Champagne: A Guide Through This Iconic Bubbly

I love sparkling wine and I’m very excited to write about this subject. With the holidays around the corner and with so many different types of sparkling wine, I’ve decided to focus this blog on Champagne, the king of bubbly.

Here is some information about Champagne and its various styles.

PROFILE: Medium to full-bodied sparkling wine.

AREA: Champagne, Reims, France. Located 145 km North-East of Paris.

TERROIR: Cool climate. This helps create the fresh acidity found in the wine of Champagne.
Latitude/Altitude: 49° 18’/ 91 m. Sloping Vineyards. Annual Precipitation: average of 628 mm.
Predominantly limestone subsoil which helps keep the vines watered throughout the year.

Four Main Grape Growing Areas: Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs, Côte des Bars.

GRAPE VARIETIES USED: Champagne is made from either one or a combination of the following grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay.

The white grape varieties Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot blanc and Pinot Gris may also be present in small amounts.

Some may be surprised to find that Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are often present in Champagne despite it usually being a light-coloured wine.  The grapes in Champagne are pressed very lightly (with the exception of Rosé) so that there is not much contact with the grape’s skin which leads to this pale colour.

METHOD:  Champagne is made using the Traditional Method (Méthode Traditionelle) also called Méthode Champenoise. This method produces lots of fine bubbles and is my personal favourite. A mixture of yeast and sugar is added to still wine directly in the bottle which leads to a second fermentation. This causes the release of carbon dioxide bubbles. Other sparkling wines use this method including Franciacorta, Cava, and Crémant. 

RESIDUAL SUGAR:

Champagne varies in sweetness. The sweetness in Champagne is due to a process called ‘dosage’ where a small amount of a mixture of sugar and wine called ‘liqueur d’expédition‘ is added back into the wine before corking. The amount of sugar will vary depending on the bottle.

  • Brut Nature Less than 3 grams of sugar per litre. No sugar added (no dosage).
  • Extra brut 0-6 grams of sugar per litre. Very dry.
  • Brut Less than 12 grams of sugar per litre.
  • Extra-dry Between 12-17 grams of sugar per litre.
  • Sec Between 17-32 grams of sugar per litre.
  • Demi-Sec Between 32-50 grams of sugar per litre. Moderately sweet.
  • Doux  50 grams or more of sugar per litre. Sweet.

STYLES:

Blanc de Blancs:  Translates to White of Whites. Made from Chardonnay. Lesser amounts of other permitted white grape varieties can also be present.

Blanc de Noirs: Translates to White of Blacks. Made from either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, or a combination of both.

Rosé:  Made by adding red wine to white wine, or by fermenting the juice while in contact with the skin of the red grape varieties.

Grand Cru / Premier Cru: Champagne made from the region’s highest-rated vineyards.

Non Millésimé: Champagne that contains wine from multiple years.

Vintage: Made from wine from the same year.

Cuvée: Made from a blend of Champagne grapes.

A couple of interesting facts….

  • As opposed to mechanical harvesting, grapes in Champagne are handpicked so that the skin of the grape does not break prior to pressing.
  • Champagne that is Non Millésimé must spend a minimum of 15 months aging on its lees, which are the dead yeast cells and remaining grape particles left after the second fermentation. For the other types of Champagne, it is a minimum of three years on its lees. This contributes to the fresh buttery croissant and warm bread aromas associated with Champagne.

A FEW CUVÉES DE PRESTIGE :

  • Moët et Chandon, Dom Pérignon
  • Pol Roger, Sir Winston Churchill
  • Bollinger, La Grande Année
  • Louis Roederer, Cristal
  • Laurent-Perrier, Grand Siècle
  • Billecart-Salmon, Cuvée Nicolas Francois Billecart
  • Krug, Grande Cuvée
  • G.H. Mumm, Cordon Rouge
  • Tattinger, Comtes de Champagne

Wine-Food Pairing for the holidays: A nice brut Champagne will pair well with turkey dinner. If you are having a fancy get-together to ring in the new year, caviar and fois gras will pair well. Champagne will also pair nicely with rich seafood such as lobster, scallops, and crab.

