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Champagne! How to Pour, Pair and Enjoy Veuve Clicquot

istock_000003631577xsmallTo be sure, champagne is the beverage of choice during the holidays, but do you know at what temperature it should be served? How should it be stored? What is the difference between vintage and non-vintage Champagne? Veuve Clicquot, the esteemed French winemaker, answers these questions and more.

What is the difference between a vintage and a non-vintage Champagne?
By law in Champagne, France, you cannot display a year on the label of a bottle unless all the grapes which make up the Champagne in the bottle have been sources from one single harvest, in one single year. This is known as a vintage. Wine connoisseurs seek vintage champagnes; non-vintage blends are not as attractive and should never go for more than 10% over the regular current price, according to Veuve Clicquot.

Why buy a magnum?
Magnums, which are twice the size of a regular bottle (750 ml), are optimal for aging wine: during the aging process, the wine is “breathing” even through the cork.

Best vintages
According to Veuve Clicquot, the best vintages in Champagne since the turn of the 20th century, include the following years (from most recent to oldest); 1998, 1996, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1985, 1979, 1976, 1969, 1969, 1955, 1949, 1947, 1943, 1934, 1929, 1921, 1918, and 1904.

Pouring temperature
The pouring temperature of Champagne will vary depending on the kind you will be serving. Young non-vintage champagne, with no year on the label, should be poured around 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit). Mature wines, on the other hand, such as vintage Champagne, should be poured between 12 to 14 degrees Celsius (54 to 57 degrees Fahrenheit).

Pairing Champagne with food
What can Champagne be served along with? Champagne goes well with pasta salads, sea food, oysters, shrimps, light fishes and antipasti. It also goes well with a cheese course as well as with many desserts.

How long can you keep Champagne?
Veuve Clicquot says non-vintage champagne should be enjoyed upon release, but may be stored for up to two or three years. Vintage Champagne can age longer; from 10 to 25 years depending on the style of each vintage.

How to store Champagne
Veuve Clicquot recommends Champagne be stored in the same manner as any regular fine wine. It should be kept at a cool and continuous temperature, which is ideally 10 to 12 degrees Celsius (50 to 54 degrees Fahrenheit) or at most between 7 to 15 degrees Celsius (45 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit). In addition, Veuve Clicquot recommends a high humidity (over 75%), good ventilation and darkness to create the best conditions.

What is the best way to open a bottle of Champagne?
Remove the foil and the wire cage. Next, slowly twist the cork back and forth about a quarter of an inch, while allowing the pressure inside the bottle to force it up. Do not pull the cork out of the bottle; it should be gently released.

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OCTOBER 25TH–GLOBAL CHAMPAGNE DAY! CHEERS!

imagesNot that you needed an excuse to pop a cork, but global Champagne Day is October 25. In restaurants, bars, living rooms and maybe even (evolved) offices, wine drinkers around the planet will be sipping frothy bubbles from the Champagne region of France. Which, by the way, is the only place true Champagne comes from. It’s not that other bubbly is bad; it just never tastes quite like the Real Deal.

Here are some fun facts to know about Champagne while you’re sipping:

1. The Champagne region is the easiest wine region to visit in France. Just an hour and a half train ride from Paris, and you’re there.

2. Champagne is the most northern wine region in France and the wines have unbelievable freshness and crispness as a result.

3. All Champagne can only be made from three grapes: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.

4. The bubbles in all Champagne are the result of a long, expensive process of a second fermentation inside each individual bottle. (Champagne, unlike cola or sparkling water—or even other sparkling wines—is not carbonated).

5. Champagne can only be made in Champagne, France. Sparkling wines made in other parts of France are called crémant.

6. The biggest flavor differences between Champagne and other sparklers comes down to 2 things: minerality (which is the result of Champagne’s amazing limestone soils) and creamy complexity (which is the result of the long years Champagne spends in contact with yeasts).

What to serve for Easter?

Most people don’t think of Easter as a drinking holiday, but for us wine lovers we know the secret…every holiday is a drinking holiday. Here are some suggestions of wines to serve with traditional (and non traditional) Easter meals and what foods pair best.

Bubbly

Domaine Chandon Brut Rose, $15
For me, every meal should start with bubbly. This Californian example is a traditional champagne blend (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) with some additional Pinot Noir added for color. Juicy watermelon and strawberry make it light enough as an aperitif, but as vibrant enough to pair with a small bite of seafood or shellfish.

Whites

Chehalem Dry Riesling, $22
I’m predicting a come back for Riesling over the next couple years, there are so many great producers of varying styles from Germany to Washington to Oregon. Chehalem’s (Oregon) is bone dry with stone fruit flavors and a touch of lemon zest. Riesling is such a versatile wine when it comes to food pairing, in my opinion the best white wine for food pairing. My favorite for the wine is spicy food, but given a traditional Easter menu it would be a good match for ham.

