Tag Archives: Champagne

Champagne and Pizza

Many years ago a wine writer friend  introduced me to the delights of  Champagne with pizza and I have been enjoying them together ever since. Once a month or so a group of us get together at La Pizza Fresca in NYC for a Champagne and pizza luncheon. Here are the results of our last get together.  The Champagnes listed below are from older vintages and I felt they went better with white pizza. More recent vintage  Champagnes go better with tomato based pizza such as a Margherita.

Champagne Krug Grand Curvee NV 158eme Edition-A blend of more than 120 wines from ten or more different vintages and three grape varieties.  30% of the base wine is from the 2002 vintage. The wine remains in the cellar for at least 6 years before release. This is a full and elegant Champagne with hints of dried fruit, gingerbread, citrus fruit and a touch of almonds, brioche and honey. ID#108001 [disgorged 2008, base vintages 2002-1988] The full story of every bottle of Krug is revealed in its Krug ID, the six digits on the black label. 

SAVOIA-Mushrooms, pancetta, fontina and bufala mozzarella


Champagne Vallèe Grand Cru 2002  Raphaël and Vincent Bèrêche made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay from Aÿ, disgorged in December 2013. The dosage is 2g/l. Traditional vinification and parcels are vinified separately. Malolactic fermentation is avoided and the wines are bottled around May without filtration and with a natural cold setting by opening all the cellar windows for three days. Disgorging is by hand and they use a traditional liqueur for the dosage.

RUSTICA- Pancetta, onions and bufala mozzarella


Champagne Krug 2002 made from 40% Pinot Noir, 39% Chardonnay and 21% Meunier. It was released after 14 years in the cellar and released after the 2003. The bouquet jumped right out of the glass. It is an intense and elegant Champagne with fruits of all types and notes of cassis, candied orange, and honey and a vibrant and persistent long finish. 2002 was an excellent vintage in Champagne. Disgorged in 2014 

Champagne Pierre Peters Brut Blanc de Blancs 1996 Le Mesnil-Sur Oger 100% Grand Cru made from 100% Chardonnay. Three parcels of vines from 40 to 70 years old yield the grapes to make this Champagne. Chalky soil. The dosage is 4 to 5g/L. The Champagne has hints of acacia, peach, pear, and fresh almonds with a hint of gingerbread and good minerality. The champagne is produced exclusively using the grapes from one harvest year and only during the finest years.

 CIME DI RAPE- Broccoli rabe, sausage and bufala mozzarella.

Champagne Krug Brut 1996-made from 48% Pinot Noir, 31% Chardonnay and 21% Meunier. 1996 was one of the best vintages of the century. It was the last vintage blended by three generations of the Krug family working together. Coming from 17 different growths. The champagne has rich mature aromas, full ripe flavors and hints of fresh pear, ripe fruit, honey and gingerbread. Disgorged in 2007.

Champagne Krug Rose-the 21st Edition is a blend of 57 wines, dating from 2000 to 2008. Made from 51% Pinot Noir, 41% Chardonnay and 8% Meunier. There is also 10% traditional Pinot Noir red wine from the House’s plot in Ay. The Champagne remains in the cellar for at least 7 years before release. This is a very subtle  Rosè Champagne with hints of roses, red currant, pink grapefruit and a touch of citrus. Disgorged in 2002.

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Filed under Champagne, champagne Pierre Peters, Champagne Vallee, Krug Champagne, Pizza, Pizza Restaurants

A New Discovery: Champagne Forget-Brimont

Champagne Forget- Brimont  Brut Premier Cru NV made from 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay. Between 20% and 40%of reserve wines are used to ensure consistency. The vineyards cover 18 hectares and are located for the most part in Montagne de Reims, Mailly-Champagne and Verzenay for the Grand Cru and Chigny les Roses, Coulommes la Montagne, Ludes, Montbrè, Sermiers, Taissy and Villers- Allerand for the Premier Crus.IMG_9467

This is a true artisanal grower/producer with enough vineyards to supply year round continuity of Brut NV Premier Cru. Pinot Noir reigns supreme in this area.

Because it is made from mostly red grapes it is Champagne that goes very well with food.

The grapes are harvested by hand and pressed in whole bunches. Alcoholic fermentation takes place at 17 degrees C and malolatic fermentation is done in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is then horizontally aged in traditional chalk cellars for at least 24 months on the cork. The wine is left to rest an additional two months after dosage before release. The dosage is 10 grams per liter.

It is elegant complex Champagne with hints of green apple, hazelnuts, ginger and spice. At around $40 a bottle it is a very good buy.

