We tend to think more about Champagne around the holidays than during other times of the year. It's a mandatory component of New Year's Eve, of course, and other holiday events provide ample occasion to partake of a bottle or two.
But Champagne is more than just a beverage for festivities. It's suited to a wide variety of occasions, perhaps more so than any other wine: few wines feel as naturally at home over brunch as they do late in the evening, and few are as widely adaptable to different social contexts, from elegant cocktail receptions to casual dinner parties to a quiet evening with a date. Champagne can readily be dressed up or down, and it's as comfortable on an average weekday night in front of the television as it is on the table of a three-star Michelin restaurant.
Its ability to pair with food is often overlooked, which is a pity, as this is an area in which Champagne excels. When served with food, it's almost always paired with hors d'oeuvre, or perhaps with light fish courses, yet the vast diversity of style in Champagne ensures that there's an example to suit nearly any dish (or at least any dish that's wine-friendly).
One of the most pertinent characteristics of Champagne in this regard is that it's refreshing, or it should be, anyway. It's a wine of pronounced acidity, which amplifies flavor and stimulates the appetite, and the bubbles, too, help to cleanse and refresh the palate. This works wonders with oysters or shellfish, taking the place of a squeeze of lemon that might otherwise be called for. It's also particularly useful in juxtaposition with rich foods, or anything with a high fat content, as Champagne provides the perfect foil. In a related vein, every sommelier knows that Champagne is a terrific partner to anything fried, from tempura to fried chicken to French fries.
As with pairing any wine with food, it's important to take the weight of a Champagne into account. A light, crisp blanc de blancs, for example, can be a fine accompaniment to a plate of freshly shucked oysters or a delicate piece of fish, but a roast chicken or a saddle of rabbit calls for something a little more substantial, perhaps a blended Champagne or one that has been fermented in barrel. Few people think about Champagne with fowl and meats, but duck, quail and squab are sublime partners for richer styles of Champagne, or even rosé Champagnes, and there's no reason why a robust, pinot-based Champagne couldn't be paired with a steak or some other cut of meat.
Champagne, of course, is also delightful without food, preferably enjoyed in the company of a partner or a group of friends. It lifts the spirits, working equally well as a celebratory beverage or one of consolation. It's difficult to be unhappy when drinking a bottle of Champagne, and it creates an atmosphere of revelry and conviviality. As the clock approaches midnight on New Year's Eve, you wouldn't really be drinking anything else, and yet, it’s easy to find plenty of other opportunities throughout the year to drink Champagne as well. Indeed, the opening of a bottle of Champagne is practically a celebration in itself.