So Christmas has come and gone, and with it a couple of fantastic wines. Needless to say, there were nearly no studying on the day, but here is a quick recap of the wines that were enjoyed.
First, a brief note about sabrage. It’s the fine art of opening a bottle of sparkling wine by applying a sabre or a similar implement to the neck of the bottle in such as was as the ring of glass holding the cork detaches from the neck of the bottle, ideally intact with the cork, allowing the release of carbon-dioxide to blow away any glass shards in a very dramatic display. Unfortunately, it can also be fraught with peril, in that depending on the pressure inside the bottle, the bottle itself, and the skill of the person attempting the maneuver, you can end up with anything from a completely shattered bottle to the type of decapitation only appropriate in the event of a zombie attack.
I first saw a demonstration in South Africa years ago and was taken by how fun it looked. Since then, I’ve successfully removed the cork using that method, and was even given a sabre à Champagne as a gift for that purpose. When it works, it’s really makes for a sense of occasion.
Unfortunately, this year the result as you can see in the photo was failure. I don’t know what happened – possibly I hit the neck to hard, but as you can see it wasn’t good. Fortunately, we were able to save more than half, though the bubbles faded very rapidly. A great shame, as the Corbon Brut Champagne 2003 is a fine drop indeed. I think I may need more practice on easily replaced bottles before I try that again with something so special. At the very least, it was not the centrepiece of the day – rather just a starting drop.
A quick look at the bottle and some terms that are worth pulling out. Brut – French for “crude” or “raw” but in the case of wine usually means dry (not sweet). There are a number of technical terms that refer to how much residual sugar is in a champagne, and Brut refers to less than 15g/l. Champagne – sometimes wrongly used to refer to sparkling wine, it is a sparkling wine made in a specific area of France called Champagne, under very specific rules regarding how the grapes are grown, and how the wine is made and aged. Propriétaire-Récoltant – something along the lines of owner – grower. In this case, it means that the people who made the wine are also the people who grew the grapes – not especially common in Champagne where big houses tend to buy in many/most of their grapes. Chardonnay – this wine has no Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, or any of the handful of lesser grapes permitted in making Champagne. À Avize Grand Cru – all the fruit that went into this wine is from the village of Avize, which is one of 17 most highly rated. Millésime 2003 – 2003 vintage, whereas most Champagne is non-vintage, that is a blend across several years. That’s a lot just from the label. Alas, if there was any information on the label that once graced the neck of the bottle, it’s gone.
Anyway, the Champagne, that which I didn’t waste, was lovely. I had tried it in a tasting a month or two ago, and it was showing very well despite my poor treatment of it. Christmas was no time for taking of detailed notes, but it had a lovely biscuit taste, along with slightly honey and nutty notes, along with rich citrus.
With dinner, we stayed in France, but moved to the south somewhat. I roasted a goose (first time) and while the breast was a bit overdone, the drumsticks were wonderful, as was the stuffing. When it comes to game birds, the classic pairing is Pinot Noir, and so we had a bottle of Marchand & Burch Nuits-saint-Georges 2009. The company is a partnership between Pascal Marchand, a French winemaker of Burgundy, and Jeff Burch, owner of wineries in Western Australia. Under their label, they release wines made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made in both France and Australia.
Burgundy is a very interesting place to visit and study. The better wines have the name of the village from which their grapes come on their label, and Nuits-saint-Georges is in the Côte d’Or, specifically within the Côte de Nuits. This wine was also from the tasting of a month or two ago, and we picked it out for Christmas to remind us of our time in Burgundy in June when we stayed just outside that village.
Again, I wasn’t taking notes but it was very spicy and had deliciously herby notes over restrained fruit. Elegant is the word for it, and it was delicious. And it was under screwcap, which is somewhat rare for French fine wine – obviously there are some Australian influences in the packaging, and there was no need for a sabre.