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Filed under Champagne, Champagne Forget-Brimont Brut

Champagne Bruno Paillard Reims- France

Francois Colas, the brand ambassador for Bruno Paillard, met our train from Paris. He told us that before we visited the winery he wanted to take us to see the vineyards. Even though it was raining he felt that we must see the vineyards in order to understand the Champagne region and Paillard Champagne in particular.


Matthieu Pingret and Francois Colas

The region of Champagne is very rainy, he told us as we huddled under umbrellas overlooking the vineyards. The vineyard manger, Matthieu Pingret, was there to give us a walking tour.

Francois said that the harvest usually takes place 95 to 100 days after the vines flower though in the end it really depends on the weather. The harvest was a few days later this year because the weather was nice and sunny. The grapes are crushed in the vineyard right after picking.

Paillard has a total of 79 acres from 15 crus (villages) of which 35 acres are in Grand Crus and Premiers Crus.

Young Vines

Young Vines

Matthieu explained that the vineyards were in the heart of Champagne and the Crus on the best chalky subsoil. They do not use chemical weed killers, but use plowing or sowing depending on the plot to improve the root system. Only organic fertilizer is used and only when necessary. Only wooden stakes are used for the vines. He said that they grow grass between the rows of vines because it helps to absorb the moisture because there is a lot of rain. As if to prove his point, it began to pour and we returned to the car.

Alice Paillard, Bruno’s daughter, greeted us at the winery. She said that her father began the company in 1981 and that they are the youngest and still one of the smallest Champagne houses. They do not produce a Sec or Demi Sec but only Brut Champagne.


Alice Paillard

She said that Paillard is unlike other Champagne houses because their winery was only on one level. The others have cellars at different levels and have to decide which bottles are stored in the lowest level, which is the best area. Because the Paillard winery is completely temperature controlled, a choice does not have to be made and all of the wines are stored in the best possible conditions.

Alice took us into the room were the riddling, remuage in French, was done. Traditionally the rotating of the champagne bottles to loosen the sediment thrown off by the second fermentation was done by hand. This process caused the sediment to collect in the neck of the bottle for disgorgement, the ejection of the sediment under pressure, which leaves the wine perfectly clean. Alice said that her father was the first in Champagne to use a automatic riddling machine called a “gyropalette.” The champagne bottles are put in a large square metal container, which rotates the bottles as if it was done by hand. On completion of the process of riddling, the bottles are neck down and ready for disgorgement, with no difference in quality. She added that now almost all Champagne houses use this machine because it is much more efficient. IMG_6474

According to Alice, in the past the workers called disgorgement the operation because it consisted of three stages: the sediment in the neck of the bottle that is collected by the riddling is forced out by pressure when the temporary cork is removed, the dosage is added to the wine and the final cork is inserted, then comes rest and the recovery after the operation. The bottles are placed in wooden racks to res and recover.

If it is a young wine it will recover sooner and can be drunk sooner. If it is an older champagne it needs much more time to recover and more rest before it is drunk. She added that most people drink Champagne too soon after it has been disgorged. IMG_6470

This is why Alice pointed out that the date of disgorgement is so important. She recommended that the wine should be drunk at least 6 months or better several years after this date. That is why every bottle of Bruno Paillard Champagne and very carton they are shipped in have the date- month and year that the “operation” took place.

We walked into a room with many barriques but I knew from the smell that they were not new barrels. New barriques give off a cloying vanilla odor that I find offensive requiring me to leave the cellar. Alice said that they buy used barriques from two French white wine makers. These barrels were three years old and they could be used for six or seven more years. IMG_6461

When asked who the winemaker was, she said everything was under the personal supervision of her father, Bruno Paillard.

Tasting Champagne with Alice Paillard.IMG_6473

Brut Premierè Cruvèe made from 22% Pinot Meunier, 33% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir. The grapes are a selection from 32 villages vinified separately in stainless steel or in barrel. There is a systematic use of reserve wines from previous vintages from 25% to 48% when needed. The wine comes from the first pressing of the grapes. The wine is aged in bottle on the lees for 3 months. Alice said this was almost double the legally required minimum. She said like all their Champagne the dosage is kept very low, 5/6 grams of sugar per liter, so as to produce an authentic and pure wine, a true Brut. She added that this was the flagship of the house and must remain true to itself in the good and bad years. One very large tank is used for the assemblage so there will be consistency. Alice said the wine has aromas of citrus fruit especially lime and grapefruit that is so typical of Chardonnay. There are also aromas of red fruits like, cherry and raspberry, so typical of Pinot Noir.IMG_6475