If you are having a get-together where you plan to have finger food, try pairing Champagne with fried appetizers, salty chips, or even buttery popcorn. If you make a cheese platter, make sure it includes creamy cheeses such as Brie and Camembert. Champagne is very versatile and food-friendly.

REVIEW

Champagne Drappier Côte d’Or Brut

Since Champagne can be so pricey, this is a relatively affordable bottle. It is a pale straw coloured Champagne with aromas of baked apple, pear, buttery croissant, hazelnut, floral notes, and a touch of spice. It is full-bodied on the palate, dry, and zesty with its yummy citrus flavours. 

Link to this wine at the LCBO

Link to this wine at the SAQ

Educational resources for this blog:

  • Page 72, 73, 74 of L’Atlas Mondial du Vin, 7e édition, written by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson.  2014. Published by Broquet.
  • I also want to give a special shout out to my former Vins de France professor at La Cité, Gilles Proulx. The education I gained through him has been so valuable with my every day knowledge of French wine including Champagne and this blog.

Karlo Estates Cabernet Franc 2016

13.0% Alcohol./Vol.

A medium-bodied Cab Franc with aromas of ripe srawberry, lilac, earthy beets, sweet spice, and herbal notes. It is also nicely rustic with a subtle hay barn quality.

In terms of flavour, there’s tart plum and chocolate, with faint floral notes seeping through.  It has wonderful acidity and the tannins are well integrated. The flavours linger.

Wine-Food Pairing: Roasted duck or lamb. 

Score: 89

Stags’ Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

14.1% alcohol/vol.

WINE REVIEW

On the nose, this full-bodied Red has aromas of ripe blueberry and jammy cassis spread, with notes of menthol, cinnamon, violet, potpourri, cocoa, and hints of black pepper and vanilla.

With flavours of cassis,  plum, cinnamon, floral notes and cocoa, it has fresh acidity and velvety tannins that are well incorporated. At the finish there is a touch of oak and black pepper. A nice Californian wine!

Tasted November 2018

Wine-Food Pairing: I paired this with roast beef and potatoes. It was delicious!

Score: 91

Exploring Ontario Wine through Savvy Wine Company

A week and a half ago, I attended Outstanding in Their Fields, the Taste and Buy event hosted by Savvy Wine Company at Ottawa City Hall. It was an opportunity to sample Ontario wine while chatting with winemakers from across the province.

Ottawa City Hall offered a perfect venue for this event. There was live music and an upbeat crowd.  I did not get a chance to stop at every kiosk nor did I sample every bottle but out of the ones I tried, here are a few that stood out.

TRAIL ESTATE WINERY

The wine from Trail Estate offers some of the most distinctive aromas and flavours. I enjoyed the Gewürztraminer and also loved the following: 

TRAIL ESTATE 2017 ORNG

This pale orange coloured wine made from Riesling has aromas of dried orange peel, white floral notes, nutmeg, baking spice, and white pepper. On the palate, it is dry with fresh acidity and flavours of orange zest, lemon, nutmeg and cardamom. The flavours linger. It is unique and delicious.

Wine-Food Pairing: Great on its own. This wine would pair well with a charcuterie board that includes prosciutto, or with mango and ginger Wensleydale cheese served with salty pretzel crackers.

SUE-ANN STAFF ESTATE WINERY

I loved chatting with Sue-Ann Staff. She has so many interesting stories. I discovered that her white wine is named after people and her red wine is named after things. She has this amazing icewine, Howard’s Icewine Vidal 2016, that I totally recommend. For this blog, I’m reviewing the following:

SUE-ANN STAFF 2016 MABLE’S VCR

Made from Viognier, Chardonnay, and Riesling, this lovely White has citrus aromas with candied almond, slight resin, vanilla bean, and white pepper. On the palate it has wonderful acidity, beautiful harmony, and is absolutely delicious.

Wine-Food Pairing: Pair with almond crusted chicken or caesar salad.

