sparkling wine

Are Big bottles of Champagne more fun?

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Opening a large bottle of Champagne is certaintly very magical and entertaining making  an even grander statement. Whether it’s a magnum which holds the equivalent of two regular bottles of wine or a massive 4-bottle Jeroboam, bigger bottles are a smart and easy way to please a crowd.

 

Looking back on bottles of bubbly with friends over the years, the larger format bottles seem to stand out. We celebrated wrapping up shooting for my book The Bubbly Bar with a magnum of Veuve Clicquot; I remember sharing the same wine with Tony Hawk and his friends at a party in their backyard. Krug’s rich and toasty Grande Cuvee flowed freely from magnums at an over-the-top press trip to show off the brand’s custom hot air balloon.

The cool thing about larger bottles is that ounce for ounce, they’re no more expensive than the 750. And besides their impressive size, larger format bottles win in the taste department when compared to the usual 750 ml bottles. I learned this lesson after a long and windy drive up to Mendocino County to visit Roederer Estate. The tasting room hosts pour their non vintage brut from a 750 ml bottle and a 1.5 liter magnum and letting guests taste the two side by side. The wine from the 750 was deliciously crisp and bursting with fresh green apples; the same wine from the magnum had these richer, toasty notes that usually are found in a wine that’s much older and more expensive

Pairing Wine with Cheese or Cheese with Wine!!!!

 

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At our Wine Tastings, I have often been   asked to tell which wine matched with which cheese. The funny thing is I never thought about cheeses, just cheese. I recently asked my co-workers & friend a similar question about pairing wine and cheese and most of the time the answer, while so amazingly obvious, surprised me
Shawn is our proprietor at our store and as such he is often asked to pair wines with cheese. With very few exceptions, cheese in a restaurant means a cheese plate, and pairing wines with an assortment of cheeses changes the equation entirely. In truth, that’s probably what most people mean when they ask about cheese and wine pairings: not a specific recommendation for a particular cheese, but rather a wine that is flexible enough to pair with many cheeses!

And here I’ve been going on and on and specific pairings for years! I’ll follow up this article with some specific pairings. After all, there does come a time when you have a bottle of wine open throughout a meal and you want to finish off the meal with the last of the bottles and just a bite of cheese. For today, let’s take a look at wines that work with cheese in a more general sense, beginning with Shawn’s recommendation:

Marsala

When most people think of Marsala, they probably think of veal or chicken sautéed and then finished off with the slightly sweet Italian wine know as Marsala. That’s certainly a valid and popular impression of what Marsala might be and one good use for it, but Marsala, like almost every wine, has a more generic example as well as some particularly exceptional bottlings.

Marsala is a fortified wine, similar to Sherry in many ways in that it reaches its peak when carefully aged. The best examples often are vintage dated or are soleras (barrel aged wines of multiple vintages) that have ages of 10 or even 20 years noted on the label.

With this level of maturity, the generally delicate in nature Marsala becomes intensely flavored with notes of almonds, dates and figs. All of these are happy to pair with cheese, particularly ripe, well-aged wash rind cheese, though their high acidity and relatively light body makes them particularly adept with a myriad of pairings.

Sherry

Mentioning that Marsala is similar to Sherry was no accident here, as Sherry easily comes as the second option on this list and one that is both easier to find as well as more affordable than Marsala.

Sherry is a fortified wine made in Spain. It comes in many styles, from light and airy fino to heavy and sweet. The dry versions can sometimes be a little to lean to pair with anything but the most delicate cheese, but when you move onto something with a touch of sweetness, like a Pale Cream Sherry, you can really find some explosive pairings. A runny, pungent cheese is often the perfect partner for the salty, complex flavors of a Pale Cream Sherry, though the style that was once sold as rich or sweet Oloroso, both of which are now prohibited terms when it comes to labeling Sherry, was an absolute perfect match: rich but not heavy, sweet but not sugary and with a tang to match the greatest cheese.

Demi-sec

Both Marsala and Sherry are somewhat esoteric wines, which is why they work so well when it comes to pairing with a variety of cheese. The keys to their success are savory flavors and high acidity. But that is not the only option for those looking to pair wines with multiple cheeses. Sweetness, as with Pale Cream Sherry, is a fine partner for most cheese as long as it’s not taken too far, and there are several wines that are right at home with cheese.

Take for example demi-sec sparkling wine, either Champagne, sparkling wine or even Prosecco. All of these have great acidity and scrubbing bubbles that help balance the richness of the fattiest cheeses. Sugar brightened fruit allows you to contrast the funky flavors of your favorite cheese with a sweet fruit pairing as opposed to the more complimentary flavors of the Sherry and Marsala.

Riesling

Perhaps one of the greatest cheese friendly wines, Riesling often has it all: a bit of sweetness, bright acidity, sweet fruit flavors and if the wine has some age on it, a nice array of savory elements. All of this adds up to a wine that can match well with many cheeses. The generally lighter character of many Riesling really give flexibility for the freshest, buttery cheese or hard aged examples to blues, the wine stumping cheese!

One of the maxims of food and wine pairing is to try to match the intensity of the dish with the intensity of the wine. This is where the many components of Riesling come into play. With so many aspects available to compliment or contrast with the flavors of the cheese, Riesling is able to highlight one aspect of a cheese without dominating the scene.