Brut Millèsime “Assemblage” 2004 made from 48% Chardonnay and 52% Pinot Noir. The grapes come from 9 different villages, the proportions are a secret.  Alice said that 2004 was an excellent vintage for them. The dosage is only 5 grams per liter. Disgorgement took place in 2012–the month and date are on the back label. The wine rested in the cellar for 12 months before release. This was very impressive Champagne with a complex structure and hints of blackcurrant, blackberries, cherry and a touch of honey.IMG_6480

Blanc de Blancs Rèserve Privèe Grand Cru made from 100% Chardonnay grapes from the Còte des Blances, all with a 100% classification. Alice said they use a fermentation method established generations ago for Champagne “ Demi Mousse”. When the still wine is decanted for the second fermentation in the bottle, less sugar and yeast is added then for traditional Champagne. This results in a less powerful bottle fermentation, producing a pressure of 4.5 kg instead of the normal 5 or 6. The dosage is 5 grams residual sugar. Alice said that this is perfect for Blanc de Blancs because it enhances the finesse of the Chardonnay and adds freshness and elegance. This is a complex elegant champagne with an array of aromas and flavors with hints of citrus, white fruit, a touch of brioche, toasted almonds and good minerality. It has a long finish and very pleasant aftertaste.IMG_6472

Rosè Première Cuvèe the wine is composed of a majority of Pinot Noir and is produced from the first pressing. The Pinot Noir juice in its two forms: a rapid pressing with the juice separated from the skins immediately produces the white wine. The red wine is obtained by fermenting the skins with the juice for a complete extraction of the color- from Verzenay, Bouzy, Mailly or Les Riceys according to the year. Alice said there is also a significant percentage of Chardonnay, from the north of the Côte des Blances added for freshness. Both the percentage and location was a secret. There is 6 grams of sugar per liter. Minimum maturation in the cellar after disgorgement and before shipment is 3/4 months. Like all of the Bruno Paillard wines, the month and year of disgorgement is on the back label and the shipping carton. The wine is fruity with hints of raspberry, strawberry, cherry and violets. There is a long and delicate finish. The color of the wine is salmon pink.



Filed under Bruno Paillard, Champagne

Holiday Champagne Luncheon II

This is part two of the Champagne lunch and tasting at the Brasserie in Manhattan with Ed Mc Carthy as the guest speaker. The food was excellent and well matched with the Champagne.

The second flight was served with Maine Lobster, Matignon de Lègumes Homardine.  This was so good, I wished there was more of it. Everyone commented on how much they liked it.


Ed described the wines in this flight as being more full bodied than the first flight.IMG_4459
Gosset “Grand Blanc de Blancs” Brut NV. 
 Ed said this was the oldest continually-operating Champagne house but it is not as well known as it should be. The grapes come from 15 different Premier and Grand Cru vineyards of the Cotes des Blancs and Montagne de Reims. The wine is on the lees for a minimum of four years before disgorgement.  The wine has floral aromas, with hints of white fruit, apricots and a touch of lemon on the palate.  $92IMG_4460

Deutz Blanc de Blancs 2007.  Like the Gosset, Ed believes that Deutz is not as well known as it should be. Ed includes them in the Champagne tastings that he does so that they will get the recognition they deserve. The Deutz vineyards are located in the Grand Cru villages of Avize and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. The wine had hints of lemon and lime, with a touch of pear and apple and was a little toasty. $70IMG_4461

Alfred Gratien Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Brut 2007. 
The grapes come from the Cotes des Blancs, the soil is chalk and the vineyards are at 80 to 240 meters. Harvest takes place in mid-September. Fermentation takes place in 228 liter oak barrels and there is no malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged for 6 months in oak.  I really liked this Champagne and it paired very well with the lobster. It is a complex wine with a strong pleasing aroma of brioche, citrus flavors, a hint of lemon and a very nice finish and aftertaste. $79  It is a very good value.IMG_4473
The third flight was served with Tournedos de Boeuf,Leeks, Truffled Mornay, and Parsnips Crisp. This was an interesting combination but these Champagnes were big enough to make it an excellent combination.

The next flight had the most expensive wines. 


