? How are they different? The same? That was my quandary so I bought both, and Sue and I set to see. And this month the French #Winophiles group of wine writers led by host Jeff Burrows, are also exploring the wines from this region with some delicious pairings.

Scroll down for links to these #Winophiles Champagne articles as well as a dozen from me along with a recipe for grilled lobster salad which pairs so well with Champagne and is a great dish for special occasions. 

Special Wines for Special Occasions: Champagne

While we often write about wines that are Brut Nature meaning there’s no-dosage or added sugar, in this case we are comparing wines that are

  • Brut: very dry with a bit of sweetness
  • Extra Dry: dry with some sweetness

Why do they add dosage? Champagne is located in the far north of France, and it can be difficult for the grapes to ripen and the wine made from the grapes can be very acidic. For many people, without the dosage, the wine is just not palatable; fortunately, there’s a range of sweetness available, including rather sweet Champagne that is made to have ice added to it (Moet makes one called “Ice” which I bought at one time on sale and have yet to open…)


Rich foods for Special Occcasions Pair well with Champagne like LOBSTER TAILS


  • NV Piper-Heidsieck Extra Dry Champagne
  • NV G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut Champagne


  • Cheeseboard:
    foie gras, bouchon de chèvre, heated St Albans in a crock, triple cream brie 
  • 2 kinds of Sue’s savory cheesy shortbread
  • Crab bisque (made with homemade shrimp stock)
  • Grilled lobster on a bed of Gretel’s salad with goat cheese croton  


NV Piper-Heidsieck Extra Dry Champagne with foie gras and savory shortbread

NV Piper-Heidsieck Extra Dry Champagne 

ABV: 12.0%
SRP: $60; purchased for $30 on sale at Vons 

In The Winemaker’s Wife. Kristin Harmel takes readers back in time to 1940 and deep into  the underground caves which served important purposes during the war:

“No one was who they appeared to be in those days, mademoiselle. The Thierrys seemed to be collaborators, for example, so who would have thought that they were actually working with de Vogüé to undermine the Germans?

“At Piper-Heidsieck, the owners were hiding guns. At Krug, they were hiding pilots.” He tapped the base of Liv’s glass and added, “This champagne represents history, my dear. Heroism. Bravery. The people behind these wines helped save France.” Read more about The Winemaker’s Wife here.

Piper-Heidsieck sources all of their grapes from 60 vineyards to produce around five million bottles of champagne a year. About 50% of the weeds are controlled with herbicides, but no pesticides are used in the vineyards. They are certified for Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne and High Environmental Value (HVE), and they are a certified B Corp. Read more about their environmental commitments and accomplishments here.

Appearance: Light sea foam in the glass, delicate bubbles rise up for the bottom of the glass, pale golden in color

Aroma: Brioche, rich almond paste, marzipan, Granny Smith apples, apple danish, fresh green apple, 

Palate: Tart green apple, almond, marzipan, 

Pairing: Our warm Vermont creamy cheese was a perfect companion with the wine. The classic pairing of foie gras and Champagne works perfectly. The last time we did that pairing was with a glass of Hernriot which was so decadent with the wine. The frio gras was nice but not as nice as when we had it with our glass of Henriot. The goat cheese crouton was amazing with the wine. the mustard vinegarette was a perfect companion with the wine. The bisque was also perfect. The layers of spices were enhanced by the bright rich cutting wine. Over the top was the grilled lobster tail with the wine. 

NV G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut Champagne and Poinsettias

NV G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut Champagne

ABV: 12.0%
SRP: $70; purchased for $30 on Sale
Grapes: 60% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Meunier

G. H. Mumm stands for Georges Hermann Mumm, who, In 1876, draped a red ribbon — a Cordon Rouge–around his bottles, modeling after the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian award, to symbolize the excellent quality of his champagne. In 1881, Maison Mumm replaced the ribbon with an insignia on the label.  The red sash distinguishes bottles today as the color is embedded and indented into the glass of the bottle giving it a distinct shape and texture.  

One of the largest land-holders in Champagne, Champagne Mumm has over 600 acres under vine, with 78% of those vines Pinot Noir.

As Champagne has some of the most polluted water on the planet due to pesticide and other synthetic chemical use in the vineyards, Champagne wine makers say they will stop using chemical herbicides by 2025.

In 2020, Maison Mumm met that goal by implementing a zero-herbicide policy on their 600 acres; keep in mind that most bottles of Mumm wine, like this one, is NM not RM (faRmer fizz) meaning the grapes are purchased from growers who may or may not be close to that goal.