SUE-ANN STAFF 2016 THE CHESTNUT TREE CABERNET FRANC

Sue-Ann mentioned that her farm has been in her family for two centuries. Her family told her that one winter when the men were selling apples and pears in England, renegades broke into their farm and stole their goods and left behind a riding crop. Later, the riding crop sprouted roots and grew into a chestnut tree which still stands today.

It turns out that the renegades were Jesse James and his entourage. Jesse James had family in Kitchener and at the time, he was escaping from authorities in the United States. Sue-Ann named her bottle after this amazing family story.

This Cab Franc has concentrated raspberry and black cherry aromas, as well as violet, black pepper, tobacco and spice. The palate follows the nose. It has good body, great acidity with noticeable tannins. This one is a keeper and can be stored for several years. 

Wine-Food Pairing: Pair with a peppered steak, roasted lamb, or spicy sausage penne.

MELDVILLE WINES

It was such a pleasure talking with Derek Barnett. He’s passionate, has a twinkle in his eye, and his love for making wine shines through. I was very impressed with his Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir. Here’s my review of the later:

MELDVILLE 2017 PINOT NOIR

This garnet-hued Pinot Noir is jammy on the nose with aromas of raspberry and black cherry, and notes of cedar, black licorice, and hints of beeswax. On the palate, it is medium-bodied with fresh acidity and noticeable tannins. The palate follows the nose. It also has a kick of black pepper and a long espresso finish. I would keep this Pinot Noir a few years to let it age, it will just get better with time.

Wine-Food Pairing: This would pair well with a beef roast or with venison.

CASA-DEA ESTATES WINERY

Paul Battilana of Casa-Dea Winery on the right.

It was great chatting with Paul Battilana of Casa-Dea Winery. I love his 2016 Chardonnay Reserve and his Dea’s 2017 Sparkling Rosé. His Cabernet Franc is a great example of the wonderful potential for this grape variety in Prince Edward County.

CASA-DEA 2014 CABERNET FRANC RESERVE

This Cabernet Franc has juicy aromas of raspberry and blackcurrant, along with cedar, violet, and a touch of bell pepper that dissipates quickly. On the palate, it is medium bodied with sour cherry and tart plum flavours, as well as subtle wood notes and espresso at the finish.

Wine-Food Pairing:  Wonderful on its own. This wine would pair well with barbecued pork chops or with baked eggplant parmesan. 

DI PROFIO ESTATE WINES

I only had time to try one bottle at the Di Profio kiosk but I look forward to trying more in the future. I quite enjoyed the one I sampled.

DI PROFIO ESTATE 2015 CABERNET MERLOT

This wine was the most full-bodied Red that I personally sampled during the evening. It is bold yet smooth. On the nose, there is a mix of red and dark berries, predominantly ripe blueberry and raspberry jam, followed by aromas of cedar, vanilla, and milk chocolate. On the palate, the flavours are of dark berries and tart plum with some spicy black pepper and a dark cocoa finish. The acidity is fresh and the tannins are velvety. Delicious!

Wine-Food Pairing: This wine would pair wonderfully with barbecued steak in a Montreal steak spice rub or with dark chocolate.

A FEW OTHER NOTES….

The first wine I sampled at the event was Tawse’s 2016 Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling which was a delicious way to start the evening. Tawse offers many wonderful bottles that I’ve had the pleasure of tasting over the years.

It was nice meeting Micheline and Tim Kuepfer from Broken Stone Winery. They have a beautiful sparkling wine that I will be purchasing called Exuberance Sparkling Riesling. Their Pinot Gris and Cab Franc are also tasty and well made. 

I liked that we had some Ottawa area representation with KIN Vineyards. Their Civil Grit Chardonnay is quite nice. I also liked seeing Karlo Estates who makes a tasty Marquette. You can read my review of their Marquette here.

The event did not only feature wine. There was ciders, spirits, cheese, and chutney. The Rhubarb Raisin Chutney I bought from Top Shelf Preserves was so tasty that my jar is already empty.  Overall, it was a great event hosted by Savvy Wine Company.  I do look forward to the next one.

 

Marquette 101: Discovering this Cold-Hardy Grape

Never heard of Marquette? You are not the only one. This young grape variety may not be well-known but is steadily gaining popularity.  

