Showing posts with label chardonnay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chardonnay. Show all posts

Monday, October 1, 2018

Cremant Tour de France Stage 3: Alsace

Now that Stages 1 & 2 of my Cremant tour de France are complete, I celebrated Stage 3 by tasting my way through the Cremants of Alsace, in person! 

Located on the eastern border with Germany, Alsace contains 15,621 hectares of vineyards. (Source: backinalsace.com). Approximately 23.3% of grapes harvested from the vineyards are used to make Cremant d'Alsace bubbly. In 2017, 32,125 bottles of Cremant wine were made, 80% of which remained in France due to domestic demand! 

Our first stop along our tasting journey was Domaine Klipfel, in the small town of Barr.


The estate was founded in 1824 by Martin Klipfel. In 1830, he procured the prestigious Clos Zisser vineyard, which is used today for their Vendage Tardive (late-harvest) and Selection de Grains Nobles (grapes affected by "Noble Rot", botrytis, made into lusciously sweet dessert-style wines). Klipfel crafts their Cremants in the Methode Traditionelle style, using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir either as single-varietal bottles, or a mix of the two.


Klipfel's Blanc de Noirs Cremant d'Alsace opens up with a nose of green apples and continues into a palate of lemon zest and steely minerality. The bubbles were aggressive up front, but settled down into a creamy mousse mid-palate, leading into a clean finish.

I am all about the high quality and the unique, sometimes extraordinary quality that comes from smaller, lesser-known producers. Located in the small Alsatian town of Heiligenstein, Domaine J.L. Schwartz lives up to this quality!


Our tasting at J.L Schwartz started off with their Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rose. A lively bouquet composed of strawberries and navel oranges, intertwines with refreshing acidity and delicate mousse on the palate to create a delightful mouthfeel. Unfortunately, the finish dropped off rather quickly, but it did make me want to take more sips quicker to compensate!   


The standout Cremant of the day for both my husband and I was the Brut Chardonnay! The varietal's flavour profile is well represented here, with an intriguing blend of underripe banana and navel oranges along with stony minerality. There is a lively mouthfeel that doesn't overpower, full of delicate mousse and refreshing acidity. Very elegant in style, and very approachable!


Our day of Cremant tasting ended at Domaine Julien Dopff au Moulin. Regarded as one of the pioneers of Cremant d'Alsace, Julien Dopff attended the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, where he learned about "Methode Champenoise". He made it his mission to experiment with Alsatian varietals, and Dopff au Moulin now dedicates a considerable amount of their wine portfolio to Cremant d'Alsace bubbly.

The Dopff au Moulin Rose expresses more autolytic notes than other Cremants d'Alsace I have tasted. But it doesn't overpower the abundant flavours of underripe red fruit on the palate, the creamy mousse, or the bright acidity. Very well-structured and refreshing!



Finally, the 2013 Blanc de Noirs Brut marries notes of dried red fruit and toasted almonds with crisp acidity and aggressive, but not off-putting mousse. Very elegant in style, and very food-friendly.

Cremant d'Alsace offers a variety of sparkling wine created in the Methode Traditionelle, yet can also express a wide array of flavour profiles. There are many excellent Cremants available throughout the world, and even though only 20% of all bottles are exported, you will likely find a variety of Cremants available in your local wine stores.

Stay tuned as I wrap up my Cremant Tour de France later this month with Cremant de Bourgogne!    



Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Unorthodox Without Oak? A Glimpse at (Mostly) Unoaked Okanagan Chardonnay

I used to think that wine snobs turned their noses up towards unoaked Chardonnays, that the general demand was for rich, buttery Californians that carried a lot of body and flavour intensity.

But then I googled unoaked Chardonnay, and I was wrong.

Wine writers are taking note of the unoaked, Chablis-style Chardonnays. In fact, a trend in California is now to age their chards in stainless steel vats, toning down the richness and allowing the varietal to show more of its primary flavours.

The Okanagan region is embracing the unoaked style of Chardonnay as well, and my mother-in-law and I spent some time sampling some of these wines to see how BC does it. We tasted three different unoaked Chardonnays from different areas of the Okanagan wine region.

Nk'Mip's 2011 Winemaker's Chardonnay is partially aged in French oak but the natural flavours of Chardonnay stand out with notes of grapefruit, lemon, green apple and zesty acidity. Hints of straw on the finish give the wine body and finesse. 

Blasted Church's 2013 Unorthodox Chardonnay opens with a lovely bouquet of orchard fresh peaches and honeycrisp apples due to small amounts of the aromatic varietals Ehrenfelser and Gewurztraminer blended in. The palate reflects flavours of honeydew melon and a steely minerality that leads into a citrus finish. Pairs well with scallops and lean white fish.

