Just found in the digital camera a few shots from Christmas and New Years. Here's one of an excellent vintage that we enjoyed one of those nights--can't recall which, but then maybe this is the reason. I bought this in Epernay a long, long time ago-- it's been in the cellar since then, under 24 hour guard, lock and key. It's been turned at intervals, as recommended. Got me to thinking: What is the best Champagne that you've ever tasted, where and when?
At our 1970 wedding, while I was an Army Officer, we had the reception at the 'O' CLub and for my lovely bride and I we also had this type of Champagne, three bottles in fact, before heading off to 43 years of marriage!
Even supermarket sparklers count!
What a way to bring back great memories!
Having visited Epernay a number of times, I love the place! I don't drink to much "Bubbly", but Dom P, is my favorite! Having bout my first bottle in 1972 for $29! Recently bout a bottle of Dom at "Sam's" and it was $109 for the bottle. That is the lowest price I have seen anywhere.
If one is in the area of Epernay visit "Haute Villars", that where Dom P. was a "Blind Monk" and invented "Method Champinois". (Please forgive my spelling mistakes on the French words)
anadyr, "Congratulations" on your fine taste in "Bubbly" and "Woman"!
That is really neat. We have never had DP, and have often wondered what it would be like. Sandy loves Champagne, so we were actually wondering if it would be a good deal to pick some up in France and bring back, when we get around to that big European tour. Any thoughts on that idea? Or does anyone know if it's much cheaper to get over there?
I don't think it is cheaper anywhere than here.
Right now, the Asian countries are buying up much of the best vintages in the world, and I am glad for them.
The experience of going to the area in France is a good one, but I would not expect any bargains.
As I have indicated, DP, is $119 at Sam's, and $350 per bottle at the place I dined tonight (I did not have any).
Ah, my favorite is La Grand Dame (Veuve Clicquot).
We use to celebrate birthdays and new years with this.
For every day we used Veuve Clicquot yellow label.
Other special occassions was Veuve Clicquot purple label.
The one & only time I've ever had true Champagne was a few New Year's ago when my parents bought some Dom at Costco. I think it was $130 for a standard size bottle with 2 branded flutes. It was clean, with a strong apple nose to it, but that's all I got from it! My palate is very unrefined and I'm still struggling to learn to appreciate wines & bubbly! Mainly, I stick to sweeter stuff like Riesling... so, my favorite bubbly so far is a sweet rose called Vin Du Bugey-Cerdon, from Bugey, France. I picked it up at a local wine shop called SWAM.
Any tips on how to train your palate??
I've actually been meaning to attend Thursday Night tastings at a local shop called Shiroma's Wine and More (SWAM), but just never can seem to get there!
But I've tried Rieslings of various sweetnesses, a few of Chardonnays, a few bubblies, and a couple of reds. I simple cannot stand the tannins in most reds and this strong flavor that I can't seem to put my finger on from some of the Chardonnays I've tried. I'm guessing it's the oak?
I think the best way to train your palate is to spend some time in Reims and Epernay if possible. If not, you can always do what I did (though you must beware of doing it TOO well). In 1978 when I was a very old junior in college (nearly 30!), I had a roommate in Brookline MA who was a chef. She taught me all kinds of cool things about cooking and love of wines. So since I was also working full time at Mass General Hospital, I spent one whole week's salary to buy a bottle of Dom Perignon. I have to admit that many years later, and many long stays in the Champagne, my favorite remains Perrier Jouet's Fleurs de Champagne. One thing with wine tasting is that it is all very personal, just like food. (For example, I can't stand sweets (chocolate being one of my least favorites), but love tangy and salty things.) So you need to try enough medium to really good bottles till you find what suits you best. There's no point in spending a lot if you don't like it any better than Freixenet (a Spanish sparkling wine using the methode champenoise). Speaking of that they have some pretty good wines in the Air France Lounge now, including a Haut Brion!
That sounds like an amazing idea! Too bad that isn't practical for me...
I agree, wine tasting is very subjective and personal, but what really puzzles me is the fact that I like sweet wines, can't stand red, and am not much of a sweets person. I rarely eat candy anymore, and if a dessert is too suite, won't eat much of it... I do like tangy things too. I'll have to look up the wines you mentioned, though, and give um a try! Thanks for the tips!
