On Monday, I spent some time talking about Piper-Heidsieck. My thanks to Eric who sent me an image of a beautiful vintage poster of a Piper-Heidsieck bottle. It’s so appropriate considering Mad Men is set in the world of advertising. This print ad is from 1953, displaying the 1949 vintage. The bottle is appears identical to the one Pete opened in Sunday’s episode. If indeed it was a 1949 vintage, I have no doubt it cost our fictional character a fair amount of his fictional 1960s dollars. I bet it tasted pretty darned good though.
One item I’d like to point out about the above ad is that the bubbly is poured into a regular wine glass and not a champagne flute. Now, maybe the good folks at Piper-Heidsieck can shed some light on that choice for me. In fact, the classic tulip shaped champagne flute was in wide use by the 1930s. However, a lot of people were still using the champagne coupe, from the late 1800s. (A myth states the coupe was molded from the breast of Marie Antoinette.) In fact, in 2009, we found the characters of Mad Men enjoying some Veuve Clicquot in coupes.
To end on a note of utter whimsy, you’ll notice there is a miniature circus, including a rather talented giraffe, taking over the ad. Piper-Heidsieck is a Champagne House that’s always been slightly unconventional, even when everything was conventional in the 1940s and ’50s. In 2008 they embraced their inner Lewis Carroll and released an upside-down bottle designed by Viktor & Rolf. If you were feeling exravagant, you might also pick up an upside down ice bucket and flutes.
Screen capture, AMC TV’s Mad Men, 2012
In last night’s Mad Men, I was given a lot of options. I could write about cocktails, about Canadian Club, Jack Daniel’s, Stoli, or even Chivas Regal. But near the end, I was given the perfect opportunity to wax on a bit about my favorite beverage of all … champagne.
Near the 40 minute mark, Pete is announcing the Mohawk Airlines win and deftly putting down Roger, all while opening a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck champagne. I can’t zoom in far enough without going blurry, so I can’t tell you whether it’s a vintage year or not. So let’s start with a quick refresher on champagne itself.
There are a lot of tasty sparkling wines out there, including cava and just good ol’ sparkling wine. It’s not uncommon for these to be made using the age old Champenois process. However, in order to be called “champagne,” it needs to come from the Champagne region of France, no matter how many bubbles are racing to the top.
Champagne is divided into vintage and non-vintage (NV) wine. NV Champagnes are the most common and often include grapes from 3 or more harvests. Every so often, a vintage is so remarkable that the winemaker will declare it a vintage year. Remember that while one House may declare a vintage, another may not. Vintage and NV wines are at the discretion of the winemaker.
Bubbly is made from any one or more of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes. It also comes in several different styles that you’ll see on the label. Blanc de blancs means that the wine was produced from all white grapes. In Champagne, this means the wine is 100% chardonnay. Blanc de noirs means the champagne is produced from pinot noir, pinot meunier, or a blend of the two.
You should also pay attention to the sweetness levels, denoted by French terms on the label. Extra Brut is usually very dry champagne, whereas Brut is dry, but may still be a bit rich on the finish. Extra-Sec and Sec are usually medium dry wines and Demi-Sec is usually the sweetest style you’ll find on the market.
To tie it all back into our episode, let’s talk a little about Piper-Heidsieck. Piper-Heidsieck is in the Reims region of Champagne and has been around since 1785. Now one of the largest Champagne Houses, it started as the house of Heidsieck with Florens-Louis Heidsieck at the helm. Florens-Louis passed away in 1828 and his nephew Christian took over, with help from his cousin, Henri Piper. The House didn’t become a hyphenate until 10 years later, when Christian died. Cousin Henri took this chance to marry the newly widowed wife of Christian (oh yes!) and the house of Piper-Heidsieck was created.
Piper-Heidsieck has had some fun over the years, but in 2009 they really attracted my attention with Le Ritual – a collaboration with Christian Louboutin. Really, shoes and champagne … of course I noticed this.
Le Rituel is a box set containing a glass stiletto, complete with signature red sole, and a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck. The collaboration was in homage to an odd period in the 1880s when there was an strange and decadent high-society “ritual” of drinking from women’s shoes.
There are a lot of different sparkling wines out there in the wine world and which one is the right one for your celebratory New Years drink?
First off not all sparkling wines are champagne. The only sparkling wines that are actually champagnes are the ones that come from the region of Champagne in France. (unless you’re one of the few California wineries that have been around for over 50+ years that got grandfathered in…whatever) Everything else is sparkling wine.
Different countries have different names for their sparkling. Spain calls their wine Cava, Italy calls theirs Prosecco, and you might also see Spumante.
What is the difference between all of the different types? Let’s break it down:
Champagne is a dry sparkling wine usually made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and/or Pinot Meunier grapes. The different types are Cuvee, Extra Dry, Blanc de Blanc, Blanc de Noir, Rose, and Brut.
With all that said, most sparkling wines are going to be a little on the dry side. Most Prosecco, Cava, Rose, and extra dry Champagnes will have the same dry consistency like a Chardonnay but will have a hint of sweet at the end. California sparkling wines and Brut tend to me more drier like a red wine.
I will be hosting a free wine tasting at Liquor City Bakewell today and tomorrow from 4 – 8 and we will be tasting Champagnes, Sparkling wines, and Moscato. Stop on by during those hours anytime and I’ll help you choose the right sparkling for you.
So tonite is New Year’s Eve, ushering out the old year and decade and welcoming in the new. Tonite, we’re just having a low-key evening including dinner out with friends and maybe back to their place. At the moment, I’m just leaning towards Dick Clark / Ryan Seacrest and some tea at midnight. It’s been a crazy busy year, full of travel and change. I’m hoping if I usher in the new year calmly, then 2010 might reflect some of that calm.
What are you doing? There are a lot of options, and I’ll point you in the right direction to find lists of parties. Don’t forget, the new Mynt Martini is now open on Fountain Square. I expect the place to give Tonic a run for its money, although I’ll take vintage cocktails over creative martinis any day. Amazing location though! If anyone goes, I’d love for you to write me up a review!
On to festivities:
And in case you overindulge – hey, it happens! – you can count on a free taxi ride home. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is sponsoring free taxi rides home as long as you’re within the 275 loop. The number to call (write this down) is 513-768-FREE.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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