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Nov 22, 201708:05 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Holiday Bubbles

Hans Thoursie, Getty Images, 2011

It’s beginning to look a lot like... a lot of things: Thanksgiving, Christmas, festivals, parties and very soon, Carnival. New Orleans brings new meanings to event multi-tasking.

Let’s focus on the holiday season, which will “legally” be at the ready right after Thanksgiving. And holiday season means fun dining, lots of junk foods, turkey, oyster dressing, festive lights in every park, lawn decorations, special music, jackets and coats, sweaters, long pants, and…wine with bubbles. 

For most of us, this is the time of year when more wine with bubbles is consumed than at any other time, unless the Saints get into the Super Bowl again. Champagne, prosecco, cava, and sparkling wine, they are all on our lips and then down our throat. There is great pleasure involved and so we, with complete abandon, do it again. Restraint, moderation and discipline. New Orleanians don’t know the meaning of those concepts.

The cost of sparkling wine and Champagne immediately gets your attention. As a group, these are among the priciest wines on the retailer’s shelf or the restaurateur’s list. The guiding force involved here is the costs of the manufacturing process of which there are two.

The Charmat method, or bulk method, takes the wine, which is made first and in the usual fashion – freshly-picked grapes encouraged to ferment into wine through the use of yeast – but then there is a next step, which is adding more yeast and allowing the wine to go through a second fermentation. This is done in the Charmat process in a large sealed tank.

The Methode Traditionelle, still known as the Champagne Method, does not make use of the large tank for the second fermentation but rather that step occurs in the very bottle you purchase at the retailer or in the restaurant.

The Charmat method is a less expensive way to produce wine with bubbles while for the most part the Traditionelle method yields better development of flavors and aromas.

Many of the sparkling wines from Italy, Spain and America, especially those featuring lower costs to the consumer, are done with the Charmat process. All Champagnes and many of the sparkling wines from around the world with higher price points are done in the Methode Traditionnelle.

In general, it is safe to assume that the higher priced sparkling wines are end-results of the Traditionelle process. Of late, those producers of Charmat sparkling wines have been doing a very good job and the quality differential between the two production styles may not be as great as the price differential. That decision is left to you as it’s a personal preference based on taste and cost. Seems like a lot of life’s decisions end up at that consideration.  

But Champagne and sparkling wines are among the truly few purchases where price actually determines what you are getting. The cost of the wine is an excellent gauge as to its quality. You may not have the discerning palate nor the credit limits on your card to go all in with the higher-end purchase, and you don’t have to worry. There are a lot fine sparkling wines available that deliver the good experience without breaking the bank.

On the other hand, if you look too low on the price scale, you may not achieve the right result for the occasion, assuming it is very special. But sparkling wines under $10 can be most serviceable for everyday consumption, or for extended use in items such as cocktails.

Renaissance Publishing, the gang that brings you websites and magazines, including this website and New Orleans Magazine, recently staged a public tasting and I am happy to report that your fellow New Orleanians showed exceptionally good taste. Here is the list of what was tasted, in no particular order except cost, which is retail price in New Orleans:

 

Top of the Heap

all classified as Champagne

 

Nicholas Feuillatte Brut Non-Vintage            $49.99

Taittinger Brut La Francaise                          $49.99

Henriot Souverain Brut                                  $49.99

Piper Heidseick Brut                                     $44.99

Perrier Jouet Grande Brut                             $44.99

Champagne Vincent Couche

   Elegance Brut Blanc                                   $34.99

Champagne Jean Noel Haton

Brut Rosé                                                      $34.99

 

 

Mid-Tier Sparkling Wines

Domaine Carneros Brut 2013                    $29.99

Kim Crawford Fizz 2009                             $29.99

Mirabelle Rosé                                           $25.99

Banfi Brut                                                   $24,99

Backsberg Brut South Africa                     $19.99

La Costa Prosecco                                    $17,99

Santa Margherita Prosecco                       $17.99

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige                        $16.99

Ca Va Blanc de Blancs Cava 2009            $15.99

Bouvet Cremant de Loire Brut                   $15.99

Francis Coppola Sofia

Blanc de Blanc                                           $15.99

 

Value Sparkling Wines

Juve y Camps Cava

Reserva de la Familia                                $14.99

Bouvet Rosé                                              $14.99

14 Hands Brut                                           $12.99

Michelle Brut                                             $12.99

Avissi Prosecco                                         $12.99

Chloe Prosecco                                         $12.99

Blanc de Bleu Cuvee Mousse Brut           $12.99

Jam Cellars Toast Brut                              $12.99

Korbel Brut Rosé                                       $11.99

Bolla Prosecco                                          $10.99

Cupcake Rosé                                           $10.99

Ruffino Prosecco                                       $10.99

Pascual Toso Brut                                     $10.99

Menage a Trois Prosecco                          $9.99

Campo Viejo Brut Rosé                             $9.99

 

Two final thoughts: 1) It’s hard to go wrong with a Champagne from France. Another suggestion for good measure: Tribaut; and 2) At the lower end of the price scale, you need to be careful with sugars. Sometimes the wines are too sweet, to the point of irritation. Only look to wines labeled Brut. This is particularly true of rosé wines.

Many people note they do not like “Champagne.” The truth is they have never had a fine Champagne or quality sparkling wine. What they have tried are insipid, overly-sweetened wines that possess no character.

To repeat: in sparkling wines, price is indeed an indicator of what’s in the bottle.

 

-30-

 

Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine.  

 

 

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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

about

In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.

 

Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; the Executive Editor and monthly features writer for Gulf Coast Wine + Dine Online; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.

 

Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.

 

Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.

 

They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.

 

Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.

 

Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.

 

Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.

 

It’s a good gig. 

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