Gray Monk's 2014 Unwooded Chardonnay has a flavour profile that is consistent with the other two wines above, with notes of green apple, underripe peach and a hint of green banana on the palate. Fresh acidity with a zesty finish, this wine is ideal as an aperitif or on its own in pleasant warm weather!

It was interesting to note that none of these wines underwent malolactic fermentation during the winemaking process. The trend here is to showcase the natural fruit flavours that come with the varietal. 

Now that Spring is here, light white wines will surely be returning to the forefront of winelovers' minds when the sun is shining. Why not celebrate Spring with one of these fresh and lively wines? Your tastebuds will thank you. 

Cheers!





Monday, April 25, 2011

A Tale of Two 3 Course Meals

Tale #1: A Cheddar "Battle"
Sommelier school is expensive. Really, really expensive. When I first expressed my interest in pursuing this passion to my husband, and after showing him the tuition costs, I really thought he would say no. After all, we are saving up for a new house and need all the money we can save for the down payment. And I'm not necessarily going to chase this as a new career path. However, to my surprise, he was very supportive of me and I just finished the Wine Fundamentals course through WSET! To thank him for his support and to show him that I did learn something in exchange for tuition fees, I cooked him a three course meal that focused on a couple forms of cheddar, complete with wine pairings.
First course was a slow-cooked French Onion Soup topped with broiled, mild cheddar on baguette slices, paired with a Chardonnay, 2008 Tinhorn Creek from BC. This chardonnay is medium bodied and doesn't go overboard with oaky flavors, and because of this I found it to be a great match with the soup, bringing out the rustic flavors of the onions. I'm not much on chard, but this one is great to pair with food or drink on it's own! Next time I will use a stronger cheddar for the soup, which I will make again!
Second course was a "grilled cheese" made with medium cheddar between grilled chicken breasts cut lengthwise in half. I marinated the chicken in a cocktail of Blanche de Chambly, a stronger Quebec beer, along with apple cider vinegar and a few herbs first, then my hubby grilled it on the barbecue. I served the chicken with fried butternut squash (sage was the main herb used for flavoring) and broccoli in a cheddar bearnaise sauce. The wine pairing was a merlot from chile, Anakena. Because the merlot was a 2009 it was very mild, soft tannins, and mild fruit flavors with a hint of spice. But it still held up to the flavors of the cheddar and I thought it paired well. Here's what it looked like:

Dessert was an apple crisp with mild cheddar woven into the topping. I don't think I will ever make an apple crisp without cheese in it ever again! I wanted to pair it with my sacred bottle of Robert Renzoni's 2008 La Rosa, a 2008 Californian rose made with Sangiovese grapes. But because this is the bottle that has the Renzoni autograph on it (and I don't know when I'm going to that area of California again), I couldn't pull the cork, so to speak!

So despite the missing wine pairing with dessert, the meal turned out well and needless to say, my husband was all full up in the end!

Tale #2: The Easter Parade of Pairings
The title comes from my dad, who used to sing the Easter Parade song to me and my sisters every year. Even though I live 3,000kms away now, he still "sang" it to me in the Easter card he sent. Easter is a big holiday for my family. They all get together, have a feast, and they never forget the wine! Easter is one of the three days I get a little homesick, not being able to to join in the fun back home. To help ease the homesickness, I made us a 3 course meal, and I didn't forget the wine pairings either! I chose to do a "best of" theme for our food adventures this past year, with hints of my Ukranian background to complement the meal.
First course was kielbasa and brick cheese infused with onion and parsley, paired with an Australian Shiraz, Wyndham Estate's 2008 Bin 555. Originally I wanted to pair it with a more mellow red since I find Shiraz has quite a bite for my tasting with it's peppery notes. This wine still maintains the quality of a good Shiraz, without slapping you in the face with spice. It paired decently well with the kielbasa and cheese, but I think I'll keep trying different wines to pair with kielbasa in the future.
For the main course, I took a chicken breasts supreme, pan-seared it skin side down, and then roasted it in the oven with butter and a sauce, a reduction of honey and white wine, flavored with rosemary. I continued basting the chicken with the reduction as it roasted, and topped it with the sauce when serving it. Very sticky, but very sweet! This chicken breast recipe is actually found in Anthony Sedlak's The Main cookbook, so props to him for coming up with it! I served the chicken over roasted garlic mashed yams, topped with bacon bits for a smokier flavor-after all, the chicken was super sweet, and I didn't want to go overkill on the sweetness. The side was paska, a ukranian raisin bread that we munched on after the official main. Here's what it looked like:
The wine pairing was my personal favorite white: Hernder Estate's 2008 Vidal, which you can only get in Ontario. It's light to medium bodied, very floral in bouquet with a sassy hint of lime. It's sweet but not overly sweet, so it brought out the sweetness of the chicken without making the main taste too sweet.
Dessert was originally going be a spiced banana rum cake, but since we still had chocolate fudge cake leftover from Friday night's family dinner, we ate that instead and paired it with a rum and coke to help kill the sugary flavors. A fantastic ending for a fantastic dinner!

