Three years ago, in a pre-New Year’s column, I wrote, “I’m just not a huge fan of champagne,” and concluded the sentiment with “If you’re like me, you’d rather invest in a good red.”
I did admit in that early column that bubbly is festive and celebratory and all those good things, but I only drank it to participate in the party, and I drank little of it so that I’d still have room for red.
At the most recent party I attended, I drank only the sparkling wines — there were many — and enjoyed every drop. I never made it to the reds and didn’t regret it for a moment. For one thing, it was a very long (and wonderful) party that went on for nearly six hours and I woke up with not a trace of a hangover, perhaps because sparkling wine is generally low in alcohol. All of what I drank had only 11 to 12 percent.
For another thing, I got to experience a whole range of taste, from very fruity to very minerally to very yeasty. And all worked well with a whole tableful of appetizers and the fun pizzas that kept magically coming out of the oven.
So here’s my admission (does this constitute drinking my words?): I’m a huge fan of Champagne. And Prosecco and Cava and sparkling wines of all sorts. At least the dry ones.
I’m not sure what prompted this change of heart — or of taste — or just when it happened. Maybe when I had tasted enough sparklers to erase the memory of Andre Cold Duck. Or it might have happened at a cheese-and-wine pairing when I discovered what a good companion to food, especially difficult-to-pair food (like strong cheeses), sparkling wine can be. And then I gradually began to anticipate the happy feel of those little bubbles on my tongue. And soon I was in love.
Sometimes love just happens. Sometimes in spite of one’s resistance.
My favorite glass of the evening was the Roederer Estate Brut. Produced by the French Champagne Louis Roederer, winemakers for two centuries, it’s made from grapes grown on the 580-acre Roederer estate in the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. (If you want to splurge on the “real” stuff — that is, from the Champagne region of France, you might search out Louis Roederer Cristal Brut — on some lists the best champagne of all — for just $230 a bottle. Needless to say, I’ve never had the privilege of experiencing its reputedly ethereal bubbles.)
The California cousin is an elegant wine with lots of layers, good bubbles, bright but restrained and focused fruit (apple, pear, lemon) with a touch of holiday spice. It rates highly in almost every wine publication and for the price — around $20 — it’s a really good buy. It also has the advantage of being easily available.
For about $5 more (at Valley Wine Company), the Scharffenburger Brut Rosé is as delicious as it is elegant. Like the Roederer, it’s a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir; also like the Roederer, it comes from Anderson Valley grapes. But the flavors here lean more to berries — raspberry, strawberry — and the salmon tint makes it even more celebratory. It’s amazing with goat cheese. But I’ve praised this bottle in previous columns, so — on to the new.
Given my new-found passion, I was delighted to find out that the mid-December wine tasting at the Davis Food Co-op was titled “Bubbles.”
The Co-op has an excellent selection of such — a whole separate multi-shelved area, in fact — with eight of them on this tasting list. I tried five; two of the others were sweet and the Capay Valley Sparkling Viognier I’ve tasted many times and mentioned so often that I must be boring you. I would happily have drunk a bottle of any of them: Gerard Bertrand Bremant de Limoux (from France), Taltarni Brut Tache (from Australia), Schramsberg Blanc de Noir (Calistoga — not to be confused with Scharffenberger — an easy mistake to make, but not a fatal one since Schramsberg is excellent as well, if somewhat more expensive), and two JCB wines.
I was most excited about the latter two. And both are currently on sale at the Co-op for $17. JCB stands for Jean-Charles Boissett, so as you might expect, the wines come from France, Burgundy to be exact. The JCB wines are numbered; we tasted Nos. 69 and 21.
No. 69 (69 being the year Jean-Charles was born — how does it happen that so many famously accomplished folks are younger than I am?) is a Brut Rosé made entirely from pinot noir grapes. The color is quite subtle — just a hint of salmon — but the flavor is fresh and citrus-y with some red currant and raspberry to spice it up. It would pair extremely well with wild salmon — and not because of its color.
No. 21 (this being the French government’s “Department” number for the Côte d’Or, where J-C was born and raised) is the Brut Cremant de Bourgogne, made from chardonnay and pinot noir. Slightly less acidic than the rosé, a tiny bit drier, bubbles just a tad less assertive, it’s got lots of lovely apple and lemon notes. I think I might choose the rosé to drink on its own — say for my New Year’s Eve toast — and this one with a wide variety of food — especially artisan cheeses.
Co-op wine tastings, by the way, happen on Friday evenings at 6 p.m., are lots of fun, cost little , and what they do cost ($1 a taste) always goes to a good cause. If you’ve never been to one, make it a New Year’s resolution. Check out the Co-op website for details.
So, a whole New Year’s Eve column without a single red wine — I scarcely recognize myself. But I’ll be back in 2013 with lots of good stills, both red and white. Meanwhile, best wishes to all my readers for a festive, sparkling, bubbly New Year’s Eve.
— Reach Susan Leonardi at email@example.com. Comment on this column at www.davisenterprise.com