Champagne! Of course, Champagne. No celebration is complete without the toast of “bubbly” – New Year’s arrival, wedding anniversary, winning of the Grand Prix, christening of a new ship, and many other occasions, big and small are acknowledged with Champagne.
Champagne is a very interesting subject in general, but even more so when New Year’s arrival is around the corner. You can find articles and blog posts about Champagne everywhere – here is a good example, post by Dr. Vino. Well, let’s join the conversation about Champagne.
Champagne is a wine which belongs to the group of so called “sparkling wines” – the wines with many tiny bubbles (there are at least 49 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne – feel free to count yourself if you don’t believe it). As many other things in life, discovery of Champagne is a combination of accident and luck – on a very primitive level, not fully fermented bottle of wine was frozen, then temperature rose, fermentation restarted (this time, in a bottle) – voila, you got a bottle of Champagne.
Well, small clarification will be appropriate – Champagne is both a wine and a place – in France, of course, where else. Are Champagne and Sparkling wine synonyms? No. Any Champagne is Sparkling wine, but not any sparkling wine is Champagne. Only sparkling wines produced in Champagne region in France using so called méthode champenoise can be called Champagne. All other sparkling wines produced outside of the Champagne region, even using the same method, can only be called Sparkling Wine.
Let’s play a little game which we will call “what is in the name”. Champagne only comes from Champagne, what about about other sparkling wines? Today sparkling wines produced everywhere, from wide variety of grapes and at ever increasing pace. Only this year I had sparkling Malbec (very good) and sparkling Shiraz (don’t do it). In United States sparkling wines are produced in California (lot’s of good wines), Oregon, New Mexico (surprisingly good), New York and many other states. Traveling through the world, a lot of sparkling wines have their own names. Let’s see if you will recognize some of them:
Prosecco – sparkling wine from Italy
Sekt – sparkling wine from Germany
Cava – sparkling wine from Spain
Cremant – sparkling wine from France (Cremant d’Alsace, Cremant de Bourgogne, Cremant de Loire, Cremant du Jura and many others)
Blanquette de Limoux – comes from Limoux in Languedoc, France with the claim of being the first Sparkling Wine, before Champagne became Champagne.
Champagne is endless subject – no way to cover it in the short blog post. Let’s stop our world tour right here, and let’s talk about the celebration “at hands” – New Year 2011. What bottle are you going to open to celebrate arrival of the New Year? How about a little dream? Again, you said? True, just a few days ago I wrote a post about the wines to dream of. Something was missing in that post, I think – and that “something” is … Champagne! There was no Champagne mentioned in that list. So we need to fix it. And if you need a Champagne to dream of, I have only one recommendation – Krug.
If you wonder why I so focused on one and only one Champagne, I can tell you – I had a chance to try it, and I was blown away. At the PJ Wine Grand Tasting event in November 2009, Krug 1996 was served among others, no doubt excellent Champagnes (Veuve Clicquot Rose, Dom Perignon 2000, …). I made a mistake – pretty much fatal, as it appeared – to start tasting from the Krug 1996. I had vintage champagnes before, and never really appreciated them. Krug 1996 was something else – with richness of freshly baked bread, nutty and creamy, fine-tuned refreshing acidity, ultimately balanced – it was incredible. All the Champagnes in that tasting, with pedigree or not, literally tasted like water next to Krug 1996. Yes, this wine is expensive (about $300+, you can check the price here), but it worth every penny – and worth dreaming about. And if you need to expand your Champagne dream list, you can find a lot more recommendations here.
There are few days left before we will toast new hopes, new dreams, new desires with the New Year 2011. No matter what will be in your glass, I wish for your wildest dreams to become reality. Raise your glass To Life, and keep dreaming!
Continuing our tasting series courtesy of Cost Less Wines, we are now moving from Champagne region in France to Speyside in Scotland. As a group, Speyside scotches usually mild, with nice and round character, and not very peaty. Subject of this tasting was The Glenlivet, oldest (and legendary) legal distillery in the region (as usual, Wikipedia provides wealth of information about the distillery, and also you can take a look at the company’s web site, even though I find it no so easy to use).
Four scotches were represented at the tasting – 15, 18, 21 and 25 years old. Such a tasting is a great opportunity to explore, experience and learn. Effectively, at this tasting you had an opportunity to try a “vertical”. I understand that wine category “Vertical”, when you try wine from the same winery made in a succession of years, is not applicable to scotch. But it is amazing what every 3 years in the cask would do to the actual taste. In the event, there was nice and noticeable progression in the taste – starting from smooth and simple Glenlivet 15, gaining complexity with the 18, and being super-rich, complex and round with 21.
To my taste, Glenlivet 21 was probably the best. It had very complex but clean taste profile (yes, it was my favorite in the tasting and it has great QPR at $110). However Glenlivet 25 was beyond complex. It had a lot of stuff going, including oily substances on the palate – or may be I simply didn’t spend enough time with it.
Does Glenlivet 25 worth $300? I think the answer is rather yes than no. At the same time, one have to really understand the virtues of taste of the fine scotch, in order to fully enjoy it. But in any case, it makes a fine present, especially for “someone who has everything”. I will be glad to try it again if I will have the opportunity, but for now – there will be more tasting events at Cost Less Wines, don’t miss it!