Perrier-Jouet “Belle Epoque” Blanc de Blancs Brut 2002. This was by far the most expensive Champagne at the tasting. The grapes come from the best vineyards and Ed believes that it is worth the money and is one of the best blanc de blancs made. He also said that 2002 was an excellent vintage for Champagne. $330


Pol Roger “Extra Cuvee de Reserve” Blanc de Blancs 2002 . The grapes come from the Grand Cru vineyards of the Cötes des Blancs, Oiry, Chouilly, Cramant, Avize and Oger. Harvesting takes place from September 12-28.  The wine undergoes two debourbages (settlings), one at the press house immediately after pressing and the second a debourbages a froid in stainless steel tanks at 6°C for 24 hours. A slow cool fermentation at 18°C takes place in stainless steel with each village kept separate. The wine undergoes full malolactic fermentation prior to the final blending.  Secondary fermentation takes place in bottle at 9°C. They are one of the few Champagne houses that does the remuage (riddling) by hand.  It is aged in the cellars for 9 years before release. This is rich full-bodied wine. There are aromas and flavors of citrus fruit and lime peel with a hint of white flowers and toasty notes.    $116IMG_4466

Charles Heidsieck “Blanc des Millenaires” 1995.  Chardonnay from the Cotes des Blanc, 4 Grand Cru and 1 Premier Cru. The wine remains in the cellar for 15 years before release. Ed said that they were one of the few houses in Rheims that have a magnificent, 2,000 year old Gallo-Roman cellar to age their wines. This is a complex Champagne with aromas and flavors of dried and candied fruits, dates, and notes of hazelnuts and almonds.   $170

Happy New Year!! Celebrate with Champagne


Filed under Champagne, Gosset, Perrier-Jouet, Pol Roger

Welcoming In The New Year!

We have never had a New Year’s Eve Party. The most we ever did was invite another couple over for dinner.  Since 1981 we have been going on and off– mostly on–to a friend’s party where we always have a great time. This year, however, another friend called Michele and invited himself to our house for New Year’s Eve.  We were going to be with him at Bern’s Steak House in Tampa the night before and I guess he figured why not make the party last longer.  Not only was it New Year’s Eve, but it was also his birthday.  Michele could not turn him down so she invited the whole group of friends who would be with us in Tampa to come for dinner.  It turned out to be a perfect New Year’s Eve with great food, wine and dear friends.

Since we were welcoming in the New Year we had four Champagnes.IMG_2595

The Champagne

Delamotte Brut NV Made from 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. It was light and fresh with citrus aromas and flavors and good acidity. This Champagne works well as an aperitif and was a nice way to begin this festive evening. It is a good value at $35IMG_2615

Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Françaises Blanc de Noirs Recolte Brut 2002 100% Pinot Noir. The grapes come from plots owned by Bollinger that were not attacked by phylloxera in the Grand Crus of Chaudes Temes and Clos St. Jacques in Ay and Croix Rough in Bouzy. These three plots are maintained traditionally following the provignace method (burying a branch which is separated from the parent vine once it has taken root) and worked by hand with the help sometimes of a horse cart. This is a great Champagne – one that gets your attention and you drink very slowly.

Krug Brut Grande Cuvée Made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay– the percent depends upon the vintage. They blend about 120 wines from 10 or more different vintages and it is aged for at least 6 years in the cellars. All of their Champagnes are aged in used small oak barrels. They are all prestige cuvees- -made from Grand Cru and Premier Cru villages and are aged longer before release. The overall rating for the vineyards is 98% with Krug’s own vineyards rating 100%. This is the wine we drank at midnight to ring in the New Year.IMG_2599Krug Brut 1988 It is aged 10 years before release.
What can I say about Krug but that it is Krug! IMG_2601

The Red Wine
Corton-Bressandes 1990 Joseph Drouhin 100% Pinot Noir. There are 10,000 to 12,500 plants/h
Harvesting is by hand, sorting in the vineyard and again in the winery if necessary. Maceration and vinification take 2 to 3 weeks with the use of indigenous yeast and temperature controlled fermentation. Pigeage-pumping down of the must during fermentation tales place once a day until one half of the fermentation is complete. Then remontage- pumping over takes place until fermentation is complete. The wine is aged in French oak, mostly Troncay, 20% new barrels between 14 to 18 months. The barrels are weathered for 3 years before they are used. A fining collage is done to clarify the wine after a careful tasting. This could not have been showing better -great Burgundy.IMG_2602

Nuits-Saint- Georges Les Vaucrains (infertile land) 1980 Robert Chevillon The vineyard exposure is East by Northeast and the altitude is 206/280 meters with a grade of 15%. They are old vines, the vineyard is 1.6h and the harvest is by hand. The soil is regularly plowed and the vines are only treated when necessary. Once the grapes have been harvested, destemmed and vatted, they remain in the vat 5 to 6 days during the cold maceration process, fermentation starts naturally. There is a long slow fermentation. Primary fermentation is in stainless steel cuvees and then the wine is racked into the barrel. It is aged in oak barrels of which 20% are new for about 16 months. The wine is bottled by gravity. This was a very interesting wine with nice fruit and a hint of blackberry. This is a producer that I have very little experience with but after tasting this wine I will try to correct this in the New Year.

