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Oct 26

Sparkling Wine with Dinner

Tomorrow night, the Dilly Cafe (Dilly Deli) in Mariemont is hosting a wine dinner with sparkling wine vintners Domain Chandon. At last check, there were still about 8 seats left and at $65, the price is pretty reasonable.

Now, I’d be perfectly happy to only drink sparkling wine (including champagne, prosecco, cava, and others) for the rest of my life. It is my favorite type of wine, closely followed by pinot noir. But to get you in the mood for a sparkling wine dinner, I thought I’d talk a little about a seminar we took in Disney, with Moët & Chandon, Domaine Chandon’s parent company. Moët & Chandon, based in France, makes champagne. Domaine Chandon, in Napa, makes sparkling wine using the traditional champagne method. Only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can actually be called “champagne.” For our purposes, I’m just going to go with “bubbly.”

Our instructor was Seth Box, Director of Education for Moët & Chandon USA. One of the first things he did was to preemptively correct the class’s pronunciation. Despite the fact that folks everywhere pronounce it Mo-AY and Chandon, it’s actually Mo-ETT. That, folks, is what those two little dots mean over the e.

image from farm3.static.flickr.com
Champagne, and sparkling wine in the champagne method, can be made from three grapes: Pinot Noir gives the wine backbone and structure, Chardonnay lends elegance, and the Pinot Meunier picks up the slack as a workhorse grape. I find this interesting, as I really enjoy Pinot Meunier on its own. In fact, I think Domain Chandon might make one of the few Pinot Meunier-only wines available on our retail shelves.

Seth pretty much told us to just enjoy our samples while he talked
about Moët & Chandon and bubbly in general. I thought I’d touch on
some of the more interesting points he shared before I dive into our
review of the wines.

  • Why are bubbly hangovers so bad? It’s for one of two reasons: either you drank too much, in which case you probably earned your hangover, or your drank bad bubby. No kidding folks. Drink too many bottles of $5 Andre and you’re going to feel it for a reason. According to Seth, the cheaper bubblies are suffering from poor workmanship. The grapes are squeezed too hard, releasing histamines into the wine. The histamines are then fermented. It’s a sign. Drink. Better. Wine.
  • Store your bubbly upright. Kevin and I keep ours upright in our pantry, where it’s dark and there’s no vibration. But don’t store it too long. Seth commented that “It’s a British thing to sit on wine until you’re almost dead.” Most non vintage bubblies have aged at the winery and are ready to drink now.
  • There are ~250 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne. That’s a lot of bubbles folks. The cork can come out of the bottle at up to 65 miles per hour, due to the pressure built up behind the cork.

image from farm3.static.flickr.com On to the wines. We tried three, all Moët & Chandon Non-Vintage. I enjoyed all three, but definitely preferred the second glass.

Rosé (Brut): According to Seth, this pink wine was the best of our three for food pairing, because the contact with the red grape skins (thus the pink) lends a little bit of tannins to the wine. This wine had some strawberries, light cherries, and a good texture.

Michelle: Kevin

Imperial (Extra Dry): You might know this wine as White Star. Until recently, it was known world-over as Imperial, except in the US. They changed the name domestically so that you could order your favorite sparkler by the same name, no matter where you land. I’ve always been a fan of White Star, er, Imperial. It has more of the dry, bread-y flavors I prefer in a good bubbly, and it’s not very sweet.

Michelle & Kevin:

Nectar Imperial (Demi-Sec): This was by far the sweetest. I’m not a huge fan of sweet bubbly, so this one was my least favorite. I made a very unscientific observations at the Dessert & Champagne booth, however. I noticed this wine was being poured more frequently than the other bubblies and that it was almost always chosen by women. Seth noted that this wine pairs well with strong cheeses, such as cheddar, gouda, and chevre.

Michelle & Kevin:

image from farm3.static.flickr.com
The Dilly Cafe dinner (full menu) on Tuesday begins with a reception at 6:30 pm and dinner at 7 pm. Again, it’s a Domain Chandon wine dinner, which is located in Napa and owned by Moët & Chandon. In fact, Domaine Chandon has a special place in my heart as the first winery I ever visited in Napa, back in 2004. There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to begin that trip with some sparkling wine. I recommend you give Domaine Chandon a try as well. You can RSVP by calling 513.561.5233.

image from farm3.static.flickr.com

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Posted by Michelle at 8:38 am in Dinner and Drinks, Disney, Knowledge, Wine Notes | Permalink | Comments (2)

2 Responses to “Sparkling Wine with Dinner”

  1. Burke Morton says:

    Thanks for the great post! I have spent some time probing the machinery of the Champagne industry, and there are a couple of things that come to mind that I hope will be of value.
    The bad bubbly hangover has two other potential causes, one of which is related to your first reason of drinking too much of it: the CO2 in sparkling wine magnifies a drinker’s experience of everything in the wine–so whatever histaminic reaction one might have from an aggressively made base wine (i.e., the wine before the bottle fermentation that makes it bubbly) is made much greater when with the addition of bubbles. A doctor explained the effect to me this way: When drinking sparkling wine, we are also consuming dissolved C02, which enters the bloodstream on the same pathway that oxygen would, reducing the oxygen concentration in the blood. This makes us feel the alcohol more quickly and makes us more susceptible to a hangover. He also asserted that drinking sparkling water can have a similar effect when combined with wine, but that it is much less pronounced.
    The only antidote for this is to DRINK WATER. This is true any time we drink alcohol, but especially so when it’s Champagne, so drink MORE water.
    The second reason for the hangover that pops a Champagne-bottle’s worth of brain-cells is related to your sage advice of drinking young (for non-vintage wines that is, not underage…). The major Champagne houses (and their offspring) have deep pockets that allow them storage space (which is generally the always romantic-looking tanker truck) for about ten to fifteen vintages of juice. They spread the blend across so many vintages in an effort to keep the non-vintage wine from changing character significantly through the years. To further insure this, the wine destined for non-vintage use is stripped of its general vintage character (it goes through a centrifuge and intense clarification). This is so that when the neutral-tasting base wine gets the yeast and dosage of liquid sugar (which is the crucial step that turns the still wine into sparkling wine), also included in the sugar is a cocktail of additives that contains the typical house flavors. From one Champagne house to another, one cannot be sure of the after-effects of making wine this way, but some non-vintage wines encourage hangovers more than others. I’ve noticed that this doesn’t come up at wine dinners, which is probably just as well.
    Some see this as “doctored wine” and want to avoid it. If so, estate-bottled Champagne (also known as Grower Champagne or Farmer Fizz) is the way to go. The growers typically only have enough space to store two to three years worth of juice (as opposed to a decade or more) to blend together for their non-vintage wine, and when they add a dosage (IF they choose to, but that’s another story) with the yeast, they add not sugar but unfermented grape juice, so the process is generally purer.
    Incidentally, the non-vintage Grower Champagnes do age quite well because they do not contain any old wine, but I can see no reason to sit on non-vintage Champagne–it’s not likely to get any better.
    A by-product of the insurgency of Farmer Fizz (which was virtually unavailable 12 years ago) is that the non-vintage wines from the big houses have improved. I recently had the NVs from Bollinger and Roederer and loved them…and there wasn’t hangover in sight.

  2. [...] Fun facts on Fizz — To find out why hangovers from bubbly are so wicked, how many bubbles are really in that bottle of Champers, and the proper way to store your sparklers, scroll about halfway down this post from My Wine Education. [...]

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