Results for category "Wine"

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Champagne December: Finding Delicious Things for Special Occasions

Pictured: Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial bottle.

Week 3 of Champagne December was a sliding scale, on all fronts: of different price points of champagne, of different sweetness in my bubbly, and in first impressions.

I chased into the higher end of the market, and mostly remained underwhelmed as I lingered over bottles, trying to puzzle out the secret of their prestige. I drank champagne so dry that it seemed to desiccate my soul as it passed my tongue, and bubbly so sweet that I feared for both my teeth and the integrity of any resulting champagne cocktails. How much can the sweetness of a champagne skew the taste of a Death in the Afternoon, or a French 75?


Brut geared at the American market is especially guilty of this over-sweetening. The so-called California Champagnes, in my opinion, should be fined for lack of truth in advertising, as the sweetness of their Brut bubblies creep toward moscato.

Even with these pitfalls, I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon a winner to my palate. The first glass brightened my day immediately as its complex flavors chased each other across my tongue. The second glass made me laugh, and by the third, I knew I’d need to keep a few bottles stocked in my liquor cabinet for special occasions, though it would be an investment.

A good champagne, like any other liquor and like good art, should make you pause and think on it. It’s not enough to find a booze that’s merely passable, unless you’re only looking for a go-to bar choice to survive social outings. A good drink makes you contemplate its flavor profile, what exactly you’re tasting, and why it’s having a good effect. Preferably, the thinking starts the moment it hits your mouth, and lingers well past the swallow. I’m partial toward those that provide layered taste profiles that evolve as they move across your palate.

While this is simple for me to find with gin, rum and beer, finding this in champagne can be a unicorn indeed. Champagne is at its core a white wine, its flavors light and fickle, and the heavy carbonation increases and confuses its volatile taste. Others may disagree, but for me, finding my true north in champagne is an uphill battle. Thus, finding one that immediately delights me is worth holding on to, indeed.

#ChampagneDecember on Bad Days: If You Don’t Pour Something In This F*cking Glass

It’s Champagne December, but it’s also been a long, unforgiving day. You pinched a seriously painful nerve in your right arm fixing things too far above your head. The traffic was awful, the stores crowded, your patience left frozen outside in the winter night as you navigate crowded aisles. Only to return home to a full sink of dishes, and an unrepentant Siamese cat rolling in a pile of stolen Christmas tree ornaments.

Oh, was that not your day? Am I projecting?

Regardless, there will be some days. Let me pause and stress that: there will be some days, where your need for a simple, stiff drink will supersede your need for the finer things.


Roll with it. Don’t waste good champagne on days where you’re steps from sticking your head in the freezer and screaming.

It seemed like a good day to pick through some of my sparkling odds and ends, such as this sparkling rose from Monetto, and experiment with a few cocktail combinations.

Rosé Champagne is a thing, though not common, as it was originally marketed as a cheap alternative to American markets with sweeter tastes. Higher end varieties do exist, such as Moët & Chandon’s Rosé Imperial.

If you’d like to add a bit of color to your sparkling, or as a base for delightful champagne cocktails such as a Raspberry Fizz, this is a great way to go.

That’s it for today, folks. The Week 2 check-in on Champagne December is here, for those who missed it.


Brut, Demi-Sec and Other Meaningless Distinctions After 15 Days Straight of Champagne

Pictured: Veuve Clicquot, Louis Roederer, and Nicolas Feuillatte champagne bottles

It’s Champagne December, guys! I’m pursuing my dubious goal of filling my glass with champagne this month as easily as one would Coors Light.

This post is part Week 2 check-in, and part irreverent guide to making the most of your local champagne choices. After this much champagne, a bit of extra laissez-faire is necessary in my tips.

The second week has gone smoother than the first. At two weeks, I can claim the increasingly outrageous achievement of enjoying champagne each night for a solid 15 days straight. What was learned in the second week? Mostly that my original estimates were right – even after stocking my liquor cabinet quite well, my original inventory lasted me exactly halfway through the month.

