— Julia Crowley, EDN
Whether you’re going to ring in 2012 with a French Champagne, a Spanish Cava, an Austrian Sekt, an Italian Prosecco or an American Sparkling Wine, it’s all bubbly, and the sound of a popping cork from a sparkling wine bottle is like none other.The unique sound of a popping cork from a champagne bottle is caused by the release of the CO2 that’s been held under pressure inside the bottle. This release of CO2 forms the beloved bubbles found in sparkling wines from around the world. The average bottle of Champagne or Sparkling Wine contains enough carbon dioxide to produce a whopping 49 million bubbles, and some wine experts put that number closer to 250 million bubbles. It’s these bubbles that, at one time, were considered a defect in wine. Laurel Hiestand, an avid wine connoisseur and French teacher in California, tells the story of the Champagne:
The legend of Dom Perignon will forever be tied to the legend of the bubbles in champagne. Close to Reims cathedral in the Hautvilliers Abbey, a near-blind Benedictine monk named Dom Pierre Perignon was given the job of being its chief treasurer and cellar master. When he first took over in 1688, the wine being produced by the abbey was adequate but pale. Perignon feared that the deep red wine from the neighboring region of “Bourgogne” (Burgundy), was gaining favor with the King . The lighter red of the wine produced in Champagne was becoming a problem but was unavoidable due to the cooler climate of the region.
In this northern region of France the grapes had to be harvested early and the wine barrels became too cold during winter months. Unfortunately, even though it had not reached peak fermentation, the pinkish juice had to be bottled. After all, there was a royal demand for the product, and it was up to the monks at the abbey to deliver. But while the chilly winter had temporarily halted the fermentation process, the warmer spring climate “reawakened” the fermentation after the wine had been bottled. The result, of course, were bubbles!
Because Perignon and his abbey brothers were frustrated by the presence of the “bulles” (French for “bubbles”), they began altering the wine’s chemistry by blending several types of grapes and removing the skins. What resulted was the art of blending, and the first white wine ever produced! Yet, unfortunately, this new elegant pale wine persisted in fermenting after it was bottled!
The bubbles were considered by the monks to be a serious defect in the wine, and the cause of production disasters: bottles were exploding all over the cellars! Nevertheless, Dom Perignon did not give up; and legend says that when he tasted the new lighter bubbly wine he was pleasantly surprised, and exclaimed “Come quickly, brothers! I’m tasting stars!” If the elegant bubbly could just be bottled without exploding, the monks could introduce a truly exciting new wine. Dom Perignon began by changing the shape of the bottle and using heavier glass. The stronger bottle eliminated the explosion problem, but now the effervescence of the bubbly wine persisted in blowing out the hemp and oil stoppers. Perignon turned to Spain for stoppers made of cork, and Voilà . . . the cork did it! The king’s court was delighted with this new effervescent pale colored wine. The abbey’s reputation was saved!
Those glorious tiny beads of rising air that were once considered a defect gives champagne its sparkle and finesse, and whether it’s from the Champagne region of France, the Veneto region of Italy, or Oregon’s Willamette Valley, sparkling wine with its millions of bubbles will no doubt ring in a world-wide New Year with the sound of popping corks and clinking glasses.
Wondering what the clinking glasses at my New Years Eve party will be filled with? The fabulous Domaine Meriwether Celebration Cuvee Brut. This delicious bubbly is a blend of the Meriwether Discovery and Vintage Cuvees with added reserved wines that depict an incredible depth of character. Made using the classic French Champagne method along with the excellence of Willamette Valley fruit, this sparkling wine is “old world meets new” perfection.
To a healthy and prosperous 2012, Happy New Year! Cheers!
Wine Bars & Wine Shops
Authentica Wines: Sat. 2-4 pm, Taste sparkling wines and other celebratory selections. 766 W. Park St., Eugene.
Osteria Sfizio: Sat. 5:30 – 8:30 pm, New Years Eve special menu with wine pairings including a pairing with Italy’s sparkling Trvioso Prosecco, fresh crab and beef tenderloin and much more. Reservations required 541-302-3000. 105 Oakway Center, Eugene.
B2 Wine Bar: Sat. 8 pm, Sparkling wine specials and a midnight toast with live music by Taste. 2794 Shadow Dr., Eugene.
The Wine Place: Sat. 12 – 5 pm, Bubbly and more. Get ready to drink a toast to the New Year with a tasting that includes champagne, sparkling and prosecco choices along with red and white wine.; The loft above The Wine Cellar is the tasting room for J. Scott Cellars. 373 North Hwy. 101, Yachats.
Red Agave: Sat. starting at 5 pm, New Year’s Eve Celebration, 4 course meal served with a glass of sparkling Cava from Spain. Call for reservations. 541-683-2206. 454 Willamette St., Eugene.
Café Soriah: Sat. Special New Years Eve 5 course meal with complimentary glass of sparkling wine. Call for reservations 541-342-4410. 384 W. 13th Ave., Eugene.
Ambrosia Restaurant and Bar: Sat. $4 Sparkling Wine Special, special menu and banquet room open. Reservations are suggested 541-342-4141. 174 East Broadway Ave., Eugene.
Cork and Bottle Shoppe: Fri. 4- 6 pm, free tasting of sparkling wines including the delicious Veuve Clicquot Yellow. 812 Beltline Rd., Springfield.
Sundance Wine Cellars: Fri. and Sat. 5-7 pm, Sparkling Wine and Champagne tasting and special pricing; 2441 Hilyard St., Eugene.
Marché Provisions: Fri. 5-7 pm, Free weekly wine tasting featuring sparkling wine. 296 E. 5th Ave., Eugene.
Mac’s at the Vets Club: Sat. at Mac’s and in the ballroom, champagne toast at midnight along with live Reggae by Norma Fraser in the ballroom and Michael Tracey and the Hi-Tones in Mac’s. 1626 Willamette St., Eugene.
Agate Alley Bistro: Sat. Midnight champagne toast. 1561 East Nineteenth Ave., Eugene.
Cornucopia Maize Lounge: Daily happy hour 3-6 pm – “3/3/3 at 3” special, three-dollar micros, wells and wine. 73 E. 13th Ave., Eugene.
Wineries and Vineyards
LaVelle Vineyards in Elmira: Sat. New Year’s Eve Murder Mystery Dinner and Dance. $99 per person includes three-course meal prepared by Field to Table Catering, a three-act play and round-trip transportation from Valley River Center if you choose to use it. Seating is limited and advance ticket purchase is required 541-935-9406. 89697 Sheffler Rd., Elmira.
Domaine Meriwether: Daily 11 am – 4 pm, world renowned Meriwether and Capitello sparkling wine can be sampled in the tasting room. Pick up the Meriwether Celebration Cuvee Brut here. 88324 Vineyard Lane, Veneta.