By robert haynes-peterson | December 14, 2012 | Food & Drink
Champagne and sushi is a popular pairing at hot spot Yellowtail.
Beau Joie’s copper stylings.
Charles Heidsieck’s retro packaging invokes the label and bottling styles used by the brand at its inception in 1851.
Nothing says New Year’s Eve in Vegas like the pop from an expensive bottle of bubbly. From the latest reserve releases to a brand-new jeroboam from a Nevada-based company, the highest level of Champagnes will get everyone in the mood for a New Year’s Eve midnight smooch.
“Right after Christmas we get very busy, and a lot of people are looking to celebrate with Champagne,” says Phillip Park, sommelier at the Michelin-starred Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace (877-346- 4642). He would know: The très French outpost from the iconic chef Savoy starts each table’s dinner service with a Champagne cart offering seven to 10 Champagnes ranging $29 to $75 a glass (in addition to the nearly 200 bottles on the list). “It’s one of those items where people realize the value of what they’re enjoying,” Park says. “There’s nothing like it to start a meal.”
The restaurant’s intimate Krug Room seats seven to 34 guests for a $750-per-person, six-course Champagne dinner. In the Krug Room—one of only five spaces throughout the world sponsored by the venerable House of Krug—each course is meticulously paired with a different sparkler, the entire meal elevated by each specific pairing with bottles in vintages from 1995 to 2008, including a 2000 served with the “Colors of Caviar” course.
Part of the joy of Champagne is that although it’s a relatively rules-driven wine—from the region in which its grapes are grown to the required secondary bottle fermentation—each vintage and tweak in the blends, the presence or absence of residual sugar, and the fine points of production at each house create a vast world of complex, subtle variation. Two new releases exemplify the broad possibilities that exist in the realm of Champagne.
The celebrated Charles Heidsieck has unveiled the first expressions of the brut and rosé reserve releases bottled by Thierry Roset in his new role as chef de cave. The expressions maintain the full-bodied, yeastinfluenced flavor profiles that Heidsieck aficionados have grown to love, now enveloped in an even more refined elegance. The new blends feature 60 different crus (fewer than before) and the use of more than 40 percent reserve wine. The reduction in crus gives the finished Champagne added finesse and a softer approachability.
At the same time, Beau Joie—a young label—has released its limited vintage 1999 jeroboam (three-liter “double magnum”) edition. Though it’s made in Epernay, France, and is true Champagne, the daring brand was developed by Nevada-based Toast Spirits. Limited to a total of 300 bottles, the ultra-brut jeroboams have been resting since 1999 in the very bottles they’re sold in (some brands re-decant to larger formats between secondary fermentation and final bottling). The distinct copper-clad bottles are most likely to show up on high-profile bottle-service menus at nightclubs such as Marquee, The Bank, and Lavo. The more demure 750ml bottles of both the brut and rosé are available at restaurants including Hyde Bellagio (702-693-8700) and La Cave, at Wynn (702-770-7000). “It’s unusual in that it is a zero-dosage [no added sugar] Champagne made from the finest grapes in the region,” says Toast Spirits cofounder Brandis Deitelbaum. Interestingly, Park also observes a trend towards a drier palate among his guests. “I recently started to offer Louis de Sacy Brut Zero, with no dosage whatsoever, and people are loving it,” he says. “I brought it in as a summer Champagne, but I’ve kept it on.”
The bright tartness of drier offerings such as brut natural (or brut zero), with less than 3 grams of residual sugar per liter, is refreshing in warmer weather, says Park. “For holiday dinners, a perfect Champagne would be a rosé,” he says. “But any style of Champagne will help celebrate the holiday season.” Wynn director of wine Mark Thomas agrees: “The mere sound of a Champagne bottle opening puts everyone within earshot in a good mood!”
While Park doesn’t like to play favorites, he notes that those looking for so-called “grower Champagnes” (from smallbatch producers) might consider the NV Henri Giraud Champagne Hommage a François Hemart Brut. “At $150, the quality, taste, and the use of a lot of Pinot Noir make a full, rich Champagne for the holidays.”
Champagne also works beautifully in cocktails. The popular Flower Eclipse ($14) at Palazzo’s Laguna Champagne Bar (702-607-7777) features Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial Champagne, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, and lemon in a well-balanced refresher. At Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro in Caesars Palace (877-346-4642), sommelier Sam Berkley introduced the $50 Grandiose cocktail, a sweet-and-savory, aromatic concoction garnished with caviar and gold flakes that uses Paul Goerg Champagne, Château Nairac Deuxieme Crus and essential oils from a white truffle. “I set out to make one cocktail,” Berkley says, “that was the ultimate in indulgence.”
photography by svetlana sayapina