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Champagne and Harvest

September 7, 2012

No matter how much we plan, some of our best results are a matter of circumstance and happy accident. Such was our recent experience matching sparkling wines and produce from our backyard garden.

It was all the result of a random bottle of Pieper Heidsieck NV Brut we had left over from the holidays and a personal milestone one of us had achieved. We toasted that victory with a glass of the crisp, clean Piper, then segued into our harvest dinner of summer squash, eggplant, fresh heirloom tomatoes and other veggies, all harvested that day. The rest of the Piper was simply along for the ride.

It never occurred to us to pair champagne with freshly harvested vegetables, but the wine’s crisp acidity proved to be a perfect match with the veggies, many of which brought their own complementary acidity to the table. As a palate cleanser the sparkler was unparalleled, and the wine’s relative natural flavors near perfectly matched those of the harvest. Not only were we happy with both the wines and veggies, we were thrilled that we found such a complementary pairing.

Our garden, like others, is still producing and right now the harvest is plentiful. It’s the perfect time to try your own pairings. In addition to the Piper Heidsieck, here are a few sparkling wines we recommend:

Some the best inexpensive wines come from Spain, and the Absidis Brut Cava ($11) from the Catalonia region is one of the more appealing ones. The wine presents with a citrus nose with a slight floral edging, and a buttery lemon flavor with soft bubbles on the palate. It’s made from 40% Xarel-lo, 30% Macabeo and 30% Parellada – the three traditional Cava grapes. Think bright and breezy for this one.

Piper Sonoma Blanc de Blanc ($17), Piper Hiedsieck’s California cousin, draws on a 95% Chardonnay blend for a very pleasing delivery. The wine presents with a citrus-floral nose with a touch of green apple and has a dry, delicate body with tiny bubbles on the palate. Very refreshing and crisp.

For something a little special, try J Cuvee 20 ($24). It’s the Russian River Valley Vineyard’s 25th anniversary wine produced from an equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes with a little Pinot Meunier thrown in. The nose is redolent with lemon peel and honeysuckle, edged with a little yeast. The citrus carries over to the palate with apple, pear and almond notes. The lively acidity and lingering finish may this a pleasing choice.

Korbel Natural ($16) offers a similar profile from the same region using the same grape varietals, but with perhaps a crisper, drier quality. The price point is a little less for something almost equally as good, but in slightly different ways.

Finally, if the weather is still warm enough, a flute of the Henkell Blanc de Blanc ($14) is a fitting accompaniment to any end-of-the-season picnic. Light and bubbly, the German sparkler delivers notes of white peach and grapefruit with a little yeast at the edges, tiny bubbles and an acidity that’s offers just the right amount of refreshment as you dine on the last vegetables of summer.

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