Hermitage 1990 E. Guigal 100% Syrah old vines. The soil is limestone gravel and sand. At the time Guigal did not own vineyards but purchased wine that had been vinified by growers according to the Guigal method. Robert M. Parker Jr in his book The Wines of the Rhone Valley and Provence states: “Guigal does not fine the wine and will not filter it.”  The wine is aged 3 to 3 1|2 in wooden barrels and large foundres. Parker goes on to say “He (Guigal) is a great believer in long wood aging and is always the last to bottle his Hermitage. On the Guigal 1980 Hermitage Parker says “ Giugal bottled two separate lots of the red Hermitage in 1980. One is good- deep in color, spice and rich in fruit though somewhat short finish. The other lot is more austere, tart, and surprising lean. There is no way of telling the difference between them before pulling the cork”.  Parker’s rating for this wine is a” ?”.
I guess we were lucky because the bottle we drank had good fruit with a hint of spice, long finish, and nice aftertaste and was not showing its age.IMG_2605
Barsac Chateau Suau 2 Cru 1947 – I believe the grapes are 80% Sêmillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Muscadelle. It was still drinking but really showing its age.IMG_2603

Madeira Sercial 1910 Leacock Made from the Sercial grape. Sercial Maderia is the driest of the four classic varieties of Madeira. It is also the lightest and most acidic and delicate expression of Madeira and takes the longest to mature. Maderia Sercial is a white fortified wine made on the volcanic island of Madeira, which belongs to Portugal. I just sat there and drank this wine into the New Year.

We are back on I-Italy|TV:   This Saturday at 11:00 PM repeated Sunday at 1:00 PM.

Michele’s new book  The Mediterranean Slow Cooker comes out this week

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Filed under Barsac Chateau Suau, Bollinger Blanc de Noirs Recolte, Bollinger Champagne, Champagne, Delamotte NV, Drouhin, Guigal, Hermitage, Krug Champagne, Robert Chevillon, Vintage Madeira

Champagne, Old Wine and Turkey

Thanksgiving lunch/dinner (linner) is traditionally served at 4:00PM at our house. This gives everyone the chance to eat and drink as much as they want and still not get home too stuffed or too late. Our Linner usually lasts for 5 to 6 hours. This year was no exception.

To start, Michele made persimmons wedges wrapped in prosciutto, followed by a chestnut soup, roast turkey with a fennel, sausage and rice stuffing and many side dishes.  Then we had a cheese course, followed by a hazelnut tar and caramel pumpkin pie for dessert.  We have been having Thanksgiving for several years with Tom Maresca http://ubriaco.wordpress.com and his wife Diane Darrow http://dianescookbooks.wordpress.com.  Diane is a very excellent baker and brought a beautiful loaf of home made bread, as well as the hazelnut tart mentioned above.  Travis and Nicole joined us this year and brought some Champagne and old wines.

The WinesChampagne Grand Cru D’ay Füt de Chène Brut 2000 Henri Giraud. 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay harvested exclusively in the terroir of Aÿ Grand Cru. The wine is aged in small barrels made from Argonne oak for 12 months. The first vintage was in 1990. This is a full and rich wine with aromas of pear, stone fruits and a hint of mushrooms. It has a long lasting finish.Champagne Curvèe William Durtz Brut Millesimè (prestige cuvee) 1999 (Aÿ) made from 62% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 8% Pinot Meunier. This is a well-structured, complex, elegant Champagne with hints of herbs, dried flowers and a touch of toast.

Torre Ercolana 1982 Cantina Colacicchi – Anagni  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cesanese dl Piglio  When this wine was produced, there were only 2 acres of vines and only 2,000 bottles were made, one fourth of them a white called Romagnano.

The wine is made by a natural fermentation, no filtration, sterilization or pasteurization. The wine is aged in barrel with four rackings a year.

I have been drinking the older vintage of this wine for a number of years and buy them in Rome at Trimani, who has the exclusive rights to the wine. The wine does not always taste the same; this is because the blend changes according to the vintage. In hot vintages the Cesanese does better so there is more of it in the blend. In cooler vintages the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot does better so their percentage is increased. The best however is when all three varieties ripen perfectly.

