Posts Tagged ‘sparkling wine’
I attended a really fun Sparkling Wine Comparison Tasting of Champagne vs. The Rest at the Hill Center as part of the Barracks Row Culinary Crawl on Sunday, February 17th, 2013. There were actually 2 speakers at the event: Burnie Williams of Chat’s Liquors who did most of the educational component of the event and a French gentleman I only remember as “Charles” who spoke about the specifics of the 4 wines we tasted because he imported them.
The Wine: There were 4 sparkling wines poured of which 2 were non-Champagne (one Italian, one French Cremant) and two “true” Champagnes. (I’ve included “suggested retail price” which usually means you can get them for a bit less..)
- Ca’ dei Zago DOC Proseccor Coi Fondo 2010 – Prosecco is actually made in a less expensive method than traditional Champagne – the Charmat method, where the second fermentation is done in tank. This was also a pretty dry version of Prosecco – they usually are a bit more sweet.
- Klein “Cremant d’Alsace” Chardonnay Extra Brut (Alsace, France), $29.99 – very nice Chardonnay based sparkler – pretty good value.
- Champagne Francois Diligent Rose Cote de Bar, NV (Champagne, France), $36.99- this wine was a bit funky, but I think the cork had ruined it..
- Laherte Freres “Les Vignes d’Autrefois-A Chavot” Extra Brut, 2006 (Champagne, France) $74.99 – My favorite by a long shot – price doesn’t always determine quality, but this wine had the wine on the lees for 3 years in bottle and this created that nutty, smokey, yeasty complexity that I LOVE in Champagne – by this one for me!
The Education: Burnie Williams, the owner of Chat’s Liquors did an excellent job of covering a pretty involved and complex topic. You see, sparkling wines are created different from other wines – they must go through a second fermentation to create the bubbles, the first fermentation creates the “wine” and alcohol. He did an excellent job of covering both the history (yep, Dom Perignon was NOT the inventor of sparkling wine!) and the process of making sparkling wines. I’ve attended many sparkling wine classes so rather than bore with you with all the details, the most interesting parts of making this type of wine are:
Lees – these are the dead yeast that drop to the bottom of the barrel or bottle, depending on how you’re aging your wine. If you let them stay with the wine and age, they create a yeasty/nutty flavor and aroma, if you take them away (slightly different than “filtering” a wine, but similar process), then the wine will have a cleaner more fruit-driven expression.
Riddling – this is the process of turning the bottles a few turns every so often for maybe a year or two to get the dead yeast from the 2nd fermentation out of the wine. This was once done by humans wearing cages on their face to prevent chards of glass from cutting their faces if the bottles exploded (19th century bottles had poor technology!), but now often done by machines.
Disgorging – After riddling, the dead yeast/lees are now upside down in the bottle and form a plug of..dead yeast! This has to be removed or “disgorged” – the way it’s done today is by freezing this gook but putting the bottles part way into an ice bath with salted water – the low temperature freezes only the plug and thus it is pulled out.
Dosage – This is after the dead lees are taken out, the final flavor and sugar level is added back – Brut is less sugar than Extra Dry, so the type of flavor/sweetness is determined at this point.
Overall, had a really fun time at this event and it was a helluva deal at such a low price! I’m chatting it up with Chat’s Liquors to do more tasting events – DC has very few wine tastings right now, and the demand is there. As always, keep drinking good sparkling wine, Champagne or whatever is in your glass..you only live once – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
I love chocolate..I love wine..but can the two come together to make a great match? This is the dilemma of writing a chocolate and wine pairing article – it is not a “traditional” pairing, meaning, it is neither a regional pairing (Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc and Chevre) nor a dish pairing such as steak and Cabernet Sauvignon. Chocolate and wine pairing was created primarily to satisfy the need for accentuating and justifying the obvious connection between being amorous and enjoying the sensual pleasures of chocolate and vino!
Actually, the pairing can work, so here’s my take on the combination. First, the assumption is you’ll be tasting dark chocolate, in other words, chocolate with say 60% or more Cacao percent. Dark chocolate or “bittersweet” chocolate has two components to think about: tannin (from the cacao bean) and sugar. The basics of food and wine pairing are either to pair similar or contrasting components. For example, since chocolate has tannin and red wine has tannin, you could pair those flavors. The effect of pairing similar tastes is actually to lessen each, also known as “1+1=1/2”. Take too similar “tastes” paired together and that component will be lessened. Tannin and tannin reduce the effects of each other. This same principle works with the sugar in chocolate and the sugar in a glass of wine, again the same thing, this will ultimately make both seem less sweet. This is a weird phenomenon, but try something basic like orange juice and a sweet morning muffin, and it becomes obvious.
If you contrast with your pairing, the most obvious is to pair a highly acidic wine with chocolate to counterbalance the tannin and/or sweetness. In my opinion, this won’t work very well because it would be an unnecessary overload of the senses. Plus, I’ve tried it, and it tastes pretty awful or neutral at best!
So you have a choice: you can either pair the sweetness with a dessert wine such as a French Sauternes or a German dessert Riesling or you can pair the tannin in chocolate with a red wine with tannin. For whatever reason, many Merlots and also fruity medium tannin wines work with chocolate. Merlot is generally medium tannin, but also has softer, lusher tannins that don’t seem to clash with chocolate.
So what’s my conclusion after evaluating the chocolate and wine pairing principles? Frankly, it’s better to just go with the romantic mood, forget the pairing and enjoy some delicious Champagne or sparkling wine with chocolate! My reasoning is the power of suggestion: sparkling wine suggests a special occasion, from the popping of the cork to the effervescence of the wine, and it promotes the romantic occasion.
You could play with the sparkling wine a bit by serving a Rosé which often is made from lightly pressed and fermented Pinot Noir. The best pairing might be Port which has both tannin from the red grapes as well as sweetness from sugar. My issue with Port is that from experience, many Americans aren’t fond of it, especially at tastings I’ve held, it is often over powering to an unaccustomed palate.
Conclusion: wine and food pairing shouldn’t get in the way of a romantic moment, they should accentuate it. Dessert wines work great with the sugar of chocolate, Port is even better, but medium tannin wines like Merlot also work well..still, Champagne or sparkling wine wines. Celebrate love and romance with a bottle of bubbly and share the moment!
I’ve probably opened more than 2,000 bottles of sparkling wine – that excludes Belgian beers and Real Ciders.
Believe it or not, the secret is in the knees – bend them just a bit..for whatever reason, whether it’s psychological or physics, this makes easing the cork out less cumbersome. I have to admit – sometimes the cork does fly out – even when you use the precautions mentioned in the video – ironically, this happened to me at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington, D.C. when I attempted to open some VERY fizzy Swiss wines.
Enjoy the video – I think you’ll find that opening a bottle of sparkling wine is relatively easy and care-free!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler