Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dom Perignon - Good Guy or Villain?

At a recent visit to the Abbaye de St. Hillaire in Limoux, France an excellent guide with a twinkle in his eye told the "true story" of the legendary monk, Dom Perignon.  While many credit D.P. with the creation of fine bubbly, the St. Hillaire faction claim he stole the recipe and defrauded the monastery.  They say he was expelled in disgrace!  Très scandaleuse!  What is the true story? We will probably never know.

We do know that the monks of Saint Hillaire "discovered" the sparkling wine process a hundred years before Monsieur Perignon was amongst them.  It is suggested that after storing their wine over a chilly winter, the bottles awakened in the spring with the dormant yeast shaking off hibernation and hungry for a sugary snack.  Sealed bottles, busy yeast, all that expelled carbon dioxide built up and Voila!  Fizzy wine that occasionally exploded the bottles. 

Over the decades they fine-tuned the process, learning how to expel the exhausted yeast, also called the lees, and eventually create the pristine, dry, delectable beverage we know today.  Best of all, the sparkling wines from this region will not stretch your wallet. 

A note on a particular favorite from negoҫiant Maison Antech, the 2008 Heritage Cremant de Limoux Cuvée 186:  A blend of 60% Chardonnay, 30% Chenin Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir, the toasty aromas leap out.  There is a captivating scent of butterscotch but the wine is quite dry and mouth-watering.  It spends 18 months resting on its lees which adds to the rich texture.  This would pair beautifully with almost anything from the sea or a tangy chevre (goat cheese) on crisp baguette.  If you could find this bubbly it would set you back a huge 12 Euros or so.  They send most of their wines to Germany and the UK.  Here's hoping we can entice more of them to the U.S.!


Friday, September 14, 2012

Languid Languedoc

Wine study at it's most relaxing may be found at Matthew Stubbs' school Vinécole,on the property of Domaine Gayda in Southern France.  To be surrounded by beautiful vineyards, steady breezes and plenty of wine tasting and fine dining must be one of the most profoundly pampering experiences in life.  Stubbs, a Master of Wine, instructs with a soothing low-key demeanor.  His dry English humor occasionally interjects itself, gracefully avoiding the faux-gravitas that comes with so much wine education. 
If a trip to the south of France is not in your budget right now, be sure to take a peek at Matthew's website for upcoming seminars stateside. 
(The gorgeous pool is for students staying on the property.)