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Champagne curiosity bubbling up

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  • Retro Oct 16, 2003 02:53 PM
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A couple years ago, I read an article that noted how Americans tend to save champagne/sparkling wine for special occasions, whereas Europeans choose it more often, as just another variety of wine. Since I've always preferred the bubbly over other wines, I've been ordering it far more often with my meals.

In most cases, since I'll be only having a couple glasses, I usually just accept whatever the restaurant is offering by the glass or split.

I'd like to develop a better palate regarding the stuff, however. I'd love to read comments, opinions, and suggestions from other 'hounds, especially those who know their sparklers well. What should I be looking for, reading, asking about, sampling, insisting upon, studying, trying, etc?

I'm in Seattle, so I should be able to find a good assortment of excellent champagnes/sparkling wines.

In advance, I thank you.

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  1. Yes, I feel very strongly that champagne (the right type, such as S de Salon or Dom Ruinart or Bollinger R.D. or Cristal or Jacques Selosse) can make wonderful meal wines. Certain roses (e.g., Taittinger Comte de Champagne Rose) can be wonderful too.

    This is also an underexploited area by most diners, leading there to be very interesting pricing possibilities on restaurants' wine lists in France.

    1. Hello Retro! I love champagne, too, but agree that Americans do see it only as a 'special occasion' drink. I have been heartened to see that many good restaurants are offering more champagne by the glass now. As well, there are local wine bars that offer several champagnes by the glass on their menus. (see below posting on finding good wine bars in Seattle).

      You can drink champagne as you would any white wine, and it's really good with Asian foods. Me, I'm a sucker for a good champagne with smoked salmon.

      For information, try going to any of the local wine shops, many of which do tastings (Pike and Western in the Market does tastings, and I believe that they have a special Champagne tasting coming up in the next month or so). McCarthy and Scheiring (sp?) on top of Queen Anne hill has a good reputation for their store, and may be able to help you. And many Champagne and Sparkling wine houses now sell their wines in splits or individual portions, making it easier to experiment and learn.

      Have fun!

      1 Reply
      1. re: sgirl

        oops! the wine bar posting is on the NW site...

      2. Champagne is my favorite wine to drink! My husband is a heavy wine collector, so I have had the honor of drinking all sorts of wonderful champagnes.

        Looking for: anything new. Try regions, try labels, try all kinds. Start with France, as they are the original and best.

        Reading: Try Champagne for Dummies, although nothing is as fascinating as drinking them :)

        etc, etc, etc: drink up! A good champagne will be a great white or rose wine with bubbles. You should get all the wonderful qualities of a wine in a champagne with the plus of bubbles!

        Champagne mainly consists of three grape varietals - chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. A champagne may balance all three, have one forward, or heavy on two, leaving one out nearly entirely. A good place to start this comparison is with Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label and Laurent & Perrier or Moet & Chandon. If you try them both together, you will find that while both are champagnes, one will be quite different from the other in nose, taste, and finish. This may help in assisting whether or not you prefer Chardonnay or Pinot Noir forward champagnes. We commonly will have Veuve and Laurent in the house and serve them at dinner - one with the appetizer and one with the entrees, depending on the dishes.

        1. Glad you brought this topic up, as I've been meaning to direct tell folks that Tom Stevenson's latest edition can be downloaded for free. I actually prefer having it in electronic format so that I can search more easily.

          As far as what you should be trying, keep an eye out for growers champagnes, especially those selected by Terry Theise (http://www.skurnikwines.com/TT_Champa...
          )
          ---------------------- Forwarded Message: ---------------------
          From: "Tom Stevenson" ;
          Subject: FREE FIZZ GUIDE
          Date: Thu, 28 Aug 2003 11:31:50 +0100

          A completely FREE copy of my Champagne & Sparkling Wine Guide 2003/04
          can be
          downloaded from www.wine-pages.com - NO STRINGS ATTACHED!

          If you want to forward this to any or all of your friends and
          colleagues, I
          would be very pleased, as it's free for anyone who wants to download it.

          Best Regards
          Tom

          Link: http://www.wine-pages.com/guests/tom/...

          Image: http://www.wine-pages.com/guests/imag...

          2 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            What a terrific resource! Thanks!

            1. re: sgirl

              A word about Tom Stevenson - he's the leading English-language authority on the wines of Champagne. If you follow Robert Parker or the Wine Spectator, you'll need to recalibrate to his use of the 100-point system and should read his description of what the scores mean. He is stingier in giving them out and an 85-point score from him is an exceptional wine, whereas that's almost the kiss of death from RP or WS in the mind of the American consumer. I wouldn't hesitate to buy something that had a 75 or 80 point score from Stevenson if the price were right for the occasion.

          2. House style will be an important factor. Some tend to be lemony, some yeasty, some more acidic. Once you've found the style you prefer then explore more within that style (using a reference book).
            Because of the relatively high cost/bottle, you may be tempted to shop the low end. I regularly get asked to recommend "a good Champagne for $30-35". My response is to suggest buying two bottles for $70. But make one of them a $50-55 Champagne and the other a $10-15 Sparkler. That way you discover the better Champagnes and cheaper alternatives for everyday drinking.

            1. When europeans drink sparkling wine, they are seldom drinking the very pricey prestige bottlings that Americans generally restrict themselves to.

              I really feel you can get excellent sparklers for small money, even genuine Champagne.

              If you want genuine champagne in the twenty dollar range, you will have to either latch onto a good sale, one of my local shops recently had Cliquot for $28, or find a place with a very large selection that has some of the smaller, lesser known producers. I am drawing a blank on names right now, but any wine shop that has champagne from other then the biggies: Cliquot, Perrier, Moet, Dom Perignon, etc. Many of these wines by smaller producers (there are many of them) are excellent.

              Also, I am a huge fan of Spanish Cava, and italian sparkling wines. (Stay away from Freixnet.) A favorite producer is Segura Viudas. Try a bunch. How can you go wrong when many are less then $10 a bottle.

              Finally Italy has many differnet sparklers including the usual Astis, the delightful proseccos, and many other wines that are just slightly sparkling.

              Certainly a great $100 bottle of Dom is delightful, but there is a wide world of sparkling wines out there.

              2 Replies
              1. re: StriperGuy

                Dug up this list of Cava producers. Half I don't even recognize, but give 'em a try:

                Premier Producers
                • Cavas Lavernoya
                • Joan Raventos Rosell
                • Segura Viudas (Reserva Heredad)
                • Sumarroca
                • Jané Ventura

                Great Producers
                • Codorniu
                • Freixenet (Brut Rosé)
                • Juvé y Camps
                • Segura Viudas (Aria & Brut Reserva)

                Dependable Producers
                Some producers placed in this third tier are new (or new to us) and may merit a higher placement in subsequent vintages. These producers are offset by an asterik.
                • Bodegas Sarda*
                • Covides (Xenius)
                • Jaume Serra (Cristalino)*
                • Llopart*
                • Montsarra*

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  I second the delicious-ness of Prosecco! I drank my share of Zardetto this summer, and it was lovely.