Time to Pop Some Bottles

Time to Pop Some Bottles

Written by Claire Paparazzo

WHEN IS THE RIGHT MOMENT TO POP A BOTTLE OF SPARKLING WINE?

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In our current moment of less fine dining and more tables pouring onto NYC streets, I see a need for celebrations, both minor and grand. During a walk around my neighborhood, it struck me that this new landscape provides a fine opportunity for all of us to sip on a little air—a way to enjoy something together in this often isolating time.

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The debate between two types of sparkling wine—Méthode Champenoise and Méthode Ancestrale, or Pétillant Natural—was the topic of this week’s tasting.

 

I recall a moment a few years back when I thought, I am not cool enough to really get Pét-Nat. I had been shown some lackluster examples that were mousy and unimpressive, with just barely a fizz, and I couldn’t wrap my head around the Pét-Nat craze. I ran to my friend who was working for a big Champagne company and confided my secret: I just didn’t understand the allure of Pét-Nat. After years of tasting and drinking for enjoyment, I found I preferred a classic Méthode Champenoise—or Champagne, named for the Champagne region. My palate felt safer knowing that the bubbles were defined—they wouldn’t just suddenly fade away—and that there would be no sediment to encounter. I felt, at this moment, aligned with the Widow Clicquot (1777-1866), who figured out how to get the sludge out of her once-cloudy wine all those years ago. The Champenoise process is complicated but effective: After the second fermentation occurs in the bottle, if you slowly turn the bottle to coax the dead yeast cells into the neck (a process known as riddling), you can freeze this and easily remove the sediment at disgorgement. The result is a clean wine, with no floating matter.

 

While I’ve nailed down my preference, there is no denying that Pét Nat wines are far more affordable than Champagne. But for me, Crémant seems to be an affordable solution. This high-quality wine is made using the same labor-intensive secondary bottle fermentation as Champagne, but it comes from outside the Champagne region, and thus bears a lower price tag.

 

Just to be able to taste Pét Nat and Crémant side by side, as we did this week, is a treat. Some, like me, prefer the classic Méthode Champenoise, others love Pét-Nat’s force. Some prefer their sparkling with caviar, others not so much. Some—perhaps the smartest—keep a stocked selection of bubbly on hand for when the moment is right. Whatever your preferences, I say the time to pop those bottles is now.

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photo by Ben Rayner

photo via Pinterest

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Wines from our tasting:

Les Tètes, Les Parcelles Tète Nat “Igny Rusé” Pétillant Natural 2017: Pétillant Natural, also known as Méthode Ancestrale, is the oldest method of making sparkling wine. The method involves bottling before the fermentation has finished, thereby trapping Carbon Dioxide gas in the bottle and creating a gentle carbonation. Les Parcells is produced in vary small quantities and sourced from less than one hectare of organically grown Chenin Blanc grapes. It is a wine made by four friends—Nicolas, Philippe, Baptiste, and Vivien—in the small village of Le Pressoir in Touraine Azay-le-Rideau, located in France’s Loire Valley. It was slightly effervescent with floral and quince aromas. It had low acidity and was a delight to drink: easy and effortless.

 

Parigot & Richard Crémant de Bourgogne, Blanc de Blancs (NV): A blend of Chardonnay and Aligote, this was the favorite of the tasting. It had a more pronounced aroma and defined acidity than the Pét-Nat.  Hints of ginger and toasty brioche notes added to the roundness on the palate. Parigot and Richard have been producing Méthode Champenoise Crémant in Savigny-Les-Beaune for five generations. All the grapes are picked by hand and fermented in stainless steel. The wines are riddled by hand and aged for at least 18 months before disgorgement. Crafted with true attention to detail, the outcome is remarkably high-quality for such a humble category.

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If you would like to buy these two wines please contact Shiraz Noor at Acker Wines. LBV Social Club members get a discount through our partnership!

 

Claire Paparazzo is an LBV Social Club member who also leads some of the Club's wine tastings. This is her reflection on the tasting that took place on August 12th, 2020. Find her on Instagram at @clairepaparazzo and @wineifyouwantto.

 

First image via Shutterstock 

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