Holidays are great (hmmm, that’s a deep and original thought, huh). On one side, life gets really hectic – too many things to do, and not enough time. On another side, it is a special time, and people do special things. Wine is important part of any celebration, so holiday times are rich with great wine experiences. Particularly, starting from last Thursday, there were different wine tastings at Cost Less Wines in Stamford, which will continue until the end of this week. And if you are looking for special experiences – you don’t want to miss any of them (I know, it is Monday already – but better to start late than never!).
Thursday was a special day for the Champagnes. Indisputable king of any celebration, and ten times so for the New Year – Champagne requires no introduction. There are many many other similar wines, which are called “sparkling wines” as a group - but this is not the subject of this blog post, as it was not the subject of the wine tasting. Talking about Champagne, a number of familiar names comes to mind – Moët & Chandon (makers of famous Dom Pérignon), Louis Roederer (makers of Cristal), Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot – but we will not be talking about them here.
As wine overall is getting more popular in US, year after year, more of the interesting wines are becoming available here. In regards to Champagne, there is a growing phenomenon called Growers Champagne. All the Champagne names mentioned above belong to so called Champagne Houses. Champagne Houses do not grow their own grapes – they source their grapes from the whole Champagne region, and then blend the grapes to achieve particular taste profile, specific for each individual House. When it comes to the Growers Champagne, all the grapes are by the winery, which then makes the Champagne wine – only 5% of the grapes can come from outside to be eligible for “Growers Champagnes” designation. Growers Champagnes had being around from the beginning of actual commercial Champagnes, but only in the last 5 years or so, such wines became known in the United States. Before we talk about tasting, just one last note – you can recognize Growers Champagne by initials RM, which stands for Récoltant-Manipulant, which can be found on the label. Traditional Champagnes are typically designated as NM, Négociant-Manipulant. If you want to read more on the subject – wikipedia, as usual, provides great wealth of information.
Let’s talk about the tasting. There were 4 Growers Champagnes represented in the tasting: Chateau Aubry, Chateau Chartogne – Taillet Saint-Anne, Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils and Champagne Gastone Chiquet 2002. The first one, Chateau Aubry was a bit all over the place – yes, it was sparkling wine, but I didn’t get much pleasure out of it. The next 3 delivered different experience. Chateau Chartogne – Taillet had nice yeasty nose and aromas of brioche and fresh bread. Chateau Pierre Gimonnet had nice clean nose and good refreshing acidity – totally different ffrom the previous one, it was still warmly inviting and asking to take another sip.
The best in tasting, however, was Chateau Gaston Chiquet 2002, the only vintage champagne in this tasting. Light and effervescent, medium to full body wine, showing its pedigree with aromas and taste of apples and fresh bread – definitely very nice bubbly (should we also mention great QPR at $50/bottle?).
Great wines, great experience. It would be very interesting to compare the Growers Champagnes with the other sparkling wines – I’m sure you can see the the blind tasting working its way in here. But don’t wait for me – experiment, try something new – find the bottle of Growers Champagne and tell me if it will brighten your Holidays. And just to give you a hint – we are traveling from France to Scotland with the next post…
When I restarted my Wine Century Club crazy grape adventure in the May of this year, I had no idea how long will it take to get from about 200 grapes (was not so easy to get even there, trust me) to the 300 grapes, which are required to achieve Treble level.
I started documenting the journey from Doppel to the Treble level with one of the very first posts in this blog. On July 20th, I was talking about grape number 240. It is middle December now, and I’m crossing into the last ten. The last advance, from #283 to the #291 was mostly made due to the Georgian wines, where a lot of authentic grapes are used. So in no particular order, the latest group includes the following grapes:
Kisi – from very nice white wine Marani Kondoli Mtsvane Kisi 2008, Georgia
Mujuretuli – red grape used in the famous Georgian wine called Khvanchkara
Aladasturi – red grape used in another Georgian wine, Alaverdi Me and You 2002, Kakheti – nice and round wine
Tsolikauri – white grape used in Georgian wine called Tvishi (Teliani Valley Tvishi 2005) – the wine was surprisingly good, with a hint of sweetness, good fruit and acidity
Tsitska and Chinebuli – white grapes used in the Bagrationi sparking wine I wrote about in my previous post.
In addition to these Georgian grapes, two more wines added 3 grapes:
Picolit and Malvasia Istriana – used in white Italian wine Jermann Vintage Tunina 2006. This was one of the most unusual white wines I ever tried, full bodied, with the tart fruit expression and pronounced sense of place.
Roter Veltliner – white grape from Austria (wine was called Ecker Roter Veltliner 2008). I’m not sure I would be able to distinguish Roter Veltliner from Gruner Veltliner, but at the same time I never tried…
All together that brings us to the number 291. And to put the final target within the reach, more wines are waiting to be tried, which will add Coda di Volpe, Erbaluce, Portugieser, Ruche, Grolleau, Schiava and Pigato – you do the math.
So the fun journey continues, and I will make sure to report on it. As they say on the radio, stay tuned…
Sometimes, life just takes forceful precedence. I know what I want to write – but between business trip, my son birthday and other things, I simply don’t have time. So this is just to say “hi, I will be back with more stuff” ( whether you like it or not). And…let’s play a quick game. Below is the picture – please tell me what do you think it is. There will be no prize in the end, except that I will tell you if you are right or wrong. And yes, it is related to food. So, what is it?