Domaine Pommier Chablis, $26
If you are going with seafood as a main course rather than ham, try your taste for Chablis. Chablis, a growing region within the French region of Burgundy, is always made from 100% Chardonnay and is often aged with little or no oak giving it complex fruit and mineral flavors without the heavy vanilla and butter. Would be a great pairing with salmon or white, flaky fish.

Reds

La Follette Pinot Noir North Coast, $25
100% Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast, one of our favorite regions of California wine country. The cooler growing conditions of 2009 and 2010 prompted the best possible weather for Pinot and the wine has delivered as well. If Riesling is my favorite food white, Pinot is my red. Pinot Noir is the universal food wine. If your ever stuck, just serve Pinot. But my favorite pairing with Pinot is pork…and for Easter is perfect with ham.

Domaine d’Andezon La Granacha Vieilles Vignes, $17
Cote du Rhone is one of my favorite value regions in France. The quality of wine you get for the price you pay is double or triple what it would be in Bordeaux or Burgundy. Most of the wines are a blend of Syrah and Grenache which provide full-bodied flavors with a nice spice and acidity to balance dishes. This wine in particular has 100% Grenache in it bolstering even more acidity and bright fruit flavors. Pairs nicely with poultry dishes, lamb, or even a seafood dish with a heavy red sauce.

New Mexico’s Gruet Sparkling Blanc de Noirs

Ever tried a wine from New Mexico? How about sparkling wine from New Mexico? Gruet Winery, located about 170 miles south of Albuquerque is putting New Mexico on the wine map.

So how good can a sparkling be from New Mexico, you ask? Well, it starts with with a great pedigree. Founder, Gilbert Gruet was born in France and produced true Champagne at his Champagne house, Gruet et Fils, before re-locating to the United States. In 1983 Gruet and his wife ran into European wine makers who had successfully planted vineyards in the New Mexico mountains, at an altitude of about 4300 ft. With inexpensive land and a desire to experiment with uncharted territory, Gruet brought his passion for Champagne style sparkling wines to an unlikely region of the United States.

Altitude can work in a wine maker’s favor. It works in Mendoza, why not New Mexico? Hot daytime temperatures that drop dramatically at night allow the grapes to ripen slowly. With a dry climate and sandy soil, there is minimal concern for rot, and the ability to farm without the use of pesticides makes this area ideal for the fickle Pinot Noir grape. Gruet makes both still and sparkling Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as a small production of Rhone style Syrah.

One of our favorites for taste and wallet friendliness is the sparkling Blanc de Noirs. This non-vintage Pinot Noir has an earthy nose that leads into a crisp palate with wonderful fruit on the finish.

Gruet Blanc de Noir $12

The rich and toasty character of our Blanc de Noirs is balanced and superb. Aged for two-year minimum, the palate is developed and shows rich complex flavors. The amazing berries aromas and the creamy texture play a leading role and create a great finesse.

Winemaker’s Note: A fine salmon color, aggressive mousse and a lovely fruity wine with plenty of immediate charm and toasty aromas. There is also an explosive juicy flavor of raspberry.

Look for Gruet at Decanted Wines located at 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Suite 21, Naples FL 34108 or online at http://www.decantedwines.com

Valentine’s Day Wines

Lucky for all of us, Valentine’s Day only comes but once a year and for this weekend alone we are expected to come up with the most romantic gift for our significant others.  What better way to say you care that a great bottle of wine (which you can also enjoy yourself!)  We’ve compiled a list of the most romantic wines in celebration of the day of love.  These wines are sure to please as well as provide a great, romantic story.
 
Soave:  The Wine of Romeo & Juliet
Pra Soave Classico 2008
 
You can’t get much more romantic the drinking the grapes of Verona, Italy.  The name of Soave is rumored to have stemmed from two sources: the first gives credit to the great Italian poet of the 13th century, Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy and friend of the lord of Verona, Cangrande della Scala. The second credits Romeo (as in Romeo & Juliet), tasting the wine after a tryst with Juliet Romeo says to a servant, “Soave” after receiving a goblet of wine.  Whatever the source of the name, Soave now holds the place as Italy’s most romantic wine and the official wine of “Verona in Love,” Italy’s celebration of love and romance every Valentine’s Day weekend.
 
Tasting notes:  Fresh, flowery and lightly yeasty nose witha  touch of wood smoke. The palate is attractively textured and juicy, showing zesty ‘leesy’ intensity and a hint of almonds. Crisp, incisive and mineral on the finish.
 
Rose:  The Color of Love
Van Duzer Pinot Noir Rose 2008
 
What’s not to love about a pink wine on Valentine’s Day?  This rose is NOT white zinfandel style.  Made from 100% pinot noir, this rose is fermented with the skins for one hour to give the wine the pink hue.  Held in stainless steel tanks, it exudes a crisp, dry and clean style.
 
