I am always humbled by the generosity, camaraderie and great relationships that are seeded and continue to blossom in this wine world. This story is one that really stands out because it’s one of those “random acts of kindness.” In this case, there is nothing random about it; only that a group of people who didn’t know each other were brought together because of kindness and a shared loved of sparkling wine.
One of my resolutions a few years back was to focus more on sparkling wines. I was fairly educated in the regions, types of sparkling wines and the various processes as part of wine certification studies, but I desired to taste more of them to understand the soul in the glass. I made this comment amongst friends in one of my social channels to garner interest in joining this quest. That’s when it happened. Alva, a local Atlanta socialite, large-scale event-coordinator extraordinaire and fizz lover offered to help find some bubbly that I just might enjoy. Wow.
And so she did. We had a tasting at the house and invited other friends for a wonderful evening of sparkling wine. Although Alva doesn’t claim to be an expert, she certainly knows her Champagne, investing her knowledge into co-founding an organization called The Independent Champagne and Sparkling Wine Invitational.
H. Billiot Fils Brut Grand Cru Rose’ – We started off with this Rose’ paired with ribs from Pig ‘n Chick, a local BBQ shack. This is a Champagne from the 5-ha Billiot estate in the Grand Cru village of Ambonnay that is planted mostly with Pinot Noir. We all agreed that pink bubbly (made mostly from Pinot Noir with a little skin contact to extract the pink hue) seems to pair perfectly with pork in most cases. The color was like salmon and the nose bright with aromas of “sweet” yeast and strawberries. Flavors of citrus and pineapple were dominant on the palate and had a great finish. This was our favorite of the night.
2000 Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Brut Premier Cru (Blanc de Blancs) – This wine is made from 100% Chardonnay and is a blend of fruit from blocks with different soils in the area that best represents the vintage. The wine was paired with fresh raw oysters, popcorn and cheese. We tried both Gruyere and Ermitage Brie cheese. The wine had a light golden color and a yeasty nose, yet less than what we experienced in the H. Billiot. It exhibited citrus flavors on the palate with a velvety/creamy texture in the mouth, which was accentuated when paired with the oysters. There is more to tasting wine than just aromas, taste and flavors… you must pay attention to the texture in your mouth as well.
Renardat-Fache Bugey du Cerdon- Sparkling Gamay – This sparkling wine was paired with Popeye’s spicy chicken. I know you just re-read that sentence. This wine came in at only 7.5% alcohol; though there was a good bit of residual sugar, I never felt it too sweet. It was balanced by a good level of acid and even less so when tasted with a piece of spicy chicken. The sweet and spice really complemented each other. This wine had a darker pink hue and was full of strawberry jolly rancher aromas. The flavor burst in your mouth much like Fresh n Up gum – remember those?
2003 Kreglinger Brut – Lastly, Alva brought on a sparkling wine from Tasmania. Everyone thought it was amazing. Much different from the others, this sparking wine was more “classic”; there was more crispness, and freshness and included green apple and honey notes. The finish exposed more lemon and mineral for a long finish.
We all learned that day we didn’t have to wait for special occasions to enjoy sparkling wine, especially Champagne. Here’s to celebrating life more often.