Notes from the Cellar: All that sparkles

by Jeff Cox, Wine and Beer Merchandiser

This article was originally published in December 2010

“Pwwffffffffff.” Mmmm, that’s so nice. Of course, “pop!” is pretty much universal code for the separation of cork and bottle, and a call to the imminent celebration that event implies. But there are options.

Take your pick, mindful that there is a difference. Bear with me here — this may seem trivial, but really, it’s important stuff. Seemingly small choices have a way of rippling lovely flavors into the fabric of your life.
“Pop!” Champagne, baby. Lawrence Welk. Time to party. An eruption of festivity, a one-night stand of well-being and … done. Until the next time calendar and tradition call for fizz. Oh well.

Hold the cork, don’t let go. Steadily, firmly, twist the bottle awaaay from the cork … “pwwfffff”… a whispered invitation, a wisp of vapor, a genie bearing promises of intrigue, titillation, a looking glass of pleasure.
“Pop!” is fine, it’ll do, sometimes it’s just the thing, but it’s just one way of spinning the bottle — contrary to conventional “wisdom,” pop and fizz aren’t one and the same and certainly don’t imply one another. Neither is it written that thou shalt effervesce for festivities, and for festivities only.

Think about it — is delicious any more or less so on one date than another? Likewise, saving pleasure for anointed days is, well, downright Victorian. And that’s just the first sip. Open another bottle, let’s expound. You have choices, many and delicious, darling.

Champagne? Just one interpretation, among hundreds of vins mousseux. Lovely, when it’s good but not the only — nor always the best ­— option. Don’t get me wrong — fine Champagne is great — but too often we think of it as the acme of sparkly things while labeling everything else effervescent as an also-ran.

Frankly, an astounding portion of grande marque Champagne is a bill of goods. In perhaps the biggest agricultural racket of all time, many of the big brands process inferior grapes into engineered, manipulated product that is marketed as the ne plus ultra of beverages. The emperor is indeed naked and his couturier is a major player in snake oil futures.

There’s no need to squander your ducats. Effervescence is your oyster, from Limoux to Cava to Prosecco to Lambrusco (that’s right — purple, ripe fruit with a note of grape skin and spice, amazing with pappardelle draped in a slow-simmered Bolognese). Don’t forget Moscato, enchanting, softly sweet — the perfect wine for breakfast (or for staying in bed).

Champagne? Well, of course. But like everything else, best when the fruit of labors of love, performed by people who care. There is a difference. Pwwwffff. Enjoy.

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Also in this issue

Choosing to be a vegetarian: 2 views

We think you’ll appreciate these two views on vegetarianism, one from advocate John Robbins and another from Seattle naturopath Tom Ballard. We hope you’ll find their perspectives both affirm and challenge your own, and that you may even be encouraged to make room for both turkey and tofu at your holiday feasts. A naturopath's view » A vegetarian's view »

Donations and gifts of all sizes

What do you give your favorite foodie who doesn’t want more stuff but savors the tangible experience of local, organic food and the people behind it? Introduce them to the farmers and chefs working with PCC Farmland Trust to save local, organic farmland forever!

News bites, December 2010

Washington conservation acres, Columbia River Basin drying up?, Consumers reject cloning, and more