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Wine and Food Wednesday
Sparkling Wine: It’s Not Just For Weddings and Caviar Anymore

By Stephen Eliot

Friends of Connoisseurs’ Guide know that we are big on bubbles and food. Sparkling wine is the lead feature of our November issue each year and we review Champagne every December. We like the bubbly, and we like it at the dinner table.

Tasting that many bubblies means for the last several weeks our counters have been crowded with leftover bottles. There have been so many good ones this round that we have had excuses enough to get to the kitchen and work on recipes both old and new that strike us as being especially sympathetic to sparkling wines. It is part of this job about which you will hear few complaints.

We have long been partial to good Blanc de Noirs and Rosés as terrific mealtime mates, and, as the latter has made a particularly strong showing this year, my enthusiasm for cooking, if you will pardon the pun, has bubbled over.

Starting with a few tried and true beliefs that the bracing acidity of fine sparkling wine makes them perfect partners for dishes with cream sauces and deep-fried fare, I found myself hankering first for a classic French Chicken Fricassee. Now, I am often surprised at just how memory works, but I suddenly recalled an interesting twist on the dish offered up in Cook’s Illustrated magazine some time back. A quick hunt through my stacks of back issues was rewarded with what turned out to be a first-rate recipe in last December’s issue. I readily admit to being an unabashed fan of Cook’s Illustrated and consider it to be a thinking person’s guide to the culinary craft. More often than not, I come away with new insights and ideas when reading its pages, and, in this case, I could not have been more pleased.

A classic Fricassee of poached chicken and cream sauce is a fussy and time consuming dish to be sure, but this unconventional recipe proved to be both quick and wonderfully rich with layered flavors and a silky finishing sauce based on egg-yolk enriched sour cream. We first poured the vigorously fruity Schramsberg Brut Rosé 2008 and thought we had found the perfect match, but the very complex, remarkably refined Chandon Étoile Rosé left us indecisive as to just which one we liked better. Both had the strength to stand up to the flavorful Fricassee, and their keen acid balance was the ideal foil to the recipe’s creamy richness.

After dinner, both bottlings were tightly stoppered and were tried again the next evening with crisply fried, lightly breaded pork cutlets ala Japanese Tonkatsu (minus the traditional sauce). The combination of sweet and savory meatiness and mildly “oily” back notes of this house-favorite dish dovetailed perfectly with the outgoing fruit and cleansing acidities of the two Rosés, and I was once again reminded that from Pakoras to Tempura to Southern Fried Chicken, few libations match up quite so well with deep-fried foods than a bottle of bubbly pink.


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Discount wines
by David Amaral
Posted on:10/26/2011 6:54:52 PM

I may have missed it but I think it has been several years since you have done a section on real discount wines. You know, two buck chuck to the eight buck box and everything in between. I have had plenty of drinkable stuff for 5,6,or 7$ from Costco, TJ's and the like over the past few years and often wonder how it would fair in a tasting. Thanks


Previous comment
by David Amaral
Posted on:10/26/2011 10:23:26 PM

My previous post was for the article about value wines from Oct. 19th. I was away for a while and forgot I was on the sparkling wine article when I posted the comment. But as long as I am here I would't mind an article on real value sparklers also.

Value Sparklers
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/26/2011 11:56:20 PM

Our November Issue, live on this site for our subscribers, will have extensive comments on value in sparkling wine. Stay tuned and make sure your subscription is up to date.

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