Actually yes -- by pairing it with foods. While I am not one to serve whites with fish or chicken and reds with meat all or even most the time, the right kind of dry red (or white) wine with foods can make all the difference in your developing palate ! Some of it will be trial and error, but the fun kind. Try getting some magazines like Food & Wine or Saveur that specialize in pairings. Then you can get the gist of what kind of particular wine works well with a type of food (say pasta with red sauce or filet oscar (one of my favorites). Typically cabernet sauvignon tends to be one of the dryest and has the most tannins, and that's one of the reasons it lasts so well and gets better with time. It's been ages since I've had a good pinot noir, and I never liked zinfandel. I've become a huge fan of Carmenere from Chile and my all time favorite reds are Côte-du-Rhônes and the best of all Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Try pairing a Côte-du-Rhône with a hearty beef meal (or for that matter hearty chicken meal).
And if you still need to try more slowly start with a good merlot or chianti classico DOCG.
Or a good Brunello di Montalcino. An even better start might be the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, also DOC status and widely exported. It's tannins are softer and made with up to 15% Sangiovese, and a little less pricey. Both reds are very nice on the palate. And since you're headed to Italy, Perfetto, il mio amico!
Sì, sì, la mia amica! Brunello di Montalcino is amazing, though not for the light of wallet. When I led tours to Tuscany and Umbria for my college in 2002, we visited not only Montepulciano but also the wineries of Montalcino for a first day spectaculaire. I also learned why there is a rose at the end of every line of vines -- if something goes wrong with the rose it can give the first hint of insect infestation. I'm attaching some poor quality photos from then, since I did not yet have a digital camera.
You know, I've slowly begun to try this with whites, but have been afraid to try with reds because of how off putting my experiences with reds have been so far! This past weekend I was surprised how spicy my riesling became when I drank it after eating a seafood risotto dish the sommelier had paired it with. Very interesting! I can see why people get addicted to food & wine pairings!
I actually LOVE a good cut of beef with a red wine sauce, but still couldn't handle drinking the wine straight. I know it's different, but now I understand why from your explanation. I have found cabernets to be incredibly bitter and tannic, while some Italian red my father had was quite mellow and something I could actually tolerate. I think it's time to pay a visit to the local wine shop to pick up a merlot/chianti classico and give it another try. Thanks Prof!
I had a glass of Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve (2010) Cabernet Sauvignon recently that was quite enjoyable. It's also reasonably priced (well under $20). I wonder if you might like it too. It's Californian (Healdsburg), and I bet it's readily available where you live.
Here's the deal, Kharada, you don't drink the wine straight, so to speak -- unless you like sherry (I don't). You should always have a glass of water alongside your glass of wine. Some bread too, especially between different foods that will affect the acidity of the wine differently. Your attempts with the white wine tell me you'll just do fine when you find the right reds (like for example, the fact that I will not drink zinfandels or any but the best pinot noirs). I stick to Cabs or French, Italian or Chilean reds. A white wine (at least most, though maybe not a pouillé fumé [though best with turkey]) is going to disappear with most spicy dishes, so you need a wine to stand up to it. (I know this sounds completely hysterical to non-wine-lovers.)
That's why I'm suggesting Food & Wine mag. They purposely pair things. Depending on what state you live in, there are also a few good wine clubs (but not all are good, so check around). I live in nowhere'sland when it comes to wine, so I live with what I have till I go to Europe. But to me, a person who loves to cook [more on that in a moment], having the wine to go with the food is essential. And most sweet wines won't unless you can buy a good Château d'Yquem or Monbazillac as a true dessert wine. (And trust me don't eat dessert too - it is dessert.) The idea is to pair foods as best possible. So what are your favorite meals? Unless you are of unlimited means, I can suggest at least a few wines to start with depending on your favorite dishes. And if I can't, Roger certainly can.
But once you reach that stage, you can't imagine ever going back. When I was a kid, my grandmother served sweet red wine with her Sunday dinners, which were awful (to me) even though she diluted it. Fortunately, she also gave me a daiquiri as an 8-yr-old, which being somewhat sour pleased me, even though I can't stand any kind of hard liquor as an adult. My father drank gin or vodka, which is -- shall we say -- not my cup of tea.
But red wine -- the love of it comes from living in France and Italy. If you know you're at a cheap restaurant (like many Chinese restaurants) you're usually better off choosing the white, only because it's less horrible than the red. But if you are truly interested in wines, and pairing them with food, you simply have to keep trying.
