Tis the season for all that bubbles! And for many that means French Fizz!
French Fizz? Champagne, right?
Not necessarily! All that bubbles is NOT Champagne even if it comes from France! Champagne is actually ONLY the sparking wine that comes from the Champagne region of France.
However, just like sparkling wine is made all over California and the world, sparkling wine is made in many places of France– not only Champagne. It’s just that Champagne is the most famous region in the world for sparkling wine, and for many, sparkling wine is synonymous with Champagne –even if they’re wrong.
Sparkling wine that is NOT from Champagne is often known as a “Cremant” which designates sparkling wines made by the traditional Champagne method (method champenoise) but is grown outside the boundaries of the Champagne region and may not be made of the traditional Champagne grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; crémant might also be made from grapes other than the traditional Champagne varieties.
Like Champagne, the bubbles in Crémant ” come from a second fermentation giving the still wine its bubbles AND this fermentation MUST occur inside the bottle. Then the wine is aged for a minimum of nine months on spent yeast cells, or lees, which gives the wine a creamy texture and a distinctive “yeasty” or bready nose.
For this month’s French #Winophiles, Que Syrah Sue and I tasted three bottles of PINK French Fizz: bottles of Cremant from Alsace and Burgundy plus a vintage Champagne.
And what better with bubbly than seafood?
But what did we want to make? As we brainstormed, we thought about holiday meals. They can be haphazard, with people coming and going and eating at all hours of the day and night.
At some point, Sue came up with the idea of crepes which can be enjoyed for breakfast lunch or dinner and pairs well with sparkling wine which can be enjoyed for breakfast lunch or dinner!
I went to our local Fisherman’s Market where I bought fresh shrimp and crab; as the lobsters were all sold out, we bought two tails at the store, and as the crab I bought was small, Sue picked up some already prepared crab meat which is so much easier than trying to get the meat from the petite stone crab I wrestled with! But already prepared seafood means you don’t have any shells to make your stock with and I wanted to try making a crab/lobster/shrimp bisque…
We paired our three bottles of French Fizz with fresh oysters, caesar salad, seafood crepes, and bisque. We went for PINK because it’s more colorful and festive for the holidays AND it matched the lobster, crab and shrimp in our crepes and it matched our bisque!
Before we did our tasting, I warmed up my taste buds and my imagination when I attended the 2016 Sparkling Wine and Champagne Tasting at the Cave in the Ventura Wine Company. I expected to find some delightful sparkling wines, but I went away impressed with the high quality of the sparkling wines being poured, and I was particularly pleased with some very special French sparklers.
But what I went away with was the lesson that Sparkling wine should not be saved for special occasions– it is a great wine to pair with food, and the food the Chef Alex Montoya prepared and paired was beautiful and tasty.
VIPs started with oysters with a delicate, vibrant lemon lime foam and butterflied shrimp with house made cocktail sauce which was by far the best cocktail sauce I’d ever had because personally I tend to shun the stuff. For everyone else, Chef Montoya started with “Pappas Bravas”: five different aoli with a potato wedge or two floating in it. Very colorful, fun, and festive! Personally, I would have preferred a few more potatoes because the aoli was so good I hated to waste it but I didn’t want to drink from the little cup either; it was very rich!
Chef Alex Montoya and his crew were assisted at the event by a team of high school students learning culinary crafts. They were definitely enthusiastic and having fun! Without a doubt, these finger foods paired well with the various sparkling wines. Sampling these made me want to go to a winemaker dinner here sometime soon and see what else Che Alex has up his sleeve!
While at the tasting I focused on PINK sparkling wines from Champagne, I also said yes to a few other special wines like this vintage 2006 from Veuve Clicquot.
Most people know that aging wine makes it special. But Champagne and other bottles of French Fizz are actually bottled when they are ready to be opened! So if you have a vintage Champagne lying around, NOW is that special occasion you’ve been waiting for!
While I tasted several rose sparkling wines and a few vintage ones too, it was the Deutz 2009 that really struck my fancy and that I wanted to pair with our #Winophiles French Fizz Seafood dinner.
Cavier w/ creme fresh
Cheese Tray – Blueberry cheddar and Brie with rustic baguette
Ceasar Salad with Housemade Dressing with Anchovies
Seafood Crepes with Champagne sauce
Blueberry Crepes for dessert
All of these wines are within the 12% alcohol range, perfect for a morning or mid day meal.
Blason De Bourgogne – La Reserve Rose Brut – Cremate de Bourgogne – 12% alcohol $10
Surprisingly rich color with much more depth of color in the glass than in the bottle.
Honeysuckle notes on the nose with strawberry preserves and a little bit of cinnamon.
Clean palate of bright berries, especially fresh strawberries. Finish is abrupt and harsh, a bit metallic.
Not the kind of wine to let linger on the palate but for the price, this is a very nice wine.
This can be found at Trader Joes which is where I bought it. For $10, it’s a great bargain.
Lucien Albrecht – Cremate d’Alsace – 12% alcohol – $15
This wine has a very expressive nose. This had the most citrus and mineral characteristic which we really appreciate in a wine. Mid palate this wine may seem a bit harsh on its own, however with the food it went perfectly with the meal we had to offer. It went well with our entire meal from start to finish. It is rare that you can find a wine that will go well from beginning to end of a meal; albeit we chose our menu to pair with French Fizz, this wine shone through and paired beautifully throughout the meal. This is fine as a cocktail wine, but better as food wine to better pair with the dried herbal notes. The herbal notes in our dessert (lavender) brings out the herbal minerality in the wine.
A mass production wine, this can be easily found in most major liquor and grocery stores; it can easily be taken and enjoyed to any holiday gathering without breaking the bank.
Because of the remarkable herbal notes, I decided to take the last of the bottle and mix it with St Germain and a sprig of herbs and blueberries making a refreshing cocktail.
Although I have received samples of this wine before, I purchased a few bottles for an Easter gathering and had one left so we decided to open it.
Champagne Deutz – Rose – 2009 – 12% alcohol
What is remarkable about this wine is that it is aged (or, as Sue described it, oxidized.
I really liked this wine, but for Sue this wine was not her favorite of the three because of the oxidized sherry quality. I appreciated the complexity that gives this wine. There is a very distinct nose and palate. It went well with the appetizers at the event. I wanted to continue to go back to this wine…
For her there was a caramel on the palate. The wine had been opened the day before and it is shocking how fast the fruit faded. In an older wine, fruit can be lost first.
I found a richness to this wine and a long finish with different elements of caramel. This might be the oxidized nature of the wine. Sherry has a long finish. This has a long buttered toffee finish.
This wine was provided for review purposes.