This is similar to Napa vineyards that flaunt “organic” signs by their estate but only some of the wines are actually organic while the grapes they purchase are not. 

Maison Mumm vineyards also hold a double certification for Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne and High Environmental Value and they meet Quality Safety Environment (QSE) standards meaning they respect the environment and employees, but again, this may not apply to their purchased grapes like the ones in this wine. Read more about Mumm’s sustainability here.

Appearance:  Pale gold, very delicate fine pelage 

Aroma: So very French, brioche, apple danish, butter, caramel, silex, flint (like striking a match).

Palate: Soft yet round, delicate bubbles barely tingle the tongue, Granny Smith apple, lemon drop lemon without being sweet, bright acidity, preserved  or fermented lemon. lacking in complexity that is expected for a $70 wine. This is a nice little quaff, but for $70 we expect more than a nice little quaff. 

Pairing: The wine handles the creamy richness and the spice in the bisque; you don’t taste tomato in the bisque, but it brings out an umami richness in the soup that is enhanced by the wine. The breaded and fried goat cheese disc is fantastic –so flipping good. Because the wine is drier, the goat cheese handles and loves the Mumm.

The lobster and the salad is so satisfying together and enhanced nicely by the wine. In every bite the fact that the lobster was grilled and the complex flavors that it brings adds to the complexity for the wine. The brioche in the wine goes so nicely with the grill which carries through well to the finish of the wine. The nice little quaff of a wine becomes so much more when paired with the lovely complex meal. This French wine needs a very French twist of a meal to really shine its brightest. 

If you’re looking for a sparkling wine to pair with turkey, go with a Blanc de Blanc made from Chardonnay. But if your turkey is smoked or you’re doing ham (especially smoked ham), I’d recommend a sparkling rose.


More Champagne from the Winophiles here:

• Cindy at Grape Experiences shares “Celebrate with 4 Easy-to-Make Champagne Cocktails
• Camilla at Culinary Cam shares “A Royally Good Match: The King of Mushrooms + The Wine of Kings
• Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “Champagne Cattier – Sustainable Champagne creating a home for the hedgehogs
• Jane at Always Ravenous shares “Champagne Paired with Roasted Oysters with Bacon and Leeks
• Gwendolyn at Wine Predator….Gwendolyn Alley shares “Special Wines for Special Occasions: Champagne! It’s Not Just for Toasts!
• Martin at Enofylz shares “How I Learned To Expand Champagne’s Role At The Table
• Lynn at Savor the Harvest shares “Generations of Women in Epernay – Champagne Elodie D.
• Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Hidden Champagne: The Côte des Bar

Here’s a dozen Wine Predator stories about Champagne:

  1. Celebrating My Win of the Jancis Robinson Wine Writing Contest with Champagne Henriot

  2. A ZOOM interview with Alice Paillard of Bruno Paillard 

  3. A Visit in the Biodynamic Vineyards with Vincent Charlot

  4. Champagne Day with Charlot Paired with Polenta and Prawns

  5. Celebrating Climbing Kilimanjaro with Champagne Delamotte

  6. Biodynamic Champagne Leclerc Briant

  7. Champagne Jaquart

  8. Drinking Stars with Dom Perignon

  9. Champagne Bollinger

  10. 7 Fun Facts About Champagne

  11.  World War 2 and Champagne

  12. An Interview with Elodie D Winemaker Elodie in Epernay 

    plus for a Bakers Dozen, scroll down for a link to a recent story about Roederer! 

Learn more about Champagne.  Check out this on-demand webinar with Jess Helfand from the Napa Valley Wine Academy, plus: 

SAVE THE DATE. Mark your calendars for Champagne Day next year on the final Friday of October: October 27, 2023!

Rich foods for Special Occcasions with Champagne: crab bisque, grilled lobster salad


Grilled Lobster Salad with Goat Cheese Croton


  • 4 small lobster tails, to grill with garlic and butter 
  • 5 oz frisee, arugula micro greens, butter lettuce, mix of washed greens
  • 1 egg white, whisked  
  • bread crumbs
  • 1 log goat cheese
  • oil for frying 
  • 1 T whole grain mustard
  • 2-3 T white wine vinegar 
  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste 
  • tarragon and other herbs to taste 


  • prepare vinaigrette and toss with greens
  • divide and plate the greens
  • grill the lobster with butter and garlic; let cool, then add to lettuce
  • slice goat cheese into 1″ disks
  • dip goat cheese disks into egg, then into bread crumbs, fry in hot oil
  • place goat cheese croton on salad and serve