With New Year’s Eve around the corner we thought it a perfect time to celebrate bubbles. Of course, to some extent Champagne—and Cava, Prosecco, and a host of sparkling New World siblings—seems wasted on the holidays. Naming a time that’s wrong for champagne is like choosing a favorite child: nearly impossible.
“I think Champagne goes with almost everything,” says Beverage Director Amanda Reed. “It’s probably the most diverse pairing wine that exists. I drink it any chance I get.”
Perhaps that’s why our downtown Seattle restaurant has such a wide variety of bubbles—from Champagne to a sparkling Vouvray.
Champagne is in a category all its own. To qualify as a Champagne, the wine must be made from chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes. And, these grapes must be grown in the Champagne region of Northern France. Champagnes must also be produced in the traditional method—méthode Champenoise. In this process, the wine is assembled from a blend of still wines, then undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle.
For those facing a Champagne list and wondering “what does it all mean?” here’s some intel: A brut is a dry wine with a residual sugar (RS) less than 12 grams per litre. A demi-sec is sweeter, and may have RS as high as 50 grams per litre. A Blanc de Blanc is a Champagne made from chardonnay grapes. A Blanc de Noir is made from black grapes. And, a Champagne titled “cuvée de prestige” or “Tète de Cuvée” is made from the best fruit and only in exceptional vintages. It’s the best representation of its house.
Champagne—and all bubbly—is an extremely dynamic category. Varietal blends, soil types, production styles, and vintages vary greatly and make for a range of styles.
As far as our list goes…
“I’m pretty excited about the 2002 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill,” says Reed, “in part because 2002 was a stellar vintage. This particular Champagne has been unavailable in other markets for some time. Our Seattle distributor, however, discovered a couple cases and, after tasting it, I was enamored. It’s rich, yet bright and all the lively acidity one could hope for.”
Champagne isn’t the only sparkling wine on the Heartwood wine list that Reed is excited about. There’s also a Vouvray—Domaine du Facteur Vouvray Extra Brut 2013—being poured by the glass that Reed calls pretty amazing. The organic/biodynamic wine is made from vines that are more than 30 years old. “It’s incredibly dry with delicate aromatics. It’s an amazing food wine.”