By John Peters
Culinaria Cooking School
As I mentioned in my note on page 1, I believe that champagne sets the perfect tone for any event. From the elegant glass, to the bubbles that float to the top, champagne says: "It's party time!"
Champagne and sparkling wines also are the perfect companion to every course of the meal from appetizers to entrees and desserts.
Some champagne-friendly seafood selections include calamari, crab cakes, oysters, shrimp, scallops, lobster, and sea bass. Champagne also goes nicely with lemon chicken, Thai curries, hard cheeses, and mushroom dishes.
Here's why: Champagne is high in acidity, and when combined with all those bubbles, its subtle flavor makes it one of the most food-friendly wines in the world.
About champagne from Champagne: Champagne is a region in northeast France that is famous for making luxury bubbly. It comes from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes, and technically speaking, you should refer to any bubbly produced outside of the Champagne district as sparkling wine.
Of course, other regions in the world produce wine in the Champagne method, called Methode Champenoise.
This is the second fermentation of the wine, which happens in the bottle when the carbon dioxide is trapped and then integrates itself into the wine. That's what makes the fine stream of bubbles, which float to the top of the glass.
What to look for:
While Champagne creates some of finest wines in the world, many other regions also produce good, affordable bubbly:
- You can't go wrong with a bottle of Cremant du Bourgogne from Burgundy, Cremant du Alsace, or Cremant de Loire. A bit pricey, but pure heaven.
- Incredible values come from Cava, a region south of Barcelona in Spain. Sparkling wines range from $8-$15 dollars per bottle, and are perfect for a summer patio party or for mixing with OJ in a mimosa at Sunday brunch.
- Another everyday bubbly that's perfect for a New Year's Day lunch is Proseco, which comes from the northern part of Italy. This wine is created using the Charmat process (where the wine is fermented in stainless-steel tanks under pressure and then bottled). Promise me you will drink this wine soon after you buy it. It does not age well.
- Good buys can also be found from our friends in California, which has many sparkling wine houses that are actually owned by the French champagne houses. The California bubbly market offers a wide range of styles, from the richest coming from the Roedrer Estate, to the medium-bodied Mumm Cuvee Napa, and the very delicate Domaine Carneros. All of these are reasonably priced, around $18-$25 per bottle.
- Other regions worth mentioning for sparkling wine production are Argentina, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, and South Africa. These also are affordable and delicious options.
If you insist on buying champagne from Champagne, know that most of the classified growths are within three regions. You can't go wrong with a bottle from any of them.
- Côte des Blancs. Directly to the south of the Montagne de Reims, this region derives its name from its almost exclusive cultivation of Chardonnay grapes. The wines produced in this area have become the most sought after in all of Champagne.
- Vallee de la Marne. This region produces easy drinking, fruit-forward wines produced from a high proportion of Pinot Meunier. Although this region is prone to frost, Pinot Meunier thrives here because of its late bud-break and early ripening.
- Montagne de Reims. Situated between Epernay and Reims, the vineyards in this district generally face north and northeast. They are planted with a high proportion of Pinot Noir and slightly less Chardonnay, producing well-structured, deeply flavored wines.
Questions? Send me an email at John@culinariacookingschool.com.
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