Here's one suggestion -- I haven't looked up where you live since this might seem presumptuous coming from a Mainer -- but lobster in champagne sauce is spectacular. Madeleine Kamman and Julia Child both had recipes I followed for years. A similar taste in the food matches and compliments the wine. Likewise Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon -- surprisingly easy to make -- and you can use lesser wines in the stew. But then pair it with some good bread and Côtes-du-Rhône and it's seventh heaven.
And I inspired myself with my earlier message today and bought a small piece of filet mignon and local crabmeat and asparagus and did indeed enjoy a lovely filet Oscar with a chianti classico.
Keep asking! We'll tell!
Thanks for the great tips! I'll really have to check those out, and take a look at Food & Wine.
As for my location, I reside on the island of Oahu, so, finding a great variety of wine isn't difficult. It's more expensive here because of the need to ship the wine here, which is also why it is impractical to order wine online for me. I've found that the shipping charges often exceed the value of the wine itself! That being said, Lobster in champagne sauce does sound spectacular! Must be even better in Maine, with fresh lobsters straight out of the water!
Speaking of seafood...
Ocean Risotto with lobster, shrimp, scallop, clam, sea asparagus, basil, tomato, and saffron. Paired nicely with a BEX Riesling
My father has mad Boeuf Bourguignon before, and it is delicious. Overall food preferences, though, are very open with me. I love Japanese foods, Chinese, Italian, French, etc. But Filet Oscar sounds really tasty too now! Either way, I think I'll need to find me some good Chianti and give it a try.
Thanks again Prof! Your info is extremely helpful!
Anything to help a fellow oenophile! I loved the photo! And aside from out lobsters, I think you have the best choice of seafood in Hawaii -- and probably wine too. When I was living in Boston all was well, but let's just say Maine isn't so much into it, and alas I have lived here since 1994 and will till I retire. But you make with what you've got!
Still thinking about that seafood risotto, even though I'm full! I think you'll fall in love with dry reds and some medium to dry whites (my favorite dry white is either Pouilly-Fumé or a light Alsacian wine). But I'm definitely red wine!
It really is all about getting to know the wines. Had I not shared an apartment with a chef for a year I doubt I ever would have come to that realization (and living next to a wine store didn't hurt).
That's truly the great thing about MRI that people not on here simply don't understand. Everyone is always so kind and helpful, it's really a great community to be a part of and participate in regularly! Hawaii does have incredible seafood, particularly fin fish, but our shellfish isn't so good. We have spiny lobsters and another related species, but they're overfished and very hard to find. Our best lobsters are actually Maine lobsters that are shipped in and allowed to further mature and "fatten" in cold deep sea water in Kona. These are called Keahole or Kona Cold lobsters. Other than that, we have no native crabs or shrimp that can be commercially harvested. All shrimp here are farmed, though Kauai Blue farmed shrimp are pretty tasty. If you come to Hawaii and are looking for good seafood, I'd highly recommend coming during the Hawaii Deep 7 season. Deep 7 fish are primarily snappers that have a tightly regulated fishery. They're typically available during the winter until fishing quotas are met, the most famous of these fish is probably the Opakapaka, or Pink Snapper. This fish is good, but my personal favorite is the Onaga or Hawaiian Red/Ruby snapper. It is a beautiful fish with exquisite flesh that has great fat content and flakes very well.
At any rate, I've got some learning to do! Hopefully my European adventure will help! But perhaps I should check out a local restaurant too. If you're ever in Honolulu again, Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar is a popular restaurant opened by Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya and famed local restauranteur DK Kodoma. Thus far I've only had Chuck Furuya's private label Riesling, mainly because it pairs well with the asian fare at sister restaurant Hiroshi's Eurasian Tapas and Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar. So I'll have to give Vino a try one day with it's heartier Italian fare that will definitely match better with reds!
Actually a lot of the experience is the anticipation and the buzz (no pun intended) that surround the Champagne. Senses other than taste are important, and if you were to taste it in a black pottery cup, you might not find it that exciting, or even good. Like a Rolex watch, it is still a timepiece or in this case, a sparkling wine.
If you like the sweet wines, you might prefer the Italian and Spanish sparkling wines as they are much sweeter. Or my favorite American Sparkling wine is Schramsberg which has both brut and sec.
Or, if don't mind something without the bubbles try French Sauternes, German Ice Wine (Canada also has some nice ones in the German style) or HungarianTokaji Aszú. Tokaji Aszú sweetness is measure in puttony (number based on the sugar v non-sugar content) and typically ranges from 3 to 6. The 6 is very hard to get ahold of as the Japanese have been placing contracts on upcoming years productions now for decades. Only got to try it through a friend of the family who provide some from the vineyards family private alotment.