White Zinfandel

 A well done white Zin is fruity, fresh and a little sweet, which makes it perfectly suitable for pairing with fresher cheese as well as light blues. That sweetness serves as a backstop for more assertively flavored cheese and salty hard cheese. It may not be the perfect match for any one cheese, but we’re speaking in generalities here. A light rose, you can find off dry examples from the Loire, Spain, and Italy as well, is a charming partner for so many cheeses that we simply can’t ignore it.

So what will it be for you- Wine to match your cheese or Cheese to match your wine! 

New Year’s Eve Champagne Q&A

Celebrate 2012

As midnight approaches on December 31st, more than a few of us will crack open a bottle or two of champagne to help toast in the New Year.

With a few choice facts about the bubbly stuff, you can look knowledgeable rather than just tipsy when you drain your flute. Here are a few little nuggets you can share with fellow revelers.

1. What exactly is champagne?
Strictly speaking, champagne is a sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of northeastern France.

If it’s a bubbly wine from another region, it’s sparkling wine, not champagne.

While many people use the term “champagne” generically for any sparkling wine, the French have maintained their legal right to call their wines champagne for over a century. The Treaty of Madrid, signed in 1891 established this rule, and the Treaty of Versailles reaffirmed it.

The European Union helps protect this exclusivity now, although certain American producers can still generically use “champagne” on their labels if they were using the term before early 2006.

2. How is champagne made?
Sparkling wines can be made in a variety of ways, but traditional champagne comes to life by a process called the methode Champenoise. Champagne starts its life like any normal wine. The grapes are harvested, pressed, and allowed to undergo a primary fermentation. The acidic results of this process are then blended and bottled with a bit of yeast and sugar so it can undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle. (It’s this secondary fermentation that gives champagne its bubbles.)

This new yeast starts doing its work on the sugar, and then dies and becomes what’s known as lees. The bottles are then stored horizontally so the wine can “age on lees” for 15 months or more.

After this aging, winemakers turn the bottles upside down so the lees can settle to the bottom. Once the dead yeast has settled, producers open the bottles to remove the yeast, add a bit of sugar known as dosage to determine the sweetness of the champagne, and slip a cork onto the bottle. Mental Floss: Why is the drinking age 21?

3. What’s so special about the Champagne region?

Several factors make the chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes grown in the Champagne region particularly well suited for crafting delicious wines. The northern location makes it a bit cooler than France’s other wine-growing regions, which gives the grapes the proper acidity for sparkling wine production. Moreover, the porous, chalky soil of the area — the result of large earthquakes millions of years ago — aids in drainage.

4. Do I have to buy champagne to get good sparkling wine?

Not at all. Although many champagnes are delightful, most the world’s wine regions make tasty sparkling wines of their own. You can find highly regarded sparkling wines from California, Spain, Italy, Australia, and other areas without shelling out big bucks for Dom Perignon.

5. Speaking of Dom Perignon, who was this guy?
Contrary to popular misconception, the namesake of the famous brand didn’t invent champagne. But Perignon, a Benedictine monk who worked as cellar master at an abbey near Epernay during the 17th and 18th centuries, did have quite an impact on the champagne industry.

In Perignon’s day, sparkling wine wasn’t a really sought-after beverage. In fact, the bubbles were considered to be something of a flaw, and early production methods made producing the wine somewhat dangerous. (Imprecise temperature controls could lead to fermentation starting again after the wine was in the bottle.

If one bottle in a cellar exploded and had its cork shoot out, a chain reaction would start.) Perignon helped standardize production methods to avoid these explosions, and he also added two safety features to his wines: thicker glass bottles that better withstood pressure and rope snare that helped keep corks in place. Mental Floss: The men behind your favorite liquors

6. What’s the difference between brut and extra brut?
You’ll see these terms on champagne labels to describe how sweet the good stuff in the bottle is. As mentioned above, a bit of sugar known as dosage is added to the bottle right before it’s corked, and these terms describe exactly how much sugar went in. Extra brut has less than six grams of sugar per liter added, while brut contains less than 15 grams of additional sugar per liter. Several other classifications exist, but drier champagnes are more common.

7. Why do athletes spray each other with champagne after winning titles?
Throughout its history, champagne has been a celebratory drink that’s made appearances at coronations of kings and the launching of ships. However, the bubbly-spraying throwdowns that now accompany athletic victories are a much more recent development.

When Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt won the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1967, they ascended the winner’s podium with a bottle of champagne in hand. Gurney looked down and saw team owner Carroll Shelby and Ford Motors CEO Henry Ford II standing with some journalists and decided to have a bit of fun. Gurney gave the bottle a shake and sprayed the crowd, and a new tradition was born.

8. What’s sabrage?
After the French Revolution, members of Napoleon’s cavalry decided that the normal pop-and-foam ritual of opening a bottle of champagne just wasn’t as visually impressive as it could be. They responded by popularizing a way of opening bottles using a sword.

The technique, known as sabrage, involved holding a bottle at arm’s length while quickly running a saber down the bottle towards the neck. When the saber’s blade struck the glass lip just beneath the cork, the glass breaks, shooting off the cork and neck of the bottle while leaving the rest of the vessel intact.

Ceremonial “champagne swords” are available for just this purpose, and if you can pull off this trick, you’ll be the toast of your shindig. (Be careful, though. A flying champagne cork is already you’ll-put-your-eye-out dangerous, and adding a ring of ragged broken glass to the equation doesn’t make the whole endeavor any safer.) Mental Floss: Drinking stories that put yours to shame.

Now that you know all about Champagne & Sparkling wine, you can use the link below to see our vast selection of them.

http://www.melandrose.com/asp_pages/champagne.asp