WHY IS IT NOT MORE KNOWN?
First off, Marquette is a hybrid grape. Unfortunately, hybrid grapes can be tricky to get recognition within the wine industry. In Ontario, for example, Marquette is not on the list of permitted grape varieties for VQA Ontario eligible wines.

The good news is that this is currently under review. Through the VQA Ontario Stakeholder Consultation dated September 25, 2018, one of the proposals was to add Marquette on the list of permitted hybrid grape varieties. We will need to stay tuned for developments regarding  this proposal.

WHAT IS A HYBRID GRAPE?
The vast majority of wine we currently drink belong to the Vitis Vinifera family. To get a hybrid grape, you typically cross Vitis Vinifera grapes with other Vitis species.

Hybrid varieties can be more resistant to the cold and diseases and offer an alternative to Vitis Vinifera grapes in climates where the weather is too cold for these grapes to thrive such as Eastern Canada.

A BIT OF HISTORY AND MARQUETTE INFORMATION…
Marquette was created by Peter Hemstad and James Luby at the University of Minnesota’s Horticultural Research Center. It originated from a cross made in 1989 between the University of Minnesota’s hybrid grape variety ‘MN 1094’ and the French hybrid grape variety ‘Ravat 262’, sometimes referred as Ravat Noir.

‘MN 1094’ was derived from a complex mix of Vitis Riparia, Vitis Vinifera, and lesser amounts of several other Vitis species. ‘Ravat 262’ was derived from a complex mix of several Vitis species and Pinot Noir is of its parents.

Marquette produces bluish-black fruit that is resistant to the cold. It also has good resistance to common grape diseases including downy mildew, powdery mildew, and black rot. 

Marquette grapes are high in sugar and have good acidity levels. Wines made from Marquette are typically ruby coloured with both aromas and flavours of cherry, berry, black pepper, and spice. In comparison to other cold-hardy red hybrid grapes, wine made from Marquette frequently has more pronounced and perceivable tannins.  

REGARDING THE VQA ONTARIO STAKEHOLDER CONSULTATION…
The deadline for industry stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposed changes that includes the addition of Marquette will be on December 15, 2018. This does not mean that if the feedback received is positive and that the VQA Board of Directors support the addition of Marquette, it will automatically be added.

I was informed by the VQA that if the Board of Directors recommends the proposed changes to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services for approval, then the Ministry may wish to conduct their own industry consultations. Regardless of whether it gets approved or not, this proposal is a step in the right direction for this grape has all the potential to produce high quality wine.

REVIEW

KARLO ESTATES MARQUETTE 2017 – WILD FERMENT   
13.5% alcohol./vol

Visually, this wine is a dark ruby colour with a lighter violet rim.  First thing I smell is rose petals, followed by juicy aromas of black cherry and plum, and lots of dark chocolate, with mushroom, black olive, cinnamon, and hints of white pepper.  This wine is light to medium bodied and has this mouth-watering tartness with its crunchy young  plum and sour cherry flavours. It also has notes of sweet spice and dark cocoa. The tannins are smooth and the flavours linger.

Wine-Food Pairing: This wine goes well with pasta in a fresh tomato sauce, mushroom risotto, and a charcuterie board that includes olives and nuts.

Another example of Marquette is the following from Etter that I had reviewed for my blog:  Interview with Jan-Daniel Etter of Clos du Vully. It is a different style and blended with a few other varieties. This one has more body and although tart, it does not have the mouth-watering acidity found in the Marquette from Karlo Estates.

ETTER MARQUETTE 2014    
13.5% alcohol./vol

Made from 75% estate grown Marquette, and a blend of 25% Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Shiraz, this ruby coloured Red has aromas of  black plum, violet, and sour cherry, as well as hints of wet cedar, red licorice, smoke, and roasted cocoa beans.

On the palate, it has tart black plum and sour cherry flavours with a smoky finish. It is medium bodied with wonderful acidity and is truly a lovely wine.

