Champagne Bubblies and New Year Treats

Ringing in the New Year in the traditional champagne-toast way does not mean that you have to wring out your wallet in order to buy a decent bubbly. There are many nice champagnes and sparkling wines that can grace the Auld Lyne Syne part of your holidays and leave you exhilarated but not broke. Then, on the other hand, if you want to do a once-a-year splurge (or maybe more often?), there are marvelous “true” champagnes (see note at the bottom of the column) that will give you a tasting pleasure that is exceptional.

A basic vocabulary guide before you go shopping: Extra Dry means a little sweet. Brut means dry. Extra Brut means very dry. Blanc de Blanc is wine made entirely from Chardonnay grapes.

For good taste and good value, try the Deutz Champagne recommended (and sold) by Ron Florian at Truckee’s Florian Fine Wines & Specialty Foods. “It is a very subtle champagne, with a little bit of yeastiness,” noted Ron. At $49/bottle, it is an excellent value. Deutz has 275 acres of vineyards in the finest crus of Champagne. The wines are slowly and carefully aged in Deutz’ chalk-walled cellars far beneath the historic village of Aÿ, right in the middle of the champagne region of France. In fact, located in the village of Ay is the Musée Champenois.

Moving to a Brut Rose champagne from France will double the cost, but the Billecart-Salmon is exquisite. $117.99/bottle at Florian’s. For this bubbly, we’re letting one of the world’s famed experts speak: Stephen Tanzer. “Pale, orange-tinged pink. Vibrant, spicy aromas of orange peel, ruby-red grapefruit and floral honey. Focused and pure, with juicy orange and tangy rhubarb flavors and a lush, velvety texture. This is weightier than previous bottlings of this cuvee, but has the usual precision and lift expected by long-time fans of this rose. Finishes with juicy citrus flavors and a lite mineral jolt.”

Caroline Vogt, wine buyer for Tahoe House of Tahoe City, has a selection of champagne and bubblies that are affordable and food friendly. Gosset’s Brut Excellence Champage, a nicely layered and rich blend. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from from Grand and Premier Cru vineyards constitute 87% of this wine, with13% Pinot Meunier, give a bright finish with a hint of pear aroma. $42/bottle. An American favorite is Schramsberg’s Blance du Blanc, $38/bottle. Caroline was very enthusiastic about J Vineyards Cuvee 20, a nice dry bubbly which will go well with appetizers and desserts. $23/bottle. A very affordable “and really very nice bubbly”, said Caroline, is the Sequria Viudas Bruce Reserve Cava, a spanish sparkling wine, $10.99/bottle.

Will Clark, the very amiable owner of 49 Vines wine shop in Downieville, CA, has an enthusiastic recommendation: ”Wiebel Family vineyards in Hopland (Mendocino County, CA) makes a non-vintage almond Champagne (demi-sec sparkling wine) with an essence of almond! The very delicate almond flavor is layered over impressions of pear, green apple, and toasted vanilla. The tiny bubbles waft these flavors over the palate to create a very pleasing and unique taste sensation. Perfect for any celebration and a steal at $12.00.” Alcohol 11%. Will suggests that a perfect appetizer pairing is Thai chicken, chicken and shrimp… or pour this wine as a dessert over apricot, peaches and raspberry sorbet, and you'll have the perfect end to an everlasting meal memory .

A recent note from the Champagne Bureau and its Director Sam Heitner makes these points: True Champagne comes only from the Champagne appellation, located approximately 90 miles northeast of Paris. The Champagne region’s distinctive chalky soil, cool climate and strict regulations come together to create a unique sparkling wine impossible to duplicate anywhere else in the world. For a wine to bear the Champagne name, all the grapes used in its production must come from approved parcels and the wine must be elaborated, manipulated, stored and labeled within the appellation.

However, a loophole in U.S. law allows some domestic winemakers to continue to use the name Champagne and 15 other internationally recognized wine regions on wines that are not produced in those regions. “We are very proud to see more and more U.S. wine producers embracing the importance of location, yet until all practices change, we urge U.S. consumers to carefully review labels to insure they are not mislead,” continued Heitner. “When the time is right to pick a bottle of Champagne, it is important to remember that Champagne only comes from Champagne.”
The Champagne Bureau is the official U.S. representative of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), a trade association which represents the grape growers and houses of Champagne, France.

Oh those French! Just enjoy your New Year and all your many blessings.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
© 2009 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appears in my column "It's Grape" in December 2009

No comments:

Post a Comment