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Champagne -Little Black Dress of the Wine World

Author: Alison Phillips/Monday, October 6, 2014/Categories: Blog

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I think I was sixteen when I first sipped a sparkling wine. It was my birthday and my dad always spoiled my sister and me on our birthdays. On my Sweet Sixteenth birthday, my dad took my mum, me and my sister to a local restaurant to celebrate. We lived in Hudson, Quebec in the seventies, a quaint little town on the shores of the Lake of Two Mountains about an hour west of Montreal. In those days, THE place to go for dinner was The Willow Place Inn in Como.

The Willow Place was an historic nineteenth century Quebec style house that had been converted into an Inn. It had a “snug” style bar and a small, intimate dining room furnished with antiques and overlooking the lake.

For dinner that night, we all ordered the House Special – Grilled Scampi served with rice and vegetables, our favourite! My Dad ordered a bottle of wine: Royal de Neuville Sparkling Rose.

The waiter presented the bottle and ceremoniously popped the cork. He poured it carefully in the coupe style glasses. It was a beautiful shade of pale salmon pink with a stream of light bubbles catching the candle light. We all raised our glasses and toasted. The delicate wine tickled my nose and danced on my tongue. I savoured it in my mouth and swallowed. In that moment, I was hooked.

Over the years, sparkling wines have always been included in all kinds of celebrations. From the first romantic date with a new boyfriend when I was eighteen (Pizza and, yes, Baby Duck!) to my wedding, numerous New Year’s Eves and a particularly special night on the terrace at Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe, listening to the thunder of the falls under a starlit African sky. In between and since, Bubbly is always present.

Last week, I was invited to attend a trade event “Technical Tasting of Taittinger Champagne & Domaine Carneros”. Presented by Mr. Mikael Falkman, Taittinger’s Brand Ambassador Comtes de Champagne, and Ms Eileen Crane, CEO & Founding Winemaker of Domaine Carneros, it was a fascinating and delicious afternoon. I had learned all about Champagnes and Sparkling wines through ISG and French Wine Scholar classes I had completed, but at this presentation I had an epiphany. More on that in a minute.

We tasted and compared both brands from Brut Reserves, Roses, Non Vintage Grand Crus, Blanc de Blancs and a Sec. All were exquisite, but if I had to choose a favourite it would have to be the Taittinger Prelude Grand Crus NV with the Taittinger Blanc de Blanc Comtes de Champagne Brut 2005 coming in a close second. The Domaine Carneros Le Reve Blanc de Blancs 2006 and their Brut Rose Cuvee de la Pompadour NV were my favourites in the California sparklings.

Ms. Crane, who has made the wines at Domaine Carneros for more than 28 years shared with the audience that the Brut Rose Cuvee de la Pompadour NV, her favourite, is always in her fridge at home. She’ll pop a cork, and enjoy a glass in the late afternoon sunshine on her deck during the summer. She re-seals it with a champagne stopper, and saves the rest for the next day and the one after that. It’s a small, enjoyable ritual she performs in gratitude each day.

Voila! The epiphany! Why do we wait for a special occasion to celebrate something? Why do we carry on each day, working hard, helping others, dealing with stress, bosses, cranky kids, and longing for an “occasion” so we can kick it up a notch and celebrate? Surely we each deserve to celebrate the fact that we got through another challenge, that we completed that report, checked off everything on the to do list, raked up all the leaves in the yard… whatever! Why not reward ourselves with one, little glass of bubbly and turn an average day into a fabulous one?

Upon reflecting on this epiphany, I have also discovered that drinking Champagne (or Italian Prosecco, Spanish Cava or even Baby Duck) improves the memory. After-all, we remember those moments in our life when we celebrated something.

So, on Saturday, after a hard, physical day gardening, I opened a bottle of Sparkling Moscato and sank into the warm aromatic bubbles in my bath tub and relaxed.  From now on I am always going to keep a bottle of something bubbly on hand in my fridge.  ( And ensure I have a good Champagne stopper).  If a friend drops by unannounced, there’s something to enjoy together, even if I haven’t been grocery shopping for food.  Did you know Champagne and potato chips are magic together?

But, if you need reasons to justify why you should adopt this practice, here are five of mine:

1. Champagne and Sparkling wines are like the little black dress of wine; they go with everything.
2. You can drink Champagne at any time of the day.
3. Champagne does not leave crumbs in the bed !!
4. Did I mention it improves memory?
5. I deserve it!

My mother has always told me that “Life is but a series of moments, celebrate each and every one”. I always listen to my mother.

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