Sparkling Wine

When it comes to expressions of love, no box of candy or suggestive leer can quite compare to the impact on the beloved that’s delivered by a flute of sparkling wine.  The pale, delicate color and streams of tiny pearl-like bubbles rising to form a cap of mousse evoke both the purity and livlieness of love.
There are several types of sparkling wine. The most famous, from the Champagne region of France, is Champagne.  Sparkling wines from outside of Champagne are called something else.  If a sparkling wine comes from another area of France, for example, it is called cremant.  If it comes from Spain, it is cava; from Italy: spumante; from Germany or Austria: sekt.  In the USofA we simply say, sparkling wine. But, to paraphrase Shakespeare, that which we call a sparkling wine would by any name taste as sweet.   . . . or dry, if you prefer.
Sparkling wines vary in degrees of sweetness.  The level of sweetness is described in terms of its opposite, dryness.  The driest (least sweet) sparkling wines are labeled “brut”. This is easily most popular style but, in order from driest to sweetest they are: Brut, Extra Sec, Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux.  Doux, if you can find it, is very sweet.
Sparkling wine should be served well-chilled and works best in a tall, thin wine glass, called a flute.  Standard wine glasses, however, will do just fine in the absence of flutes.  The classic wide-mouthed champagne glass, the one that’s served as design inspiration for honeymoon-suite bathtubs the world over, is fun, if a little sloppy.  For me, the wine goes dead too quickly in these but I am charmed by the story that the original shape was created from a mold of the breast of Marie-Antoinette.
If you’re giving your beloved dinner with his/her sparkling wine, you’re in luck.  These wines, champagne especially, are very food friendly.  They’ll work with everything from burgers, to asian cuisine, to steak, chicken and fish.
Here are some sparkling wine recommendations that escalate, in price, from solid value to rich extravagance.
Tocco Prosecco @ $15./btl –
The “champagne” of Italy, Prosecco is the name of both the wine and the grape used to make it. It is light, floral and has flavors of yellow apple, pear, and white peach.  If  brut champagne is too austere, you’ll love the crisp yet light character of Prosecco.
St. Hilaire Brut @ $17./btl –
Made by the traditional method from the Mauzac grape in Limoux in Southwestern France. This wine was a supposed favorite of Thomas Jefferson and, if it’s good enough for the father of the constitution . . .
It tastes like toast and green apples with a little lemon cream, – delicious and an outstanding value.
Champagne Agrapart & Fils @ $50./btl –
A true champagne whose producers use Chardonnay grapes from four Grand Cru villages [a Grand Cru designation indicates very high quality grapes] and several harvests. It is rested in the bottle for four years before it goes through its final process steps.  This is a labor-intensive, hand crafted wine and it shows.  It is explosively lively yet delicate and creamy and graceful with a floral nose and a mouthful of biscuits and apricot jam.   – open a bottle for breakfast.
Moet Chandon Dom Perignon Vintage 1999 @ $200./btl –
Is any bottle of wine worth $200.?  Well, perhaps. This is, after all, a “vintage” champagne.  Vintage champagnes differ from non-vintage in that all the juice in the bottle comes from a single year and that single year has to have been exceptional in terms of the quality of the grapes produced.
Dom Perignon bears the name of a monk whose name is inextricably linked to champagne. Dom was the cellar master of the Abbey of Hautvillers in Epernay, in the heart of Champagne. He was a visionary and developed techniques that dramatically improved the quality of the wine.
This is a fairly intense champagne experience. The ’99 Dom has intoxicating aromas of pineapple, coconut and cinnamon.  In the mouth, it has yards of complexity with an earthy, smoky start that gives way to full fruit and then fades gradually with bits of spice and toast.
If you’re comfortable dropping 200 clams on a bottle this will make for memorable experience.

Bubbles baby!

Bubbles baby!

Mike Harper

When it comes to expressions of love, no box of candy or suggestive leer can quite compare to the impact on the beloved that’s delivered by a flute of sparkling wine.  The pale, delicate color and streams of tiny pearl-like bubbles rising to form a cap of mousse evoke both the purity and liveliness of love.

