July 24, 2009
Hello fine people! I do so hope you are doing well and keeping cool out there as July winds itself up into August (to ask the proverbial rhetorical: when did that happen?)
I have two VERY EXCITING pieces of news for you today! First, my Blue Jean Spouse & sweet love, Jill, is celebrating her birthday tomorrow. Can I just say, I’m so achingly grateful that she came into the world and I’m tremendously proud to share my life with her. Happy birthday, honey!
Second, and there’s even a fun tie-in here, I am so pleased to announce that we have a new addition here at Blue Jean Gourmet! My best friend’s brother, Anders, has agreed to be our guest sommelier, sharing his wine expertise with us monthly (read his full bio here). He’ll post on special topics and tie-in with what we’re cooking around here, but he’s also happy to answer any wine questions you may have. So please comment away!
I don’t know about you, but as much as I love wine of all kinds, the world of wine can be a little intimidating and needlessly snobby. Anders, while he has the credentials and knowledge, is a totally approachable, down-to-earth guy and I think he will fit right in around here. He’s even created his own clever Wine Rating Scale so you don’t have to fuss with boring points. Not to mention, he’s totally handsome, right?
(I’m allowed to say that; I’m his sister’s best friend.)
So, enough from me already—I’ll turn you over to him. Have a lovely weekend, everyone, and I’ll see you on Tuesday, when our regular, recipe-posts will resume.
Greetings to all of Blue Jean Gourmet’s faithful and happy birthday Jill!
Normally I would talk about how to take wine drinking (and tasting) to the next level in my first post. But seeing that it is Jill’s birthday and given Jill’s proclivity for sparkling wine, Nishta asked me to touch on the subject. So here goes…
Sparkling wine is a very special type of juice. Originally it was actually the bane of winemakers in cooler climates. For centuries, winemakers trying to make dry wines were puzzled by bottles that kept developing bubbles and often exploded in their cellars. What they didn’t realize was that when they laid their wines down to spontaneously ferment over the winter, the cold temperatures of Northern France and England were halting the process and leaving excess sugar behind. The winemakers would then bottle the wine which would later restart fermentation in the spring, creating CO2 and carbonating the wine.
Eventually some of our wine-consuming predecessors developed a taste for this frothy wine and savvy producers figured out ways to make stronger glass, better ferment the wine, and even remove the dead yeast cells from the bottles after an intentional second fermentation was completed. As a result, today we enjoy crystal clear sparklers that seem to embody the spirit of celebration and whose combination of effervescence and high acid make them formidable pairing wines.
For Jill’s birthday, I want to focus on a sparkler that I find especially compelling because simply- it is darn good for the amount of money you have to shell out. The bodacious bubbly in question is Cava; a Spanish wine that can be made in any of six different wine-making regions but typically comes from the Penedes region in Catalonia (about 50 kilometers from Barcelona).
The secret to Cava’s success is that it is required by law to be produced in what is known as the Traditional Method (just like Champagne). This means every bottle has to go through its second fermentation in the bottle you buy it in rather than in a different bottle or in a massive tank.
This process has important implications on the size, longevity and abundance of bubbles as well as the potential for yeasty notes in the final product. It’s these yeasty notes and fine bubbles that define high-end Champagne and can be found in Cava for sometimes as little as one-tenth of the price. If you are wondering what exactly “yeasty notes” encompasses- they are flavors and aromas of bread, biscuits, brioche, etc. combined with a slightly creamy mouthfeel.
Some pairing ideas for dry white Cava: grilled shrimp with lemon juice and garlic, sushi or sashimi, fried oysters, crackers with Gouda. Or, if you are an East-Coaster like me, try it with lobster and butter. Cheers!
1+1=3 Brut NV ~$15.99 Retail
My first impression of the 1+1=3 is that when I sat down taste it 10 minutes after it had been opened and five minutes after it had been poured, is that it had already stopped bubbling, lame. After putting to my nose my mood shifted as it displayed nicely subtle aromas of almond paste and clover. It had a strong lemon flavor and a healthy acidity. Overall I wasn’t blown away and I was never the best student of arithmetic but I’m pretty sure 1+1=2.
Anders’ Rating: What Else is on the Shelf?
Parxet Cuvee 21 NV ~$10.99 Retail
The Parxet was also not bubbling when I sat down, but showed some yeasty characters upon inspection with my nose. Aromas of toasted brioche melded well with a very lemony palate. To my surprise it became quite pleasantly frothy in my mouth, despite being previously devoid of bubbles. It showed a racy acidity and a nuance of raw almond that lingered on the finish.
Anders’ Rating: Class for the Coin
Gramona Gran Cuvee 2004 ~$19.99 Retail
Hooray! Bubbles from the beginning! Awesome aromatic intensity- what was that? Browned biscuit, amaretto cookies and pineapple on the nose? Yummy. The palate didn’t disappoint with a nice weight, creamy mouthfeel and flavors of pineapple and mandarin. A good length too! If you can spare the 20 greenbacks I would certainly give it a try. It kept me guessing as new flavors kept emerging.
Anders’ Rating: Top Notch
Segura Viudas Aria Pinot Noir Brut NV ~$12.99 Retail
The Segura was by far the champ when it came to bubble longevity, the CO2 just wouldn’t relent. A strikingly floral and fruity nose of rose petals, red raspberry and tangerine. I was surprised to get conspicuous blueberry on the palate, complemented by a generous honey note. Seemed much sweeter than I actually think it was, probably could have used a little more acidity. However, really fun and complex, my only caveat is that if you don’t like fruity and floral this probably won’t be your thing. It was absolutely stellar with smoked salmon and I am drying to try it with Tuna Maguro.
Anders’ Rating: Class for the Coin