A Private Tasting and Dinner with the Gang: Tasting French Bubbles
Most of the gang — from left: Fasil, Leah, Katy, Caleb, Fred, Hillary, me, Katherine, Steve, in front of Pizzicletta
Katy and Caleb did a great job making the inside of Pizzicletta even more lovely than usual—pic by Katy Connors
Getting Ready for Tasting and Dinner
Leah suggested we could all dress up for the event, an idea I readily go for
French Bubbles to Taste
A friend in our gang from last night is currently studying French wines, so when planning for our (usually about) monthly private tasting came up, and I offered several different possible themes for the occasion, French bubbles was the one jumped on. (Plus, we all just frickin’ like bubbles, cause we’re super smart like that, as my friend Kate would say.)
The idea for the night was to taste sparkling wines from France made in the Methode Traditionelle style all from outside of the Champagne region, and with unusual grape varieties establishing the cuvee’. Caleb offered to host the location with he and Katy selecting the food choices. Fred provided the pairing to go with the dessert Katy made. I selected the wines.
Here’s what we all came up with.
Opening Wine: Meyer-Fonne Brut Extra Cremant d’Alsace
We opened with a Brut-Extra Cremant d’Alsace by Meyer-Fonne. The wine showcases a blend of 60% Auxerrois, 20% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Blanc, 5% Pinot Noir in a white cuvee’; 12% alcohol.
There is a wonderfully citrus, focused nose on this wine. The weight of Auxerrois shows here as round in the mouth, with an utterly dry presentation balancing the overall structure. The dryness of the wine is again balanced next to good fruit elements–pleasing notes of clementine and lemon zest, light evergreen hints, dried herbal notes, light grass and chalk. This has a medium acidity, and medium finish. The dryness of the wine worked well as an apertif, with just enough texture to push us forward to the second wine, and the food.
I tend to prefer a little more acidity on my methode traditionelle bubbles, but with Auxerrois serving as the primary grape, the acidity levels here were not surprising, and the wine still did well offering a generally clean and balanced presentation. It was a great opening wine, and held up well to the food as we tasted some alongside. Pairs well with herbal dishes.
Wine 2: Jean-Louis Ballarin Brut Cremant de Bordeaux
I felt lucky to locate a Cremant de Bordeaux because there are few imported to the United States. This one by Jean Louis Ballarin focuses on a Brut blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, in a white cuvee’ with 12% alcohol.
The bouquet and flavors of this wine are wonderfully mild, with a soft foam texture. The beads here are impressively small and persistent. This wine offers a lightly tropical floral and fruit presentation showing a floral front palate, fruity mid-palate, and musky finish. The combination of mango skin, light pineapple, meyer lemon and lime zest, show along side a slightly bitter bite and herbal qualities. The wine carries a pleasing medium-plus acidity matched by medium-plus finish.
While we enjoyed each of the wines, this was one of the groups favorites. It also did well alongside food as some of us saved enough to sip it with our meal.
The Food Interlude: Caleb Makes Eats
Involtini: Thinly Sliced Eggplant wrapped around Ricotta, Served in Tomato Sauce Yum (one of my favorite dishes)
Pork Shoulder Rubbed with Pesto, then rolled and tied like Pancetta and slow baked for 8 hours. Also, pleasantly called, “HOLY DEAR LORD GOD ALMIGHTY THANK YOU GOD.”
Caleb and Katy did a fantastic job providing food for the occasion. Katy put together a wonderful herbal green salad, charcuterie plate, and dessert (which I’ll show with its wine pairing towards the end here), and Caleb took the day to make us both Involtini, and slow baked pork shoulder. This is what I like to call, joy.
The gang enjoying the meal, with wine–pic by Caleb
Wine 3: Purete’ de Silex Brut Cremant de Loire
One of the group’s overall favorites, the Purete’ de Silex brings together a cuvee’ of 50% Chenin-Blanc, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Chardonnay in a white sparkling presentation with 12.5% alcohol. (The website for this wine carries a different grape ratio; what I list here is what is printed on the bottle itself.)
The cabernet franc dominates the nose with wonderfully earthy and herbal elements, while the fruit sweetness of the chardonnay shows stronger in the mouth, and the chenin-blanc carries the body–the three together producing a nicely balanced wine. There is a bouquet of wet earth, dried herbs, apple sauce and green apple skin here, while the mouth carries honey dew, lemon peel, and even hints of seaweed. Medium acidity, with medium long finish. This wine is also a nice value.
Wine 4: Effervescence Brut Nicole Chanrion
The final sparkling wine of the night was, for me, the most surprising-this 100% sparkling Gamay with 11% alcohol.
For starters, Nicole Chanrion produces the Effervescence as a vintage cremant but labels it without vintage information. Looking further into her vinification techniques, the elements that surprised me make more sense. There is a woody, herbal quality to these bubbles that stands out, carrying with it a fuller texture than I expected from a Beaujolais–Chanrion, however, chooses full cluster fermentation here, immediately adding a heartier tone to the cuvee’ than might be expected from a just-berry press of the grape.
The Effervesence presents a mix of dried herbs and dried fruit–apricot, strawberry, raspberry and melon–touches of black pepper, with dusty, and even almost gritty flavors. (One of us actually used the word “newsprint” as the first descriptor that came to mind from the mouth. It’s appropriate and meant as more of a compliment than it sounds–it’s unusual, and a blend of dry, bitter, and dusty alongside the fruit characteristics.) The wine offers drying qualities in the mouth (again, this makes sense with full cluster fermentation), alongside medium acidity and a medium long finish.
Dessert: Katy Bakes and Scoops and Mixes: Praise God
Katy’s Dessert: Fresh just-under-ripe Peaches baked in brown sugar, then drizzled with a homemade raspberry sauce, served with homemade vanilla bean and cracked pepper gelato and fresh raspberries.
The dessert was a perfect close to the meal–simple, great texture (the advantage of using just underripe fruit here is that it absorbs the flavors well, while also staying a little firmer after baking, rather than becoming peach mush), fresh flavors, and lightness on a warm summer evening (we’re already having summer temperatures here in Flagstaff).
Dessert Pairing: Chateau de Montifaud Pineau des Charentes
To close and to pair with dessert, Fred selected what is traditionally treated as a French apertif, but with its dryness does very well alongside fruit-based desserts. Pineau des Charentes is a fortified wine, common to parts of Western France, produced from a combination of fermented grape must and Cognac eau-di-vie.
The offering from Chateau de Montifaud carries 18% alcohol with a mouth watering medium-long finish, offering flavors of concentrated apricot, date, apple juice, dried peach, and dried herbs with mixed cracked pepper. It’s great for sipping along side slightly sweet baked and fresh fruit, or on its own.
Our Charming Co-Hosts
Thanks to Katy and Caleb for co-hosting with me, and providing the great food and space! Pizzicletta on a closed night is my favorite place to be; even if I love the food there when it’s open too.
Thanks to Fred for selecting and bringing the dessert pairing.
Thanks to the gang for being there–such a good time! And thanks to our friend for taking pictures.