Monday, 22 December 2014 00:00

A bubbly Christmas - Sommelier's Corner

Written by 
Cameron Douglas MS Cameron Douglas MS

Christmas! Our thoughts are on sparkling wine, and exciting offers come at us from all directions – retail, distributors, (e)mailboxes and magazines. 

 Price points are sharpened up and our choice of brand and type is extensive. Excitingly, there is an increase in grower Champagnes appearing in the New Zealand marketplace, further widening the selection.

Our locally produced sparkling wine should be taken into serious consideration. There has been a significant increase in quality and high quality selections over the past several years, providing us with exciting, interesting, and often well-priced options. 

Your Christmas Day choices should be well considered, with selection based on what will be served for breakfast/brunch/lunch and dinner. We are ideally placed climatically in New Zealand to serve crisp delicious bubbles throughout the Silly Season.

When Christmas morning arrives, it’s likely to be the culmination of a crazy time - perhaps not much sleep the night before - time to swap the cup of tea for something festive to ease you into the controlled chaos of the day ahead.

The Sparkling wine is likely to come from your fridge at around 4-6° Celsius which is pretty cold - if served at that temperature it will only show off how crisp and bubbly the wine is, with little or no flavour attributes. Be sure to have cold or cool food to accompany it - slices of melon or fresh strawberries – cool likes cool when food and wine are together. Warm food and very cold sparkling wine may not work as well as you might think – temperature swings in the palate are confusing. 

On Christmas morning in our home we have oven toasted fresh croissants filled with ham and cheese or smoked salmon and cheese and champagne. The bubbly is always a full-bodied, richly flavoured and toasty wine so that it perfectly matches those attributes in the food. I open it from the fridge at 4°C, but let it gain just enough warmth to bring it a little closer to the food’s temperature. The crisp crunch of the croissant is matched with the crunchy acidity in the wine and the acidity also contrasts beautifully with the richness of the cheese (& ham/salmon). A fuller bodied wine will sit happily with food that is quite intense and filling, so a bubbly with lots of yeast autolysis and developed flavour can be just the ticket on the morning of what will likely be a long day.

Some folk like to open a sweeter style sparkling at Xmas and this can often be the right move - all the sugar and CO2 mixed with the savoury flavours of brunch/lunch create a zingy contrast on the palate. This is one time when fridge-cold wine makes perfect sense because the sugar in the sweeter wine seems less apparent when it’s served very chilled. The sweeter style wine is usually lower in alcohol, so those who want to keep a clear head can do so, and those who need to drive can also remain within the new BAC rules. Sweeter bubbly may also have more weight/body, so not only match the fuller foods of Xmas, but also seem a more natural match with our New Zealand tradition of Pavlova and cream topped with strawberries or kiwifruit slices.

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