By Nancy Baye
“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes, I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it if I am; otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”
– Madame Bollinger.
I was fizzed for the chance to attend the “All About Bubbly” seminar at this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival and it certainly didn’t fall flat.
Festival Sommelier Terry Threlfall and Master Sommelier Matt Stamp brought a wealth of expertise to the event and set a tone as light and sparkling as the beverages themselves.
Controversy Bubbled Over
The seminar delved into current champagne debates: Prosecco vs. sparkling wine; food pairings (popcorn and soup highly recommended!), as well as the serving glass debate.
The opinion that a classic wine glass allows for enhanced aroma won over at VIWF, so all our sips were served in glasses rather than flutes.
Note: the secret to keeping bubbles strong is to hand wash the glasses before pouring – a must for the real stuff!
More at the Door
Today, really good bubbly wine comes from all corners of the wine world and is expressed through many different styles and methods. Its levels of quality and acceptance are growing every day.
The trending change in the attitude toward sparkling wine was flagrantly and comically demonstrated by Brian Lynn, proprietor of Majella Wines of Coonawarra. His Sparkling Shiraz, the closer of the seminar, is definitely not a wine that takes itself seriously. When Lynn raved at how brilliantly his bubbly pairs with barbecue or breakfast, it was clear that this vintner didn’t take himself too seriously either.
Throughout the tastings, we had the pleasure of hearing from a principal of each winery. Often this was a family member, since champagne has such a long family-made tradition. It provided a running commentary that was elucidating and often humorous, even with zee zick French accents.
In the realm of sparkling wine, there was a lovely local example from Summerhill Pyramid Winery. At $27 a bottle, this Cipes Brut NV blends Riesling and Chardonnay in the traditional method. It offers aromas of apple, lime and pear and has a crisp acidity. Its soft creamy mousse has a long finish.
A treat from Down Under was the Jansz Vintage Cuvee 2008. Tasmania’s cold climate serves this sparkler well, rendering a light elegant body with a lime salt character. Notes of lemon and strawberry balance the yeast aging notes of shortbread. A hit at $50 a bottle.
But. But. Buuuut. When I raised a glass of rose-tinted Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose NV to my lips something spectacular happened. A sip of this stuff sent a delicious quiver of electricity through my body and out my Chakra points. Now that’s champagne!
With an elegant pink blush of colour and subtle fresh aroma of berries, a fine bead that dances on the palate, and a long lovely finish, this well-rounded wine is a symphony for the soul.
Is the experience worth $99 a bottle? Even for a starving writer, I dare say, yesss. . .
It was hard to come down from the dizzying heights that L-P took me too. But savouring the gorgeous Thienot Cuvee Garance, Blanc de Noir 2006, really helped.
The bottom line is that Champagne perfected the wine we call champagne, and ultimately nothing compares to the original stuff. At least not yet.
At worst, champagne is a festive treat that declares an occasion to be ‘special.’
But at best, oh at best. Finding a champagne that suits your taste and has centuries of blood, sweat and soul behind it, ohhh. That is the nectar that will send a thrill of pleasure coursing through your body and put you into a perfect parallel reality. That was how my first sip of L-P was. And my second. And third . . .
So, assuming your social life and bank account don’t provide opportunities to dive into real Champagne, what’s your current alternate choice in the wide world of bubbly? I’d love to know.