Recently arrived bubbles
Many of us will want to ease a cork out of a bottle of bubbly to say goodbye to this year, and you should only hear a gentle pfft sound as the stopper is gently and slowly removed. An unholy bang just releases too many of those millions of tiny bubbles that the winemaker has assured will be in the bottle – I’m serious. Besides that, the cork can reach dangerous speeds of up to 64mph, if just allowed to pop out.
It would be understandable to assume that most of the grapes in the Champagne district are white as most of the wine is. The fact is that pinot noir tops the acreage with 32,000 acres and a clone of it called pinot meunier spreads over 26,000. Chardonnay rings in at 25,000. I have watched the dark red grapes being crushed, and the must (juice) being removed from contact with the skins immediately before any colouring tannins can be absorbed. The vast majority of champagne is a blend of all three but let us see about exceptions
Hommage by Devaux Blanc de Noirs Non-Vintage Champagne, as the name indicates, is a white wine made from dark red grapes and in this case only pinot noir is used. Although bristling with finesse, it is rich and powerful with notes of honey and brioche and red fruits like raspberries and cherries. I am a big pinot noir fan and really appreciate the influence of this grape and I find this style such a good accompaniment to poultry, salmon, tuna, and pork. $46 (Stock #7013).
Another 100 per cent pinot noir, that we actually have waiting in our home fridge, is Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Champagne, that is always spectacular. Canadian critic Natalie MacLean sums it up well with, “the top-selling rosé champagne worldwide, Laurent-Perrier delivers elegant taste and quality in this bubbly. Made from Pinot Noir grapes, this sparkling wine offers aromas of raspberry, black cherry, and toasted bread. Try it tonight with a rack of lamb and see what I mean. Champagne rosé food pairings: stuffed pork tenderloin, roast leg of lamb”.
Today, much of the rosé is created by adding a little still red juice to the final blend to obtain an acceptable rosé colour. Laurent-Perrier uses the historic, and more challenging, method called “saignée”, that means “bleeding”. This is achieved by carefully timing the amount of time that the juice is left on the skins to extract just the right amount of colour. This enhances the structure and complexity of the wine. $99.90. (Stock #7168). Magnums $245 (Stock #7160).
Let’s take a quick trip out to California and consider a wine that I wrote about recently (so I will not refer in detail to Nixon taking it to China in 1972 and so on). It is 2017 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs from Napa Valley, and as the name indicates, it is a white wine made from white grapes. In their case, as it is in champagne, only chardonnay is used and Schramsberg carefully create their bubblies by employing the labour-intensive method used in the champagne district.
The Wine Spectator magazine comments: “lithe and delicately balanced, with vibrant lemon custard, blanched almond and steely citrus tones that take on richness and speed on the long finish”. $45 (Stock #7023).
If you want to enjoy a traditional blend then the Piper Heidsieck “Essential” Extra Brut Cuvée Non-Vintage is 47 per cent pinot noir, 31 per cent pinot meunier and 22 per cent chardonnay and together they offer us dried nuts, plums, brioche, grapefruit, stewed quince, and acacia honey. As the name “extra brut” indicates, the final “dosage” is a little less than usual. For those of you not familiar with this important part of champagne production, let me explain. “Liqueur de dosage” is a small amount of cane sugar dissolved in wine that is added once the sediment is removed from the bottle and the final cork is put in place. The Wine Enthusiast magazine rates it a fine 93 points. $70 (Stock #7059).
The House of Piper Heidsieck was founded in 1785 and Laurent-Perrier in 1812 but Nicolas Feuillatte founded his modern firm in 1976 and it is now the third largest in the world. It has been the top seller in France for quite a few years. That is quite an achievement. Their Nicolas Feuillatte “Terroir Premier Cru” tells us, in its name, that grapes used hail from only Premier Cru vineyards. Out of the 300 communes, 17 are rated Grand Cru and 42 Premier Cru, which signifies their hierarchy (and price) on the quality scale.
This champagne is an equal blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay and I suspect that copious amounts were consumed in pride and sorrow after their soccer teams’ amazing World Cup final. Sweet notes of acacia, honey, pear, white fruits, and citrus are supported by spicy pinot noir notes that are caressed by velvet-smooth pinot meunier. $68 with gift box (Stock #7004).
Well of course, I would not like to leave those electronically adroit among us who like to scan things with their mobile devices and so on. Just in time for the new year celebrations we offer 19 Crimes Cali Gold Sparkling Wine featuring Snoop Dogg on the label. The gold-foiled edition of Snoop’s iconic label contains a new web-based augmented reality experience giving fans the option to hear Snoop rap his timeless party track Who Am I (What's My Name)?. To activate the feature, simply scan the QR code located on the back of the bottle using a mobile device and the Doggfather himself comes to life, ready to get the party poppin’. This bubbly is made from muscat Alexandria, white Riesling, French colombard and a few others. For those that have helped make this 19 Crimes range of wines such a popular choice this is perfect for you. It is pale gold with a nose of citrus, a round texture and a touch of sweetness. $28.90 (Stock #6221).
Happy New Year!
• This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm