I need to preface this tale of a (somewhat-failed) experiment by telling you (aside from the normal disclosure that I received all of the products as samples for possible review) that I have nothing against massive on-line tasting events like the recent #ChampagneDay (or its also recent big-brother #CabernetDay).
I’ve got a long history (since Day One, actually) with TasteLive.com, who kind of started the whole kumbaya-peace-love-and-Marsha-Brady-let’s-all-taste-together-on-line thang in the first place, after all. And I love the communal aspect, and the conviviality, that are at the heart of those tasting events.
It’s just that it doesn’t feel as though Champagne or Cabernet Sauvignon need their own tasting days. I mean, from a brand-recognition standpoint, these wines are like Pepsi or the Chicago Bulls. It’s not like no one’s ever heard of them, or never drinks the stuff, or that they have pricing issues on the high end.
So I’m kind of waiting for the underdog wine tasting day on twitter, myself (#BonardaDay, anyone?) before I get too excited about these grape-themed events.
But the twitter peeps were a persistent bunch, asking me (many times) about participating in #ChampagneDay last week, so eventually I caved into the pressure… of wanting Champagne to pair with take-out sushi for dinner that night (which is a f*cking EPIC food-and-wine pairing, by the way). Because I am a slave to the evil twin drives of surprise and novelty, and because I know my place in the Roberts household (lower on the totem pole than my daughter, but slightly higher than my dog… I think), I decided to to pop open the bubbly and pair it with… samples of cookies specifically designed (or, at least, specifically marketed!) to pair with Sparkling wine.
The results? Not-so-Epic…
This had a lot more to do with the cookies than the Champagne – a fine sample of Perrot Batteux et Filles Helixe Blanc de Blancs provided by friends-of-the-Dude FatCork.com; more on that in a few minutes.
The cookies (branded “Cookies And Corks” from Cookie Zen) come in Red, White and Sparkling versions, with flavors like Espresso Chocolate Peanut Butter, White Cheddar Rosemary, and Apricot Sage. For reasons that I sincerely hope are obvious to you by now (otherwise you may want to come back to this article after you’ve sobered up), we went with the Sparkling cookie versions: Parmesan Thyme, Zesty Lemon, and Sea Salt Chocolate Oatmeal (the cookies will set you back about $24 for 3 boxes of 15 cookies).
In summary: we weren’t thrilled by the pairing.
The Parmesan Thyme cookie had bold flavors that kind of zonked the Champagne on its poor, elegant and beady little head, but they also had a chalky mouthfeel reminiscent of a stale bread-roll. It just didn’t work. The Sea Salt Chocolate Oatmeal cookie was a bit more subdued, but that chocolate did not play at all well in the palate sandbox (the bully!) with the zesty, fun aspects of the Champagne.
A more successful pairing was the Zesty Lemon cookie, which also had some savory sea salt action sprinkled on top [Editor’s note: consonance quotient for the week fulfilled with that sentence.]. The lemon flavors were strong with The Force, though a tad on the artificial side, but they complimented the citric lift of the Champagne nicely – and throwing in salt will pretty much never fail you with high-acid wines like good sparklers.
All in all, not a great end to the meal, and not up to the same quality as our chosen #ChampagneDay bubbly, which was well-worth the $45 a bottle will set you back. My advice: stick to the sushi for bubbly pairing, though if you have a sweet tooth (and a penchant for baked goods), you may want to give the cookies a whirl:
Another family-run winner of a selection from Fat Cork, this is a 100% Champagne sparkler from a (very) chalky area of the southern Cote des Blancs (hence the name “helixe,” and the fossil pictured on the label – the area’s chalk contains the remains of the sea life that once swam over the area millions of years ago).
If you like lemons, this is your wine. Other citrus aromas and yellow apples make an appearance (as do white flowers), but lemon dominates and after several minutes in the glass combines with a yeasty quality that might remind you of fresh-baked lemon muffins. Certainly the wine is well-made, and seriously-crafted, but otherwise there’s nothing serious about this wine – it’s all bubbly, expressive, elegant fun.
And you won’t need any extra incentive to drain a bottle of this delicious sparkler (not even a plate of cookies).