We have been popping the corks on a multitude of bubbles in the quest to find ones worthy of impressing your beloved on Valentine’s Day. Whether you choose to gently ease out the cork (make sure you’re holding the bottle on its side) or pop it open in dramatic Formula One fashion is entirely up to you. However, how you drink a Champagne or sparkling wine is very important. So, before we get to this week’s selection of Valentine’s Day bubbles, I wanted to share a few important drinking tips.
3 TIPS FOR SAVORING BUBBLES
Tip #1: Champagne flutes… toss them away! They are designed to visually showcase the bubbles, but the tall, skinny shape stifles the flavors of great Champagne. Instead, use a small, tulip-shaped white wine glass, or, if you get fancy, one of the Reidel ‘Performance’ Champagne glasses, which enhances the incredibly complex flavours of great Champagne.
Tip #2: Skip the ice bucket Keeping Champagne too cold mutes the flavours. Instead, pop it in the fridge for an hour before you drink it. Then keep it at room temperature once open. As it begins to warm up, you’ll notice how the flavours really come to life. Tip # 3: Explore small, unknown producers We all know the famous “big boys” of the Champagne world. The problem is, much can get lost when you are producing at such high volumes, and, in my opinion, you don't always get the quality you are paying for. Instead, try little-known producers, as well as other sparkling regions. You can have fun finding some incredible bubbles for amazing value.
Which brings us to our selection today…
Champagne Agustin L’Air Cuvee XXIV($88) The Agustin family is without a doubt the most unique Champagne producer I have ever come across. Marc and his wife, Emanuelle, have come up with ‘Coeurviculture’, or ‘farming with heart,’ where everything is done with loving care. They treat their vines and wines like living beings, going so far as to braid the growth on the vines rather than trim them so as not to shock the plant. They make four cuvees named after the four elements: Earth, Wind, Air, and Fire (Da Vinci stuff). This is their L’Air Champagne. It is beautiful and delicate, with the finest of bubbles, and notes of star fruit and almonds. The kind of bottle you bring out for special occasions. If you’re going all out this Valentine’s Day, pair this with caviar or smoked salmon blinis.
Champagne Laherte Freres Ultra Tradition Extra Brut($52) This is a blend of all three Champagne grapes: Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Laherte family has 75 small plots all over Champagne, giving them a great palate that reflects different aspects of clay and chalk. This blend is full of guava, meyer lemon, and yeasty brioche notes. For a decadent breakfast, make some crepes (see Julia Child’s Master Recipe) and throw in some scrambled eggs, fromage blanc and smoked salmon. With a glass of this, you will be in heaven. We savored it with triple cream brie and black truffle pâté, another mouthwatering pairing worthy of this special day.
We also have some yummy bubbles from small producers outside Champagne which will elevate any moment on Valentine’s Day or any other day.
Mas de Daumas Gassac Frizante Rosé($27)
Crémant de Bourgogne, Piron NV ($23)
Bohigas Brut Cava Reserva NV ($18)
Ostro Pinot Nero Rosé NV ($14)
Wishing you a happy Valentine's Day - may we all take the opportunity to appreciate those special people who put up with our idiosyncrasies and say those things we should say more often.