Burton Anderson in his book VINO describes the wine in musical terms. “My first mouthful of Torre Ercolana was like my first earful of Beethoven’s Fifth: so overpowering it left me gasping for adjectives to describe it.”  Morey-Saint-Denis “Les Sorbets” 1976 Domine B. Serveau et Fils. Made from 100% Pinot Noir. The soil is limestone and clay and the 7 hectares of Pinot Noir are in the heart of the Côte de Nuits. The grapes are picked by hand and the wine is matured in oak casks for 18/22 months. The Premiers Crus are aged 2/10 years before coming to market. This is a wonderful wine with aromas of red fruit and blackberries, round with a silky fruity feeling on the palate. It was a pleasure to drink.Reciotto Secco “Amarone” Vino della Valpolicella 1960. Bertani. This is one of my favorite producers and I like Amarone on Thanksgiving.  With turkey and all the side dishes, it makes for a great combination. So I was very disappointed because the wine was too old and tasted like sherry. Travis brought the wine.  He had had a 1964 a few days before and said it was wonderful. You never know with old wines — you take your chances and hope for the best.Alicante Bouschet 1996 Russian River Vineyards (old vines), Sonoma Country Topolos, made from 100% Alicante Bouschet from the Sequoia View Vineyards. The wine is unrefined. It was bottled December 16, 1997. Since the Amarone was not good and it was Thanksgiving, the truly all-American holiday, I decided to try this wine. It was interesting but it seemed they were trying to make an old style wine but could not get away from all the modern techniques. It was unbalanced with too much alcohol.

The winery was sold and the name changed to Russian River Vineyards and I do not know if they still produce this wine.

Because we had a cheese course and two pies, it was time for the dessert wines.Montefalco Sagrantino D’Arquata Passito Abboccato DOC 1981 Adanti 100% Sagrantino The grapes are naturally dried for two months (appassimento) followed by a slow fermentation. The wine is aged in large Slovenian oak barrels (botti). They still make a passito but the word Abboccato does not appear on the label. The wine had aromas and flavors of dry fruit, blackberries and a dry aftertaste.Anghelu Ruju 1979 Vino Liquoroso Tradizional di Alghero  Sella & Mosca (Sardinia) 100% Cannonau. This is a late harvest and after the grapes are picked they are dried in the open air for a long time. There is a long oak aging in fusti (small oak barrels of 20/50 liters). This is an aromatic wine with hints of cinnamon and walnuts. I do not think it was produced after the 2003 vintage. We ended the meal with the last of my last bottle of Romano Levi Grappa, which I bought a few years ago just before the great grappa maker died.


Filed under Anghelu Ruju Vino Liquoroso, Burgundy, Champagne, Domaine b. Serveau et Fils, French Wine, Henri Giraud, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Passito, sagrantino, Topolos, Torre Ercolana

Sparkling Summer Wines

Over the summer I enjoyed a number of different sparkling wines and Champagnes. Most of us think of sparkling wine as something that should only be drunk on special occasions or at Christmas and New Years, but I don’t agree.  Sparkling wine can be enjoyed all year round and I especially like it in the summer and always with food. Here are some of my favorites.

Brut Rose “Faive” NV  Nino Franco (Veneto) made from 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. The grapes are vinified separately with some skin contact for color and cold fermentation in stainless steel autoclaves. The wine is light salmon in color, with good bubbles, nice red fruit and a hint of pear. $17

The name Faive is Venetian dialect for the small “guided” tongues of flame and sparks rising toward the sky from a great fire, lightly and freely carried by the wind.  This producer is known for it’s high quality Prosecco and the Rustico is a great value for the money.  We drank a bottle of it with the plump ripe figs from the tree in the Brooklyn backyard our friend Tony Di Dio.  Both Tony and his fig tree were featured in an excellent article — with recipes — in the NY Times last Wednesday.  Here is a link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/29/dining/in-brooklyn-an-abundance-of-fig-trees.html?_r=1&hpw