Tasting notes:  Dry strawberries and spice reminsicent of a traditional pinot noir.  Crisp acidity on the finish leaves a clean mouth feel.
 
Bordeaux Blends:  Deep, dark, and luscious
Jarvis Lake William Blend 2002
 
Lake William is the Cabernet Sauvignon blend which started out as a cellar mistake but is now a most sought after blend. It is named after the lake which borders and cools the Jarvis estate vineyards that makes up the blend. Each vintage’s varietal composition varies dependent on the blending of Winemaker Consultant, Dimitri Tchelistcheff.
 
Tasting notes:  This 2002 Lake William combines 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. Twenty months of barrel aging in 100% new French Nevers oak adds a note of toasty vanilla to the rich violet aromas and elegant blackberry flavors of this wine.
 
Champagne:  Add a little sparkle to your night
Graham Beck Rose Brut NV
 
Champagne has been linked to love and romance for centuries. In the18th century a French cardinal, of all used the imagery of a champagne bottle popping open to make very thinly-veiled erotic suggestions in a poem to his would-be mistress the Marquise de Pompadour.  By the late 1700s in France the connection between seduction and champagne was established. Legend has it that the saucer-shaped champagne glasses called coupes were modelled on the the breasts of  famous French royal Marie-Antoinette,  wife of king Louis XVI.
 
Tasting Notes:  Pale silver-pink. Aromas of raspberries, cherries and a few secondary whiffs of minerality. A lively mousse but fine in the mouth, with subtle red berry flavours enlivened by bright acids. Brisk on the palate, showing hints of oyster shell and fresh lavender. Flirtatious and fun, yet elegant and structured, it’s perfect for all seasons and settings.

Picking the Right Champagne for your New Year’s Party

As New Year’s Eve approaches, we are all perplexed as to which bubbly to celebrate with. 

And with that, let’s begin with a quick ‘bubbly’ lesson.  Bubbly or Sparkling wine is technically any wine with bubbles in it, while Champagne (notice the capital C) ONLY refers to sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France.

Enough with the tangent, back to the problem at hand…picking one of these sparklers for the big day next week.  The first question I ever ask anyone who is looking for wine in my store is, ‘how much do you want to spend?’  Some people are thrown off by the question, but it is a perfect jumping off point for selecting any wine.  If you don’t set a spending limit per bottle you could wander around the store and hem and haw all day.  With that said, I’ve compiled a list of sparkling wines that can fit any budget and still impress your host.

PROSECCO

Prosecco is a native grape in the Veneto region of Italy used to make their sparkling wine.  I like to call Prosecco the recession Champagne.  Best bang for your buck by far.  It delivers complexity and can be produced dry, off-dry, or sweet just like Champagne.

Best bets: 
Bortolotti Prosecco Valdobbiadene Brut($19):  Although I consider this their best, dryest prosecco, you can’t go wrong with any selection from Bortolotti. 
Soligo Prosecco ($14):  Great surprise, nice dry prosecco paired with the sweetness of crisp pears, sure to be a crowd pleaser!

CAVA

Cava is the Spanish version of sparkling, made throughout the country but mainly Penedes region (just south of Barcelona).  Cava is produced in the traditional manner with second fermentation in the bottle and can include any one of the following grape varietals:   macabeo, parellada, xarel-lo, chardonnay, pinot noir, or subirat.

Best bet: 
Marques de Gelida Brut ($17):  This blend of macabeo and parellada is surprisingly crisp and clean. 

SPARKLING

I use the term sparkling to include any wine that is made in the Champagne style, but is not made in Champagne, France.  For example, producers in South Africa, the United States, Austrailia, and even France (outside of Champagne) have been making wonderful sparkling wines for years.  These wines are usually a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, but can also include other grapes as they are not regulated.  They range from brut (dry) to demi-sec (sweet).

Best bet: 
Graham Beck Demi-Sec ($16): 
Graham Beck is a producer out of South Africa who produces a brut, rose brut, blanc de blanc (100% chardonnay), and demi-sec sparkling.  His demi-sec sparkling is one of the best I’ve had.  With a sweetness at the front of the wine, the progression surprises you with a strong, crisp, and dry finish.

CHAMPAGNE

And for those of you who want to stay traditional for the holidays, check some of these great, but small production champagnes out.

Best bets:
Ayala Brut ($70):  This champagne is strong and dry, with reduced calories.  A zero-dosage champagne (less sugar than the rest of them), this brut also delivers less calories giving it the ‘diet  champagne’ nickname.
Egly-Ouriet Brut Grand Cru ($73):  This 100% pinot noir champagne is a grower champagne, basically meaning that the producer owns the vineyard the grapes come from as well as the production house.  Many large Champagne houses buy their grapes from a negociant and therefore lose a portion of control as to how the grapes are grown.  Grower Champagnes have become a new phenomonen due to their excellent quality and relatively inexpensive price.