The good thing about collecting the sweet wines is that they improve with age. No worries about them going bad if properly stored (on their side to keep the cork moist)
It was very good! I still have most of the wine (have not made the dessert yet - one of the few I can tolerate - pears poached in red wine). Yes, you must try it GemPrincess.
I only saw Julie and Julia on a flight a year ago, but I've been using Julia Child's cookbooks since the 70s. The recipes are easy, the food is scrumptious, and you can also (if you saw SNL in those days) imagine yourself in Julia's Kitchen preparing the meal (To quote a song for those who don't remember those skits: I guess you had to be there.)
Thanks for the tips! I'll have to look them up! I have been meaning to try Inniskillin Riesling Ice Wine, but it's so expensive that I just can't bring myself to buy it! Same for Sauternes. I have tried Neige Apple Ice Wine before, but it's flavor was quite off putting. If you've ever tried the Chinese preserved plum called li hing mui, that's what it tasted like to me!
On the flip side, I do love Italian Brachettos. Particularly Birbet and Stella Rosa Rosso. Both are sweet reds with a slight frizzante! But it's so sweet, it's almost like drinking juice and truly is a dessert wine...
Another one I've founded that I like is the Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato from Australia. It's sweet, but tart and has a strong carbonation. But at around $15 for 375ml, it's a bit pricey!
Though it wouldn't be worth it for me to try with my unrefined palate, what do you folks think of Krug Grand Cuvee? Is it worth all the hype?
I am not a Krug fan.
Pretty basic in my Champaign/sparkling wine tastes.
In my younger days preferred the sweeter ones, but now prefer them to be a bit dryer, and very yeasty.
I stick to my Veuve Clicquot or Shramsberg.
Also found I like Domaine Chandon, produced in CA by Moet which I discovered on a wine tasting trip.
If you want some very good deals, especially on the sweet wine, try the Hungarian wines. They are not as well know, and very nicely priced. Most Tokaji Aszú are priced considerably less than Sauterne or Ice Wines, and often taste better (at least to me and I may be biased due to my Hungarian heritage and growing up on them)!
If you really like ice wines which are very expensive usually, try looking at some Canadian or US productions, as they tend to cost less. The ones I am aware of in North America are located where there are micro-climates, as I do believe this is required to grow these grapes. There was one in Nova Scotia and we use to buy ice wines there for less than the cost of the German ones. It was owned and run by a German family that had brought their grape vines from German, and found land in a microclimate in Nova Scotia. They were not cheap wines, but cost far less than the German ones.
I see. I always see Veuve Clicquot, Dom, and Krug, though Krug seems to be the most hyped.
At any rate, for now, I prefer sweeter, though I hope to change that to drier one day.
You know, I've heard of Tokaji before, and it intrigues me. The flavor profile sounds very interesting! I'll have to see if I can find it one of these days. This is definitely something on my list of things to try if I can find it!
As for Ice Wine, it's still on a list of to-try items. It is incredibly expensive, even Canadian ones are quite expensive from what I've seen locally. Have you heard of Pacific Rim's Vin de Glaciere? That one seems to be lowered price, but I don't think the grapes are frozen on the vine by natural chill.
Thanks again for all the helpful info!
Another thing we use the Hungarian wines for is spicy food. Since Hungarian food can be spicy, the wines go good with spicy food.
As for the Pacific Rim's Vin de Glaciere, I am not familiar.
I just happend to know about the Canadian Ice Wine from relatives living in Nova Scotia. They were showing us the micro-climate (there is literally a piece of highway that as you drive along, you come to a section where it rains, and then stops as you pass out of that area, and then noted that alot of vineyards have cropped up in the micro-climate area, so we went to look at a few, and low and behold they had an ice wine. While it was not cheap (~$60 CAN, and in those days that was like~$50 USD), it was cheaper than the German (might be the currency conversion as DM were always expensive compared to the USD).
I noticed in the Wiki read up they mentioned some MI varieties so I may try to find them when I am back there to visit the family and will let you know.
Given the process of grapes freezing while they still are plump with water, as opposed to bothritis for the french sautern and hungarian Tokaji, it would be best to look for vineyards in the northern climes with an early frost while the grapes are on the vinew