Friday, October 28, 2011

The Champagne Diet

Once again, I'm on some sort of diet.  "Don't call it a 'diet'," my in-shape friend said, cramming another chicken wing into his gaping maw, pieces of poultry flotsam flecking my anemic plate of vegetables.  "It's 'eating right'."

Have another wing, you rabbit-metabolism SOB.

But, he's right.  I can't call eating better a diet.  It really is a matter of making better choices, and doing them regularly; not as a quick fix.

And usually, "eating right" consists of cutting out all the things a Southerner with Irish roots who loves Italian food thrives upon:  fried vittles, pork fat, pasta, bread, cheese, potatoes, and...

Alcoholic beverages.  Beer and wine.  The good stuff, packed with calories.  Diet cola and Bacardi rum are given no quarter in my household, and the combination of the two is about as appealing as Lindsay Lohan + Playboy ("hey mac, don't forget to airbrush out the crack pipe and 99¢ Jack-in-the-Box tacos").

Therein lies the rub.  Tomorrow (well, today) is International #ChampagneDay.  Wine lovers around the world will pop corks and celebrate the hallowed home of sparkling wine.  Then, they'll get on Twitter to discuss, share, and enjoy with hundreds of others in the nerdiest way possible:  on Twitter; marking their tweets with the 'hashtag' #ChampagneDay, creating a searchable, consistent thread connecting all the myraid conversation.

But, despite the ribbing, these Twitter tastings do create a community around a common theme:  drinking, then posting regrettable comments online.  It's the American way!

Never being one to thumb my nose at America, I think I'll be taking a temporary break from carbohydrate purgatory to indulge in perhaps my favorite beverage.  Maybe this one?

A tempting possibility.  Schramsberg is one of the original sparkling wine houses of California.  They make phenomenal bubbly from the classic grapes used in Champagne:  Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (and perhaps the lesser-known, but important, Pinot Meunier grape as well).

Schramsberg furthermore makes all it's wines in the "traditional method" (or Méthode Champenoise, if you don't mind irking at least one Frenchman).  Basically, this means that the grape juice is fermented into a still (non-sparkling) wine, and then added to the bottle with a mixture of yeast and some sugar, creating a second fermentation in the bottle, resulting in the fizz.  This is the most classical (and most expensive) way to make a sparkling wine, and it results in a product of superior quality, taste, and complexity.

Alas, if I were to consume the jewel of Napa's sparkling crown, I would not be properly celebrating Champagne.  See, Champagne is a region of France, to the East-Northeast of Paris.  The name "Champagne", although so often used to describe a style of wine (and Champagne and other sparklers are most certainly wine), technically has nothing to do with the fact that the wine has bubbles.

Wines from Champagne are called "Champagne" because it is believed they express the place itself.  The French call the concept terroir.  Certain specific places have the climate, the soil, the orientation to the sun, the... je ne sais quoi to create great wine, and those very places are felt to be much more important than the grapes themselves.

In the States, we've been conditioned to buy wine based on the grape variety on the label.  Not a problem, but it has rendered the concept of terroir difficult to us.  However, just like "San Francisco Sourdough" from Albuquerque is not really San Francisco Sourdough, sparkling wines from anywhere other than Champagne, France, are not "Champagne".

To this end, I'll be tucking into a bottle of Perrier-Jouët Brut (the "Brut" referring to the level of sugar in the wine... this one being pretty dry), provided to me as a sample by the Champagne Bureau.  I'll be curious how it stacks up to some of the phenomenal, smaller-production Champagnes I've had recently.  Don't think I've tasted the PJ before, so I'm looking forward to dunking my whiskers.

Granted, some readers may know me as a bit of a Champagne-elitist, avoiding the heavily marketed stuff in favor of lesser-known "farmer fizz".  While true, I've also been known to wear wolf shirts.  And anyone who runs with the wolf shirt pack is most likely an indiscriminate drinker.  Like this guy:

(photo credit:
No way he's turning down a free bottle of booze. In fact, he's probably listening to the Atlanta Rhythm Section right now.

As am I. In my wolf shirt. With bottle in hand. Wanna fight about it?

Sorry, sorry. That was the wolf shirt talking. I love you all, and hope you'll pop a bottle as well tomorrow (today).  Happy #ChampagneDay!
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