The warm weather signals two things …Christmas is just around the corner, and the inevitable Battle of the Bubbles is about to hit its stride.
It’s also the time when everyone starts to look at their budgets for the upcoming Christmas, and starts trying to work out how they can afford it after dropping all their cash at the nags during the spring racing season.
Sparkling wine has always been seen as the celebration wine, but it’s much more than that. It’s a great aperitif, and has an extraordinary ability to match with food, and the diverse range of foods it will work with is almost unparalleled, my personal favourite is Japanese cuisine with Champagne.
When it comes to matching Champagne with food you can’t go past oysters, caviar or fish, the combination of shellfish and crustaceans also marry well together. Vintage Champagnes, being older and more complex than non-vintage (NV), tend to go with more complex foods and entrées like dark-fleshed poultry, rather than canapés.
SO WHAT ARE THE TIPS FOR SERVING TO GET THE BEST FLAVOURS?
Domestic fridge temperatures are far too cold for many types of Champagne, especially the great wines. The older or the greater a Champagne, the warmer it can be served, with around 12°C being ideal, with the NV wines needing to be a little colder for them to show their full expression, try around 8-10°C. The easiest way to get these to temp here is to take them from the fridge into an ice bucket, it doesn’t take long in our warm weather for these to hit their required temp.
When opening, point the bottle on a 45°angle, pointed away from anyone in a safe direction. Remove the foil cap, and loosen the wire cage or “Muselet”, but don’t remove it completely, holding the cage will help you grip the cork, place a napkin over it if it hurts your hand. From this point on keep you thumb on top of the cork to prevent it popping off unexpectedly. Now hold the bottle by the base, one hand around the base, one hand firmly around the muselet covered cork, and turn the bottle, not the cork, till it’s about halfway out. Gently wiggle the cork if it needs help. As the cork begins to release you will feel the pressure build from inside the bottle. Don’t just let the cork pop out, it should come out gently and easily, actually “sighing” more than “popping”.
On a final note, never fill a Champagne glass to the top. This prevents the aromas gathering in the glass’s bulb which creates that classic aromatic bouquet. Instead, fill up to the widest point of the glass, usually about half-way to two-thirds – this gives the wine enough room to breathe. It will also mean that you will get somewhere around from 5-6 glasses per bottle. Try to monitor the temperature until all the wine is gone, Champagne standing on a table warms up quickly, I’m sure we’ve all grabbed an unenjoyable warm glass off a table at some stage.
Over the last 12months I’ve been lucky enough to see some great examples of sparkling, here’s a few, at all levels of price that are worth a look at.
Jacobs Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut Cuvee NV –Jacobs Creek has long been a go to for those on a tight budget. It’s got young, fresh and fruity notes with enough acidity to carry through the sweetness that’s there, in fact there’s enough acidity there to use this as a Champagne Cocktail if so desired.
Grant Burge Pinot Noir Chardonnay NV – the Burge range is probably better known for its reds, however they make a large volume of sparkling. Its soft but dry making it work well with food, good flavour and depth, crowd pleasing wine. Just under $20 at your local.
$20 – $40
Brown Brothers Patricia Pinot Chardonnay Brut 2010 – a bit of a hidden gem, its spends five years on lees developing its complex notes that are dominated by lemon curd and brioche, with a crisp apple crunchiness. There’s a great texture and it’s extremely long on the finish. RRP is about $48 but regularly seen at independent bottleshops for $38.
Charles de Cazanove Millesime 2007 – a superb vintage sparkling, and with ten years of age its showing toffee and toasty notes, fig and dried apricots with hints of vanillin. On the tongue its surprisingly fresh, with an underlying nuttiness all wrapped around a wonderful acid backbone. As it warmed there were notes of buttery brioche, strawberries and cream and light tobacco. Its complex and at its RRP $75 is extremely good value, however I nearly fell over when I saw it at First Choice for $55.