Spumante Santé Brut IGT 100% Falanghina (Campania)  Donna Chiara. The soil is chalky clay.  There are 2,500 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place the first week of October. Fermentation lasts for 40 days. Illaria Petitto, owner of the winery, always refers to the vinification system used as the Martinotti method. (The Charmat method, as it is more popularly known, was invented by Federico Martinotti in Asti in the 1920’s.) Refermentation takes place at low temperatures in autoclaves for about 6 months. Then the wine matures on the dregs for another 2 months. The wine had very good bubbles; it is fresh, delicate with floral and citrus aromas and flavors. It is great as an aperitif and with fried foods. $20
Champagne Delamotte NV made from 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier.   Delamotte is the sister house of Salon and both are part of the Laurent- Perrier group. We had it with a lobster salad with basil dressing, an excellent combination. $38

Ferrari Perlé Rosé 2004 Trento DOC Method Classico Vintage made from80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. This is a vintage Rosé from the Lunelli family estate vineyards.  The grapes are harvested by hand at the end of September on the hills surrounding Trento, with either southeastern or southwestern exposure between 1000 and 2000 feet above sea level.  In 2004 there was mild weather and perfect ripening conditions.  The wine is aged 5 years on selected yeasts. It is an elegant and complex Rosé with ripe red berry aromas and flavors with hints of raspberry and a touch of almond.  I has a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. I had it with beet and ricotta gnocchi in sage butter sauce. $75
I believe that Ferrari makes some of the best Method Classico wine in Italy.

Champagne “Grand Siècle” Crand Cuvèe NV Laurent-Perrier (Trous-sur Marne) made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir.  12 of the most prestigious villages supply the grapes and only the best plots are selected, as are the finest musts from the pressings. I believe this is a blend of three different vintages. The blended wine is aged during the second fermentation on the yeast for about five years. It has great tiny bubbles and complex aromas and flavors that make it go very well with food.

The 17th century in France, the era of Louis XIV, became know as the Grand Siècle, the Great Century and Louis XIV was the first king of France to drink Champagne.

Zucchini Flowers

I was very impressed with this wine when I had it at a Wine Media Guild tasting last December and I wanted it for my Birthday.  Michele made zucchini flowers fried in a light tempura batter stuffed with anchovies and mozzarella, which I love. We usually have them with Prosecco but it was a celebration so only Champagne would do.  It turned out to be a perfect combination.
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2000 Blanc de Blancs (Rheims) the grapes are pressed immediately in presses located in the vineyards. The first pressing, known as cuvee, is followed by two more pressings known as the first and second “tailles.” Only the juice from the “cuvee” goes into this wine. Temperature controlled fermentation takes place and about 5% of the wine is matured for a few months in 225 liter new oak casks. Prior to disgorgement, the wine is aged for 9 or 10 years. 2000 was a good but not a great year for champagne but the wine was showing very well and it is their flagship Champagne. The wine is full, rich and toasty with hints of white fruit, good acidity and a long lingering finish. I had it with smoked salmon canapés.  

Dom Ruinart 1996 Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne (Rheims), made from 100% grand cru Chardonnay grapes, 65% from Cotes de Blancs and 35% from the mountain of Rheims.  It spends 9/10 years in the chalk cellars before release.  1996 was a very good year in Champagne.  It was just beginning to show some age with citrus fruit, a touch of toast, a hint of brioche, and a very nice mineral character.  I had it with Pizza Bianca at La Pizza Fresca in NYC. It was another great combination.

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Filed under Champagne, Delamotte NV, Dom Ruinart 1966, Donna Chiara Winery, Falanghina, Ferrari, Laurent- Perrier- Grand Siècle, Method Classico, Nino Franco, Rose, Sparkling wine, Spumante, Tattinger Comtes de Champane

Wine Media Gulid Champagne Tasting and Lunch with Ed McCarthy


Ed talking about Champagne

When Ed McCarthy comes to my apartment for dinner he always brings champagne and it is always very good Champagne.  Ed has been doing this for almost 30 years.

 A few months ago after I poured the Champagne for all my guests, I overheard Ed saying something about the glasses to the person standing next to him. I asked him what he had said and with a smile answered “this is not the right glass for Champagne”.  The glass was a flute.  I said to Ed “next time you come, bring glasses, too,” and he replied “Ok”.  A few weeks later Ed arrived with champagne and eight tulip-shaped glasses.  He feels that this is a better glass for champagne.  He went on to say that he now prefers to drink champagne out of a white wine glass!

 Ed is a member of the Wine Media Guild and author of Champagne for Dummies. Every year in December he is the speaker for the Wine Media Guild’s champagne tasting and lunch at Felidia restaurant.

Fish in Salt at Felidia

 This year Ed asked for both Champagne glasses (tulip) and white wine glass to be at the tasting so the members could choose which they preferred for the Champagne. Most went with the white wine glass.

Following are the Champagnes Ed picked for the tasting and some of his remarks and comments by me.

