Cremant de Loire in front of the tree
Marie Antoinette glass [wikipedia that – heh]
History is written by the victors. I’ve never stopped to think about the layered meanings of this generally agreed upon truth. Of course Columbus got to write about discovering America [even though we all know it was Bugs Bunny] and Hernán Cortés about discovering Mexico when we all really know that there were people living there doing quite well before we brought them smallpox and Walmart.
I don’t know if anyone invented bubbly before French Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon broke silence in the local abbey by shouting, “Come quickly, I have tasted the stars” [I wonder if he got shushed]. Many historians will say that the bubbles were being bottled long before Dom got all the headlines. But whether “first in space” or not, Dom was a master winemaker. By enhancing his white wine’s ability to retain their natural sugars after the harvest, inducing a secondary fermentation in the spring, and then bottling these wines at just the right time to capture the bubbles he did master the art of méthode champenoise. Which begs the question, when did he ever have time for prayer and reading – and how on earth did he ever practice humility after capturing the stars?
While true Champagne remains an almost unaffordable luxury at $50 or more per bottle there are several other excellent sparkling wine alternatives in the $20 range including Cava – the Spanish version and my personal favourite – Prosecco – for the Italophile in the room- and Crémant – the name for French sparkling wine made outside the region of Champagne and an excellent source of tasty bubbles.
My advice to you this year is to try many of them and don’t just wait for “special occasions”. Believe me, there is not a better special occasion than hugging your wife in the kitchen on a Tuesday night with a flute of bubbly. It really is the only way to live your life. Ironic that a monk devoted to a life of celibacy did something in order to help solidify my marriage … don’t you think? Now who’s rewriting history?
“Always keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of champagne in the fridge” (note posted on our fridge).
|LEFÈVRE RÉMONDET BRUT ROSÉ CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE
VINTAGES 265306 | Price: $ 15.95
A light cranberry-red in the glass and displaying aromas of cranberry, cherry and a touch of freshly baked bread on the nose. The palate is extremely well balanced with wonderfully integrated bold red fruit flavours, and a superb crisp acidity providing a firm backbone. Quite a lengthy and flavourful finish. Perfect for sipping with that special someone, or pairing with light seafood salads. (VINTAGES panel, May 2011)
The word of the day is Crémant. What is Crémant? It’s French Fizz – fake Champagne – France’s other bubbly – and it’s real good!
I quite like fake Champagne. We opened a Friexnet Cava last night because I remembered that it paired well with tuna melts – really my wife makes the best tuna melt ever! Also, Cava is delicious on its own. Crémant is the French version of Cava – or actually vice versa as any Frenchman would be quick to point out.
One of the reasons I love Cava (Champagne from Spain) is that it doesn’t start at $50 a bottle like “le vrai stuff”. Champagne is expensive, probably worth it if you can afford it, and fun to drink. But (“and it’s a big but” – Pee Wee Herman) you can get many sparkling wines that satisfy the palate in search of some luxury.
This weekend the Vintages section of the LCBO is releasing good fake Champagne from France. Crémant comes from the Loire, Alsace, Bordeaux, and Burgundy – all regions that produce great wine. Their versions of champagne allow the wine makers to highlight their own regional grapes using the traditional méthode champenoise. If you need my wife’s tuna melt recipe I might be able to get it to you.