When Playboy.com asked me to put together a primer on Champagne (for the NYE celebration holiday season), I was sporting a seriously large sh*t-eating grin on my face.
I mean, c’mon… the homework involved in that requires me to raid the sample pool for all of the Champers I could get my grubby little paws on; and while there are many strong contenders outside of the region, when it comes to sparkling wine, a strong argument can be made that Champagne still reigns supreme. Just try finding wine geeks who don’t like it… (now there’s a needle-in-the-haystack treasure hunt for you).
Put another way: there are far worse assignments, okay?
Interestingly, while the annual New Year’s Eve run-up on sparkling wine articles was in full-force (I think there were more of those in the last week of December than Lindsay Lohan rehab stints), the most interesting piece of bubbly news at the close of 2012 came from NPR, of all places…
The NPR story, by Allison Aubrey, bears the unfortunately banal title of “Cheap Bubbly Or Expensive Sparkling Wine? Look To The Bubbles For Clues” but contains a very interesting scientific tidbit. To the tape (emphasis mine):
“Here’s one tip if you want to preserve the effervescence in every flute of bubbly: Pay attention to how you pour. The traditional way is to pour Champagne straight down into the flute. But Liger-Belair says you may be losing thousands of bubbles this way. In a study published in The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, Liger-Belair and some colleagues found that pouring champagne down the side of a tilted glass, similar to the way beer is poured, preserved about 25 percent more carbon dioxide. This technique has not taken off in France, where Liger-Belair says no one wants to liken Champagne to beer. But scientifically, it’s clear. If you want more bubbles — to tickle the tongue and transfer those wonderful aromas to your nose — try the tilted pour.“
Check it out, because there are visuals to go along with the text that are quite compelling in terms of comparing the types of pours, and how much bubbly action gets preserved in one method versus the other. Note that the article also mentions that the French, undaunted by things like science, have been slow to adopt the tiled pour technique, presumably because they want their Champers to taste flat.
Anyway… back to what’s supposed to be the focus here today… while I’m fond of saying that Champagne can actually be a bargain considering the production costs and overall quality that you’re getting for the money, in my hunt to guzzle sample all of the Champers I could in preparation for that PB column article I found quite a few rip-offs.
Which makes the wine I’m recommending today feel even better to me.
As part of my PB homework, I busted into a pack of samples I received of “Farmer Fizz” – Champagne made not by large shippers or cooperatives, but by individual estate growers who make their bubbly independently, utilizing a minimum of 95 percent of grapes from vineyards that they own themselves. These are also known as Recoltant-Manipulantsand are designated with an “RM” on the label, usually in font small enough for only paramecium to see without some sort of magnification.
There were several very good selections in that group of wines, but what struck me was that one of them was just as good as all of the others, and was the cheapest bottle in the bunch.
At $30 it’s still not cheap, but it also performs just as well as other Champagnes that I’ve sampled recently that were literally priced three times higher. God bless those farmers! And now you know how to best pour a bottle of this… if you’re down with science, that is…
NV Franck Bonville Grand Cru Brut Selection Blanc de Blancs (Avize, Champagne)
The price is, actually, creeping up but you can still find this for about $30 if you look hard enough. This is a linear, nervy, refreshing and floral Chardonnay-based wine (which you’d totally expect from Champagne). It’s also an abundantly fruity, ripe, generous and peachy wine (which you wouldn’t necessarily expect from Champagne). Tension (that hallmark of wines knocking on the door of awesomeness) comes via the juxtaposition of cream, bread and nut aromas pitted against a dust-from-the-quarry chalky minerality. I suspect that, depending on the weather, barometric pressure or some other miscellany, that the rating would’ve been A-. Whatever; buy a bottle and make up your own damn mind!
13 thoughts on “A Post-Holiday Bargain Bottle Of Farmer Fizz (And How To Pour It!)”
Though I haven't read that study, I've been pouring sparkling wines into flutes at a tilt whenever possible almost as long as I've bartended. In addition to helping the bubbles last longer, it also allows you to pour a specified amount of sparkling near the top of the flute quicker without spilling a drop of foam. For most intents I can think of, besides deliberately shorting someone's pour of sparkling wine while disguising it as foam, tilting the flute is a far better method of pouring.
MyrddinGwin- We wouldn't want to go pour-skimpy, would we? :)
Seriously, though, I find it VERY odd that anyone would resist something like this when there’s pretty good evidence supporting it as a superior method. Sorry, but I just do not see the tilt as being uncouth (but then, maybe I am just too uncouth too see it?). Cheers!
Taking un-necessary risks with fine bubbles is a greater faux-pas in my books.
That said, seeing someone pour sparkling wine accurately from a Nebuchadnezzar into a standard flute from 30 feet in the air on the shoulders of a rabid-but-well-balanced grizzly bear on a unicycle on a 1/4 inch tight-rope through a set of flaming hoops would be somewhat impressive; I would just prefer if the wine were not a rare vintage Champagne for security reasons if the stuntperson misses or spills.
“somewhat”?!??? Do they need to be reciting the U.S. Constitution in four different languages backwards while doing it??? ;-)
The Icelandic Constitution, as well as the U.S. and the Mongolian in the Finnish, Swahili, Old Chinese, and Maori languages recited backwards should suffice to upgrade the attempt from "somewhat" to "almost mildly" impressive if successful.
MG – sounds reasonable to me. :-P
I hadn't seen that article or study either but I have always equated pouring bubbly to pouring a beer. Screw tradition, I don't like a lot of foam or to get shorted! Restaurant service wise though, would it be weird to pick up a glass from the table to pour the customer's bubbly then set it back down? Darn those proper service/table manners!
Anyway, now that there is some science behind it I can be a hipster and tell folks I was tilting flutes before it was cool. *evil grin.
By the way those infrared photos in that article are pretty rad.
MTGA – Ha! We knew you when…
For the etiquette, it depends on whether the glass has been used yet and on the style of dinner, I would think. If the sparkling is served and handed to guests as they come in, tilting should be fine, and it should also be fine if the server were bringing the flutes to the table clean, and poured before giving the glasses to the guests. In the case that the guest hands a used glass to the server and wants a refill, tilting can be discretionary, I'd think, based upon drunkenness and if the guest is being courteous. If a guest has a flute in the middle of the table, signals for a refill, and makes no effort to let you access the glass at all, tilting the glass would be improper, I'd think. There may be other scenarios not covered.
MG – that all makes sense; or I suppose the server could offer the option, but that might require an explanation that simply isn't convenient/appropriate/possible in many dining scenarios.
This does serve as a bit of an inspiration. Perhaps I could write a guide on etiquette and drinks, complete with explanations why or how a behaviour is polite and also including terrible illustrations. Naturally, it would tilt towards my own sensibilities and biases, but it could very well be an interesting guide for compulsively polite drinkers, wine nerds in training, and people who generally enjoy stilted, boring prose. Thank-you for the inspiration!
Awesome. And if it's made into a graphic novel, that'd be Epic! :-)
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