Now it's time for me to take a break from three course dinners with wine pairings. Back to the regular family tradition of Slow Cooker Sunday, which will be my personal take on my nana's "Floating Chicken". Now off to the wine store to pick up the wine I'm going to use in that recipe!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Veuve Clicquot: A Great Story of Triumph for Women

Imagine this scenario: You've been married for seven years, a young wife at 27 years of age. Suddenly, your husband passes away. You are now a widow, or "veuve" in French.

What would you do? One would obviously be devastated, and of course there would be a necessary period of mourning. Would you struggle to get out of bed on a daily basis? Would you somehow find the inner strength you need to try and move on?

Barbe Nicole Ponsardin found herself in this situation back in 1805 when her husband passed away. Fortunately, she made the choice to take over the family business. This decision ended up being such a great decision as she would bring the world one of the most prominent champagnes well recognized everywhere!

Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin's grapes are grown over 382 hectares in the vineyards surrounding Reims, France-the 2nd largest vineyard in the Champagne area. Of the total grapes they grow, 39% is Pinot Noir grapes, 46% is Chardonnay, and 15% are Pinot Meunier. Veuve Cliquot prides themselves on having a 97% vineyard rating based on the echelle des crus, a classification system for vineyard quality in Champagne. You can taste the quality in their bottles! The grapes are harvested only when the perfect balance between sugar & acidity in the grapes is reached. Harvesting is done by hand and the different grape varieties remain separated until the blending process.

Veuve Cliquot presses 2550 litres of juice from 4,000kg of grapes. The first 2,050 litres are called the cuvee and the last 500 litres are called the taille. Fermentation then takes place in stainless steel vats. Blending then takes place to maintain the house flavors and quality. The wine is bottled and sugar and yeast are added for secondary fermentation. Veuve Cliquot ages their bottles in their cellars in Reims for no less than 15 months as part of the Champagne A.O.C. regulations. The bottles are laid in riddling racks (shown below) that were actually invented by the house to make the process of disgorging (removing the sediment in secondary fermentation) easier.


The bottles are turned and tilted slightly to move the sediment to the neck of the bottle. When the aging process is complete, the sediment will be frozen and the pressure inside the bottle will literally push it out when the cap is removed. After a small amount of sweetened liquor is added to the champagne, the bottles are corked and wired and laid down on their side in the cellars to further develop flavor before being labelled and packed up for shipping.

My husband and I were fortunate enough to get the chance to visit this prestigious champagne house in mid-March. We were given the chance to see the cellars, learn their history and taste a few of the champagnes as well. We tasted the yellow label and the 2002 vintage, which I found light, lovely, and really easy to drink! Needless to say, there is a bottle of the yellow label in our house now too!
If you ever find yourself in Reims, it is well worth the visit and if you decide to spend the 75 euro on the tour, I hope you get Melissa Gaillard as your guide. She is very knowledgeable and passionate about the house and friendly. Tours must be booked in advance by calling the house or email: visitscenter@veuve-clicquot.fr

Veuve Cliquot has become one of the most recognized champagnes throughout the world. It has become so popular, in fact, that Veuve now owns the legendary color of their label. Melissa showed us on the tour false replicates of other bottles that have been found all over the world, including Mexico. When you go to their website,
www.veuve-cliquot.com, they mention a hoax promotion that is being offered for a free case of their champagne. To me, that speaks volumes of the quality and reputation that Veuve Cliquot maintains all over the world. After all, imitation is the best form of flattery, n'est-ce pas?

One of the things I love best about Veuve Cliquot (outside of the taste & quality of course!) is what they do for women. It's a tough life for a woman, working in a predominantly men's world. I experience this first-hand every day as I work with all men in the aviation industry. Veuve Cliquot hands out Businesswoman of the Year awards every year to outstanding businesswomen who embody the values of Madame Cliquot. Sixteen winners will be crowned for each of the countries that participate in the award, and the winners receive a trip to Reims to christen a vine in their own names, one each, at the International Business Woman Forum! On top of that, on their birthday every year of their life they will receive a bottle of a champagne from that vine. Amazing! Although internet rumors insist there is a jinx or curse on winning the award, I think it's great to see recognition of successful women on a worldwide scale.

Veuve Cliquot, je t'aime!
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