Author David Whites new book, “But First, Champagne,” breaks down the history of the beverage, its beloved region, and offers bubbly stories along the way. White is on a mission. He wants the world to know how much he loves champagne and the many reasons why you should appreciate it too. It all started with a trip to Napa in 2007. After the trip, he returned to Washington, D.C. and started researching all things wine. And in 2013, after having lunch with a friend, the seed was officially planted and White began working on his first book, “But First, Champagne.”

On his recent book tour, he stopped by the 1,056-square-foot Taipan Lounge inside the luxurious Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta to host a champagne tasting and discuss the tome. As guests savored five champagne pairings* (our favorite was the Waris-Hubert Chardonnay “Dosage Zero,” which was complemented by Executive Sous Chef Richard Lee’s Kona Kampachi crudo with cilantro and radish), White interacted with the audience and shared knowledgeable bits and pieces about all things champagne.

David White-champagne

“But First, Champagne” Author David White

We spoke with the soon-to-be-married writer and asked him to share five fun tips every champagne drinker should know. Read on and use this as your guide the next time you want to impress your date.

HOMBRE: Why will your book save a novice champagne drinker’s life?
David White: Throughout the book are essays that answer quick questions that arise and tell fun stories. So if you want to be able to quickly explain why you have tossed the flute, I’ve got the answer for you. If you want to quickly explain why athletes spray each other with champagne, I’ve got the answer for you. You can suddenly sound like an expert by just reading a few short essays.   

H: What are your top three tips for the art of champagne?
DW: If you want to up your champagne game, first throw out your flutes. I have no issue with tulips—the difference between a tulip and a flute is that a flute is just a straight narrow glass whereas a tulip actually opens up. You want your wine to breathe and you want to be able to smell your wine. So if you want to up your champagne game, drink it out of a real wine glass. If you have a bunch to choose from, go with a white wine glass—but any wine glass is better than a flute.

The second thing to do to up your champagne game is to appreciate it as a wine. The reason I’m obsessed with glass selection is because serious wines deserve serious glasses. And champagne is a serious wine. It’s very difficult to find a champagne for less than $35. If you’re spending $35 or more on a bottle of wine, it shouldn’t be some frivolous celebratory apéritif. You should actually pour it in a proper glass and appreciate it as a wine. Have it over the course of a meal. Don’t just drink it out of a flute and forget it.

And third, if you really want to explore, explore the differences in champagnes. There are four major regions of Champagne. So pick up a Blanc de Noir or Blanc de Blanc maybe from the same producer so you can see what a 100 percent chardonnay tastes like and you can see what a pinot noir and a pinot meunier tastes like. I think that’s a fun way. It’s so rare for people to have more than one champagne at a dinner. Rarely do you sit down with two or three or 10 champagnes at one dinner, and when you do, you get to realize how different they all are. So at some point, try and sit down with different champagnes and figure out what you like and why.

H: When out at dinner, what is the best bottle to order?
DW: If money is not an object, go with Krug Grand Cuvée. Even though it’s a champagne that a lot of people have heard of, it’s not as ubiquitous as Dom Pérignon or Roederer Cristal [produced by Louis Roederer]. They make about 400,000 bottles a year of Krug Grand Cuvée. When it comes to a champagne that’s globally available and is a luxury good, every time you pour Krug Grand Cuvée for anyone, their jaw drops.

H: What about the Krug Grand Cuvée that stands out?
DW: They describe their wine as multi-vintage and not non-vintage. Most non-vintage wines are blended two or three recent harvests with some reserve wine. With Krug, they ferment every parcel separately. Every bottle of their Grand Cuvée takes at least 21 years to make and the reason for that is, the average bottle of Grand Cuvée is going to have 120 different wines in it from 10 different vintages going back at least 15 years and then they age it for six years. What that means is if you think of tasting notes as a series of boxes that one can check, you’re going to be able to check more boxes with Krug Grand Cuvée than any other champagne because you’re going to have the fresh, fruity citrus notes of a young wine combined with the sweet, ripe oxidated notes of an older wine but it’s all in one glass. It’s a really cool experience because it checks more boxes than anything else.

H: What is the cheapest champagne that tastes quite expensive?
DW: René-Henri Coutier is relatively widely available and it shouldn’t cost more than $35. For a $35 champagne, there are probably few that consistently deliver deliciousness like R.H. Coutier. Their Grand Reserve Brut is so good.

david white - But First, Champagne

*For more on the other four champagne pairings at this event, see below.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve
Siberian Sturgeon Caviar atop blinis, served with crème fraîche and chives

2012 Champagne Gonet-Medeville, Ambonnay “Cuveé Athenaïs” Grand Cru
Stone-ground polenta cakes with fig jam and brie

Fleury Fleur de l’Europe Cuvée
Frisée salad with poached quail eggs, crackled lardons and sherry vinaigrette

2010 Marc Hebrart Special Club
Cajun-seasoned fried chicken and waffles

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THIS ARTICLE IS WRITTEN BY

Laura Downey

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