Wine-Food Pairing: This wine would pair well with barbecued steak, grilled pork, or roasted duck. Continue reading “Marquette 101: Discovering this Cold-Hardy Grape”

Chateau Grange Cochard Morgon Vielles Vignes 2014

REVIEW

I am surprised that this wine has 13% alcohol as it doesn’t feel like it has that much, and it certainly doesn’t taste like it. This light bodied Red made from Gamay is juicy on the palate, fresh, and the tannins are silky smooth.

On the nose, we have aromas of violet, dark cherry, and plum with hints of black pepper, sweet spice, and milk chocolate. The juicy fruit aromas follow through on the palate as well as a touch of cloves and cinnamon.

Tasted October 2018

Score: 88

Wine-Food Pairing: Good on its own. I paired mine with tuna steak grilled on a charcoal barbecue. It was delicious! This would also pair well with roasted pork.

Bouvet Excellence Brut Crémant de Loire

REVIEW

This straw coloured crémant has delicate aromas of baked apple, crème brûlée, freshly baked bread, citrus, and almond.

It is medium bodied and creamy on the palate, with flavours of lemon, baked pie crust, and almond at the finish.

Tasted October 2018

Wine-Food Pairing: Great on its own, with pan-seared fish, or fried seafood or vegetable appetizers.

Score: 89

Primarius Pinot Noir 2015

 

REVIEW

This Pinot Noir from Oregon has a beautiful ruby colour in the glass. It is elegant and fragrant with aromas of plum and sour cherry, along with delicate floral notes, subtle underwood, earthy beets, leather, and sweet spice. On the palate, it is light bodied with silky tannins and flavours of sour cherry, tart plum, cranberry, and floral notes with a slightly bitter finish.

Tasted October 2018.

Wine and Food Pairing: Roasted turkey, roasted duck, salmon.

Score: 90

Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace Brut

REVIEW

Straw coloured with delicate bubbles. Aromas of baked pear, apple pie, biscuit, and spearmint. Flavours of baked apple, biscuit, citrus, and mint with a bitter and lingering nutty finish. Medium bodied and very creamy on the palate.

Tasted October 2018

Wine-Food Pairing: Enjoyable on its own, with fried chicken, or with other salty fried food.

Score: 89

 

Bite Burger House Makes A Tasty Burger

By Melanie Lloyd

I recently had a lunch date at Bite Burger House, located at 108 Murray Street in downtown Ottawa. The ambiance was cozy and laid back. The service was friendly and the food was savoury and succulent.

I ordered the Double Bite Me, which is a juicy double beef patty served with double smoked bacon and Cheddar cheese on a fresh brioche bun.

This was quite the burger! OMG! The beef patties had a nice fresh flavour and the meat was moist and grilled to perfection. I could taste that it was made with real ingredients. It was so enjoyable!

My husband ordered the El Gringo which is a beef patty with chorizo, guacamole, pico de gallo, and cilantro sour cream.

I had a couple of bites of his burger and loved the flavour combo. It had just the right amount of spice as to not take away from the other flavours. We both paired our meal with truffle fries, so delicious!

The drink menu was compact while being versatile. I could see right away that it was well thought out, with a good selection of craft beer, cocktails, and wine.

Sometimes I go to a restaurant and find that the wine list doesn’t match the food being served in the restaurant. This was definitely not the case with Bite Burger House. There were many great choices for wine and burger pairing.

The drink menu changes from time to time. This wine list included Torres Campos Ibéricos Tempranillo 2015 from Rioja, Spain, which I ordered to pair with my burger.

On the nose, this red wine is fruit forward with aromas of tart blackberry, plum, as well as subtle red berry notes, tobacco, cigar box, dark roasted cocoa, and smoke. On the palate, there are blackberry and plum flavours with dark chocolate at the finish. This is a medium to full bodied wine with gentle tannins and fresh acidity.  

The smoke in the wine matched the smoke in my burger and the flavours of both paired well together. The wine also paired amazingly with the El Gringo burger. The spice of the burger enhanced the flavours of the wine.

If you are craving a burger, this place is totally worth checking out. The handcrafted hamburgers are very satisfying! Word of caution:  If you order the Double Bite Me, such as I did, you will likely be leaving with a doggy bag as it is a huge burger.  Bring your appetite!