 Vintage Champagne

 2000 Ayala Blanc de Blanc, 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay ($ 60-65). Light elegant style, dry.  Ed felt it would be great as an aperitif before dinner and a good buy. It had hints of apple and citrus with a touch of toast. I like it with food.

 1999 Delamont Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay Gran Cru ($75-80).  Ed said this was the inexpensive sister of Salone and this Champaghe house is a Blanc de Blancs specialist.  Ed felt it had more body and fruit than the Ayala. Delamont also makes a great Rose.

 1999 Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay from Grand Cru Vineyards in the Cete des Blancs  ($95-$105).  Ed believes that this is a great Blanc de Blancs. It was complex and full and one of his top 3 at the tasting and a good buy. I agreed. He also said he loved their Cuvee Winston Churchill.

 1999 Perrier- Jouet “Fleur de Champagne” Brut, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ($115-$130, this is one of the best Chardonnay champagne houses). Ed liked it a lot and it was one of his top 3.  So did I

 2004 Deutz Brut Classic, a third Chardonnay, a third Pinot Meunier and a third Pinot Noir ($65).  This producer is not very well known in the United States but Ed likes it and feels it is a good buy.

 2002 Taittinger “Millesime” Brut, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ($70).  It was very dry, needs more time and I think it will be a great wine. It is only made in very good years.

 2003 Louis Roederer Brut, 65%, Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay. Ed said that 2003 was not a good year in Champagne but Roederer was one of the few that made a good wine.

 1999 Laurent- Perrier Brut Vintage ,52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir ($60) I found it to be ripe and round with hints of preserved fruits.


1999 Pommery  Brut , 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir ($70)

Floral and elegant.

 2000 Charles Heidsieck, one third Pinot Noir, one third Chardonnay and one third Pinot Meunier. (($70) This was one of Ed’s top three and also one of mine. It is also underrated champagne.  It was rich and elegant at the same time with very good fruit.

 1999 Gosset “Millesime” Brut ($80). Mostly Chardonnay.  Ed liked this one but said it needed more time–it was still too young. This is a very good small house and not very well known. It does not undergo malalactic fermentation and goes very well with food.

 1998 G. H. Mumm “Cuvee Rene Lalou” Brut Prestige Cuvee, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ($150) This was the most expensive wine and the only one Ed believed was ready to drink now and would not get any better.

 1998 Nicolas Feuillatte “Pames d’Or” Brut Cuvee  ($120).  needed more time. 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. Mineral character

 1999 Bolinger La Grande Anee Brut 63% Pinot Noir and 37% Chardonnay ($125) this was one of my top wines but Ed did not like it as much as I did. Both of us felt that it would age very well.

 1995 Henriot “Cuvee des Enchanteleurs” Brut Prestige Cuvee.   Mostly Chardonnay ($135) this is a big champagne, with hints of toast and a great finish and after taste.

The Champagne

 Ed and I had the same three top wines but when he was asked for a fourth he picked the Delamotte and mine was the Bollinger.

 He said that there are still a few champagne houses that do not make a blanc de blanc.

  On Vintages

 Ed believed the 1996 was the best vintage of the last 20 years. 1988 was excellent and 1995 was very good. 1999 and2000 were good years. 2002 was an excellent year.  2003 was a very warm year and few producers made a good wine and 2004 was a very good year. 1998 was not that good of a year but some producers made very good wine. He said that 2002 was the vintage to buy now.

 Two weeks later I attended a NY Wine Press tasting and lunch of Prestige Cuvee Champagnes and once again Ed was the speaker.

There were 13 champagnes.  According to Ed, “Cristal 02, Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 98 and Ayala Cuvee Perle d’ Ayala Brute Natural were standouts”.  I agree with Ed but other standouts for me were:  the Henriot ‘Cuvee Des Enchanteteus” 1995 which was showing better than it was two weeks ago, Veuve Clicquot “La Grande Dame 1998,  Gosset “Celebris“ 1998 and the Taittinger ‘Comte De Champagne’ Blanc De Blances Brut 1998.

 We all drank from tulip champagne glasses except for Ed who made them change his to white wine glasses!

Ed with His Book "Champagne for Dummies"

 Xavier Flouret of Cognac One, the importers of Ayala, was sitting at my table during lunch.  I asked him what type of glass they use in Champagne.   He said at dinner they would use a champagne glass but when they taste the wine in the cellar they use a white wine glass!

 Happy New Year and may you toast the New Year with Champagne


Filed under Champagne