As a year ends and another one is about to start – well, that’s hoping that we actually survive the apocalypse scheduled for December 21st – lots of us are gearing up for celebrating the New Year with sparkling wine.
Champagne has had for decades a dominant role in the end of year celebrations around the world. I had never really looked into the origin of this trend. It appears that prior to 1789, royals drank Champagne as a tradition to celebrate events, because – being both a novelty and an expensive one – it was a status symbol.
Historians say that Champagne, after the French Revolution, became used in secular celebrations, replacing religious rituals.
The wine became traditionally opened at various religious celebrations, such as baptisms and weddings.
I remember the excitement when Champagne would gush at the podium of the Formula One Grand Prix. I begged my dad, who at the time was working for Moët & Chandon, to take me with him to one of these races, unfortunately this never happened! On the plus side, he would never fail when sabering a large bottle (chopping its neck off with a large sword) at various events.
Sparkling wine is a lively and festive wine, traditionally consumed all around the world. Symbolically, it overflows in abundance and joy. I have always been a proponent of sparkling wine as an aperitif but also as a wine to accompany the whole meal.
If you are into wine pairing, look into it. There are a broad variety of sparkling wines, from the light and delicate to the full bodied and rich. There are so many different types of sparkling produced all around the world, no doubt you’ll find a gem somewhere.
Try to start with, say, a Chardonnay-based sparkling. Fine effervescence, delicate flavors and aromas to open your appetite. Then, when pairing with food, it can be quite simple, don’t be scared.
With rich foods, try a Pinot Noir-based wine, for it will have the body to stand up to their richness.
For seafood and/or a salty course, pretty much any sparkling will work, as long as it is not too sweet, i.e. avoid sec, demi-sec and look for brut or dry.
Rosé wines will work with smoked fish and chocolate.
With meat, have you ever tried a sparkling Syrah? Or Bolney’s sparkling Cuvee Noir?
Keep the sweet sparkling like sec, demi-sec for dessert or try with spicy recipes.
Try to be adventurous, and you’ll surely be rewarded.
Don’t tell, but I am taking English sparkling to Champagne for Christmas!
Jonathan Médard – Winemaker at Rathfinny Wine Estate