Although it’s the traditional drink for toasting holidays and special occasions, there’s no reason to stop drinking Champagne just because you’ve packed away the Christmas decorations and New Year’s noisemakers. As the French know, nothing starts a meal off on a more sparkling note than une coupe de Champagne, and a fine example of this great Gallic gift to civilization is La Caravelle, the Champagne once sold at the legendary New York restaurant of the same name.
A temple of haute gastronomie for more than 40 years, La Caravelle is where lovers of fine food once dined on quenelles de brochet, roast duck and ethereal soufflés amid murals of Paris by Jean Pagès. Opened in 1960, the restaurant became a favored haunt of many A-list Americans. In 1984 André Jammet became part owner; four years later he and his wife Rita became full owners of La Caravelle. They introduced this proprietary Champagne bottling to their wine list in three distinctive styles: Brut, Rosé and Blanc de Blancs. All three are crafted in Epernay from the finest grapes—the signature brut, called Cuvée Niña after one of Columbus’s caravelle ships, features notes of white peaches and gingerbread; the Blanc de Blancs, made from the best chardonnay crus and aged for three years, has the perfume of white flowers and notes of citrus and honey; and the salmon-pink Rosé has a red berry bouquet and hints of cherry, almond and pomegranate.
Sadly, the restaurant La Caravelle closed in 2004. Happily, the Champagne remains. A favorite label on the wine lists of such restaurants as Daniel, Le Bernardin, Le Cirque and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the Four Seasons, the wines consistently win praise for their elegance, balance and finesse. An added attraction is their moderate price, which means that right now is a perfect time to pop that cork and enjoy the sparkle and fizz of this fine Champagne. www.lacaravelle.com