Food & Beverage Articles

Champagne and Sparkling Unwrapped

by Megan Thompson

Whether it is fruity prosecco or more complex champagne that you choose to cheers with this festive season, you should not be without a glass in your hand while enjoying in the merriment.  Just like the holiday itself, our enjoyment of a glass of sparkling begins with excitement and anticipation.  It is a ritual, or more so, a tradition that starts with the pop of a cork, followed by threadlike bubbles that rise to the top of the flute, finishing with a clink of the glasses, our senses at the ready; ready to take those first sips of holiday spirit.

But how do you pick the right one with so many options on the shelf all varying in style, price and flavour?  To help you make your decision easier and allow you to check one more thing off your ever-growing list, I have selected three bottles that may help you achieve the daunting task of bringing a gift for the “perfect host”, surprising that someone special or simply buying a bottle of bub’ that tastes good and won’t make you take out a second mortgage on your house that includes the Santa in his sleigh and the eight tiny reindeer out on the front lawn.

LA JARA Prosecco 18.99

Think a perfect harvest meal pairing for this one.  Juicy turkey with rosemary, sage stuffing, roasted vegetables with dried herbs and pumpkin soup.  Made from the traditional Italian varietal, Glera, in Treviso, Italy, this organic prosecco drinks way beyond its price point of $18.99.  It appears a straw yellow with golden reflections and smells of white flowers, ripe peach, banana, and warm pastries.   On the palate, toasted brioche and Golden Delicious apples come through that feels velvety yet lively when you take a sip.  It is produced in the charmat method to preserve its freshness and vibrant fruit so you need not have food alongside.  You can enjoy a glass or two in the kitchen by yourself…I mean by itself.  Take this one anywhere and be the hit of the party.  Just make sure to bring back ups.  This hidden gem won’t last long.

Spoiler Alert! This one pairs great with leftovers.

Paul Zinck Cremant d’Alsace Rosé $32.99

Cremant is produced exactly in the same way as champagne but differs because it is produced outside of the region of champagne (Bourgogne, Alsace, Loire) and may or may not use the traditional grape varietals native to champagne.  Cremant is the best value out there when buying sparkling wine as it is still produced using the champagne method, has a similar taste of real champagne but without the champagne price tag.  In this case Paul Zinck from Alsace uses only Pinot noir grapes and the colour comes not from the colour of the grapes but from a short soaking process before pressing.  Red grapes can actually produce white wine if they do not go through a maceration period.  Aromas of cherry, raspberry, and wild strawberries are dominant and it has a refreshing amount of acid with a firm structure to make it an ideal accompaniment for ham or turkey, especially when a healthy dollop of cranberry sauce added.  This unique and dry sparkling rosé from Alsace will not disappoint.  If it were me I’d have this one with my bacon and eggs in the morning or to start off the family brunch.

Domaine Bauchet Saint Nicaise Millesime Champagne 2009 $119.99

This Champagne by Domaine Bauchet will take your head off!  You may think that I am joking but I assure you I am not.  And I mean this in the best of ways.  This wine is named after the 11th Bishop of Reims, Saint Nicaise.  Most tragically he is known for his decapitation in the Notre Dame de Reims where a statue now stands in his place where he holds his head in his hands.  More so he is an important figure in the history of Champagne.  The ‘Hill of Saint-Nicaise’ is a small mountain in the heart of Reims which was formed from the deposits of the ‘crayeres’ or stone extractions from many of the oldest and longest-standing champagne houses when they were digging out their underground caves.  Since the extractions were all put in the same place it created this hill and has been declared a World UNESCO site since then.  This hill is a representation of the evolution of the industry.  Even though the traditional and familial roots remain, the champagne industry is now a global empire and the choice of drink for celebrations everywhere.

I was lucky enough to be an intern for this champagne house during the past two harvests and in those years I witnessed that each year has its own struggles yet the family bond stays strong and the product remains flawlessly consistent.  This year was tough for the champagne producers.  Early frost brought with it rot and unhealthy grapes.  However, through expertise of the chef, strength of the family and hard work from the entire Bauchet team, a beautiful harvest was still accomplished and with it a promising vintage.

Although we will not see champagne harvested from this year for a while yet the principles of the house remain the same.  Here we have a true Blanc de Blanc (100% chardonnay) in style and to the eye, the robe is deep gold with fine, delicate bubbles.  The aromas are savoury and mature with notes of brioche, almonds and yellow fruits.  The longer left in the flute (how good is your will power?) the aromas evolve into notes of honey, fruit jam, cereal and musk.  The development of aroma is a testament to the minimum five years aging before disgorgement.  Quality takes time.  In the mouth it feels mature and broad with a lively assertiveness that keeps it balanced.  This is a splurge, I know, but if not now, when?

When we think about the holidays, we think about our friends, our family, our struggles, and our successes, the cindy-lous of the world not to mention the scrooges and how on earth we got stuck with our in-laws this year but what is most important is that we all come together and enjoy good food and drink.  So why not spend those moments of joy, celebration, reunion, and sometimes, as we all know, complete chaos with a sip or two of festive bubble.

So Tis’ the season to be bubbly and never let the bottle be fa fa fa fa fa fa far away!

Happy Holidays