All Wined Up

Champagne: Not Just for Special Occasions

champs-dcwineweekdotcom Guest post by KC Ellis Sledd
Photo by Plume

It’s time to stop playing it safe when scanning the wine menu. Attention is too often paid to carefully selecting a fine Malbec or Pinot Gris, and it is all too easy to choose the second-least-expensive glass of Prosecco on the menu and call it a day. If you’re ready to step up your Champagne game (and believe me, it’s worth it), there are some truly great spots in the city to find your new favorite sparkler.

You’ve probably fallen in love with their delish tapas style menu, but have you met sommelier Jennifer Foucher? She’s funny, smart, and can offer you one of the best Champagne lists in the city. Topping her list right now are grower Champagnes, which are some of the best value in Champagne-with-a-capital-C. They are all small batch from family producers, which means that the same estate that grows the grapes also produces the wine. How can you tell if a Champagne is grower? Take a look at the label: in tiny letters, it’ll say RM, which stands for Récoltant-Manipulant. I can’t get enough of the Gimmonet-Gonet Blanc de Blanc Champagne, which tastes like apples and cheese.

Ever wish you could have a delicious wine with dinner, and walk right across the street to pick it up to bring home? Diane, owner of Logan Circle favorite Cork, decided to help solve that problem. “The whole idea [of Cork] is to demystify wine,” she says, which includes sparklers for everyday - not just for special occasions. Since Cork Market (the store) is across the street from Cork DC (the wine bar), you can stop by after dinner to bring home a bottle of bubbles to enjoy later. Try the Thierry Triolet Champagne Grande Reserve – it’s a big, round, toasty glass of fabulous ready to join me on the couch.

When you sit down at Plume, no one will ask you “Would you like anything to drink?” Instead, their wait staff will say, “What kind of Champagne would you like to start?” The team at Plume, including Sommelier Michael Scaffidi, takes their bubbles very, very seriously. Boasting one of the most beautiful dining rooms in DC, designed after Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, Michael proudly offers vintages you simply won’t find anywhere else. Between the setting and the André Clouet Champagne Brut Grande Réserve, I had tears in my eyes.

This is the bar you can thank for offering Prosecco on draft. When Mike Isabella brought Graffiato to life, he knew he wanted to offer a solid sparkling list, but kept it to Italian and American bubbles. Recently, managers Stephanie Babcock and Paige Dana decided to change his list and include French sparkling wine. Try their Roederer Estate Brut Rosé, a toasty champers that tastes like strawberries. It’s by a French house that decided to buy land in California and make sparkling wine in the tradition champenoise.

Here are some insider tips from DC’s Champagne experts:

  • Don’t be afraid of the bubbles: Ask. No one expects you to know everything about Champagne, so talk to your Sommelier or waiter. They’re probably excited to share what they know.
  • Champagne vs. Sparkling wine: Sparkling wine is wine with bubbles. Champagne is type of sparkling wine specifically from the Champagne region of France.
  • Champagne isn’t only for girls: Did you know a type of rosé is called saignée, which is French for bleeding? What’s manlier than drinking a wine named after blood?
  • Learn what you like: Often, the best place to start with Champagne is with knowing the type of flat wine you like. For example, if you enjoy the minerality of Sauvignon Blancs, you can start there to figure out the sparkling varietal you’d prefer.

KC has a tattoo of the flowers from the Perrier-Jouet Fleur Champagne bottle. When she’s not shopping online, she’s watching Scandal with her husband and raising two cats in Southeast DC. Find her on Twitter at @kcesledd.