There are several types of sparkling wine. The most famous, from the Champagne region of France, is Champagne.  Sparkling wines from outside of Champagne are called something else.  If a sparkling wine comes from another area of France, for example, it is called cremant.  If it comes from Spain, it is cava; from Italy: spumante; from Germany or Austria: sekt.  In the USofA we simply say, sparkling wine. But, to paraphrase Shakespeare, that which we call a sparkling wine would by any name taste as sweet.   . . . or dry, if you prefer.

Sparkling wines vary in degrees of sweetness.  The level of sweetness is described in terms of its opposite, dryness.  The driest (least sweet) sparkling wines are labeled “brut”. This is easily the most popular style.  Sparkling wines are classified by their sweetness level and, in order from driest to sweetest they are:  Brut, Extra Sec, Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux.  Doux, if you can find it, is very sweet.  There is also a rarely used super-dry champagne called, alternately: brut zero or extra brut

Sparkling wine should be served well-chilled and works best in a tall, thin wine glass, called a flute.  Standard wine glasses, however, will do just fine in the absence of flutes.  The classic wide-mouthed champagne glass, the one that’s served as design inspiration for honeymoon-suite bathtubs the world over, is fun, if a little sloppy.  For me, the wine goes dead too quickly in these but I am charmed by the story that the original shape was created from a mold of the breast of Marie-Antoinette.  (That would have been an interesting job.)

If you’re giving your beloved dinner with his/her sparkling wine, you’re in luck.  These wines, champagne especially, are very food friendly.  They’ll work with everything from burgers, to Asian cuisine, to steak, chicken and fish.

Here are some sparkling wine recommendations that escalate, in price, from solid value to rich extravagance.*

Montelliano Prosecco @ $13.99/btl –

The “champagne” of Italy, Prosecco is the name of both the wine and the grape used to make it. It is light, floral and has flavors of yellow apple, pear, and white peach.  If  brut champagne is too austere, you’ll love the crisp yet light character of Prosecco.

St. Hilaire Brut @ $17.99/btl –

Made by the traditional (champagne) method from the Mauzac grape in Limoux in Southwestern France. This wine was a supposed favorite of Thomas Jefferson and, if it’s good enough for the father of the constitution . . .

It tastes like toast and green apples with a little lemon cream, – delicious and an outstanding value.

Champagne Janisson & Fils Tradition @ $39.99/btl –

This value-priced champagne combines 70% pinot noir with 30% chardonnay. It pours a lovely pale-gold with sprightly, active streams of bubbles forming sinuous ribbons. The nose is rich and complex presenting notes of custard, toast, pear, and vanilla.  While the mouth fairly explodes with flavors of orange, golden-delicious apple, and currant.  At $40./btl – this is sufficiently affordable to open for even small occasions.
(Whoo Hoo!  A Seinfeld episode I’ve never seen before!)

Moet Chandon Dom Perignon Vintage 2000 @ $199.99/btl –

Is any bottle of wine worth $200.?  Well, perhaps. This is, after all, a “vintage” champagne.  Vintage champagnes differ from non-vintage in that all the juice in the bottle comes from a single year and that single year has to have been exceptional in terms of the quality of the grapes produced.  (The non-vintage champagne, produced by Moet, is called “White Star”.)

Dom Perignon bears the name of a monk whose name is inextricably linked to champagne. Though he did not invent the method used to produce the sparkling wine we know today, he is a key figure.  Dom was the cellar master of the Abbey of Hautvillers in Epernay, in the heart of Champagne. He was a visionary and developed techniques that dramatically improved the quality of the wine.

This is a fairly intense champagne experience. The ’99 Dom has intoxicating aromas of pineapple, coconut and cinnamon.  In the mouth, it has yards of complexity with an earthy, smoky start that gives way to full fruit and then fades gradually with bits of spice and toast.

If you’re comfortable dropping 200 clams on a bottle this will make for memorable experience.

* Each of these wines is consistently available here in the store.  Prices are correct at the time this blog is published but (*sigh*), as with most things, they are subject to change.

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Published in: on June 3, 2009 at 4:34 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Sparkling Wine « Winegourmet’s Blog Dom Perignon bears the name of a monk whose name is inextricably linked to champagne. Dom was the cellar master of the Abbey of Hautvillers in Epernay, in the heart of Champagne. He was a visiona […]


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