This month’s edition of the Wine Product Roundup (in which I put to the test samples of wine wares that can’t actually be imbibed safely) just so happens to be themed, for your pleasure.
And pleasurable it is, because that theme is Champagne (and, well, bubbles in general).
First up, there’s the other Champagne guide to be recently released, namely Liz Palmer’s “The Ultimate Guide to Champagne” (palmergroup, 314 pages, $39.50). I’ve known Liz to be both energetic and knowledgeable, both of which come through quite clearly in this guide, which is both aesthetically well-executed and very well organized.
The Ultimate Guide to Champagne employs a lifestyle-oriented approach, eschewing producer-focused essays for broader topics such as Champagne history, tasting etiquette, production techniques, and serving Champers at corporate functions. The emphasis is on the elegance and fun of the beverage and its birthplace, but the material doesn’t devolve into sappy lightheartedness. Recommended, though the price is a bit steep for a paperback that’s on the smaller side.
Now, when you’re reading about Champagne, it helps if you’re actually drinking the stuff (I’m actually hard-pressed to come up with anything that isn’t helped by drinking Champers, actually)… which is where our second product comes in, the ChampagnePopper (ChampagnePopper.com, about $15). And yeah, it’s one word.
This device is basically a curved metal crowbar of sorts, with the added benefit of a bottle opener on the handle. Using it is pretty straightforward: you slip the tongs around a sparkling wine cork (that’s had its foil and cage removed… and is properly chilled for opening…), cover it with a dish towel (so the cork doesn’t injure anyone or anything), and sloooooowly pry the cork out.
Generally speaking, this thing works; that cork pops out, and it does so with minimal effort. Having said that, the loud POP! action that ensues isn’t really what you want happening with any medium-to-high-priced bubbles, because it’s indicating that you’ve let waaaaaay too much CO2 escape. If you’ve got physical concerns that make opening bottles of bubbles difficult, or you need to open a lot of budget-priced bubbles quickly, then the ChampagnePopper is a reasonable, solidly-built buy (you could probably knock someone out with this thing, honestly); just don’t let it near your vintage Champers.
When you’re the “wine guy,” the one that everyone kind of expects to hit it out of the park when you bring wine to a party, what’s the vinous game plan when you’re invited to holiday dinner parties to ring in the new year?
In a word, ringers.
You grab items from the sample pool that you know (or, at least, are reasonably certain) are going to be high quality, and likely will go over well with everyone.
You bring the good juice.
Which is, unsurprisingly, precisely what I did.
There’s more to this little story than gee-whiz-the-wines-were-pricey-but-really-great, however. The reason I picked these – and in one case, it was an inaugural release – is that the brands themselves are proven quantities. So, get your saliva glands geared up, and let’s dive into the high-end of the sample pool, shall we?…
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A couple of years ago, I undertook a rather statistically-irrelevant and thoroughly un-scientific study regarding the Biodynamic tasting calendar (based on the lunar-cycle farming techniques espoused by Rudolf Steiner). This study had a single participant (me) who knew next to nothing about this calendar, who downloaded one of those mobile apps that tells you what type of day it is on the BioD calendar. I then tasted through wine samples pretty much every day, as usual, and noted whether or not any given wine seemed to taste really good or really nasty, and what BioD calendar day type it happened to be.
Presumably, I would have enjoyed more of the wines on so-called “fruit” days, and wines would have tasted nastier on “root” days; thus postulateth the Biodynamic calendar, anyway. My tasting results? In summary: totally random, with no correlation to the BioD calendar days at all.
The results of a much more scientific and potentially relevant experiment into whether or not the BioD calendar impacts how a finished wine tastes were recently published. The results of this New Zealand based study found that the tasting impact of the BioD calendar was, essentially, nada. From the study’s conclusion:
“…the findings reported in the present study provide no evidence in support of the notion that how a wine tastes is associated with the lunar cycle… Consumers expecting a wine to be more expressive and aromatic on Fruit days might actually perceive them as such through top down cognitive effects.”
In other words, it’s possible that any impact of the lunar cycle on your wine tasting is just all in your head….
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