This is not terrible news. I certainly exhausted some of the original choices I’d made, and had a few labels I was ready to perhaps never see again. I also had some that I could re-purchase with new appreciation, and some exorbitantly-priced labels that, after several glasses, I could lean back and think, Wait, that was it?


As usual, there will be no label or brand dragging, here. My palate is entirely different than yours. Run out and find, and stick to the labels that delight you. The purpose of Champagne December is to be delighted.

Still, if you’re finding yourself overly dismayed with the taste of champagne or other bubbly, the quickest fix may concern its dryness. Too sweet? You may want to instead try Extra Brut or Brut. A word of warning: if you’re mainly consuming American champagne or other sparkling wine produced in the low to mid-end U.S. market, even varieties labeled Brut can come off a little sweeter than their international counterparts. The higher end of the American market or French champagne may suit you better.

If in general, you find most champagne to be too dry, or mouth-puckering with not enough sweetness, yet another word of warning – the majority of modern French champagne is produced on the dry side as Brut, a journey in shifting trends that has taken more than a century. Still, you may be able to find labels in the Sec, Demi-Sec, or even Doux varieties, with a little bit of hunting.

If extensive hunting is not available or out of your pocket book range, you may want to try out popular Italian sparkling instead. Some varieties such as Moscato d’Asti or Asti Spumante can run quite sweet, indeed. If you want to stick with champagne, another quick hack may be to add a dash of simple syrup or powdered sugar to your glass – but not to your bottle! If you like to live dangerously, go ahead and try it – with the bottle in the sink, preferably, or with a few towels handy. Science is fun.

Now run off, and enjoy your weekend! As always in Champagne December, this post has been brought to you by, and under the influence of a healthy quantity of champagne. Life your best life.



Champagne December 101: Tips, Tricks & Hacks


Pictured: Glass of champagne, in front of a Christmas tree.

Committing to Champagne December took some planning. It’s Day 8, and I can boast the dubious achievement of having enjoyed champagne each night so far. While having champagne every night is not necessary, arranging any kind of champagne campaign, occasional or frequent, still requires logistics. What’s your budget? Will you enjoy a bottle with friends, or savor a glass or two per evening? How do you save champagne from going flat?

What defines the term champagne, anyway?

Let’s start there. Essentially, as noted on VinePair, the definition of champagne boils down to this:

For a bottle of sparkling wine to be labeled Champagne, it has to be made in Champagne, France and produced using the méthode champenoise.

Champagne is subject to a protected designation of origin, similar to the protection for Italian olive oil and wines. Still, if you’ve been of drinking age for a decade or so, you’ve probably seen champagne bandied about in quite a few ways on bottles that were distinctly not French.

Pictured: Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne label, with glass of champagne in background

Champagne from the French region of Champagne will be clearly labelled.

Champagne is rather strictly regulated internationally, and over the last century, there’s been a lot of legal back-and-forth. I recommend the full VinePair article for a detailed account of this label war, but to summarize: a few non-French labels have been reluctantly granted permission to use terms such as California Champagne on their labels. The most recognizable of these brands are Korbel, André, and Cook’s. These brands have become some of the most popular, affordable go-to grabs for Americans on special occasions, namely New Year’s Eve.

Pictured: a Cook's bottle and a Barefoot bottle, both of which bear California Champagne on their title.

Common examples of California Champagne.

Especially in North America, the term champagne has become ubiquitous with sparkling white wine, and this is not as great a travesty as some would have you believe. In a blind taste test, many would fail to discern champagne from a similarly produced sparkling white from another country, or even another French region. The shelves abound with great contenders as well, some of which will be sure to point out that they follow either the méthode champenoise or méthode traditionelle of fermentation and production as true champagne would. Close sparkling relatives such as asti spumante and prosecco spumante hold Italian protected designations of their own, and occupy the same shelf as champagne in many stores.

How closely you define it depends on your familiarity with champagne, your passion or indifference as a purist, and most importantly, your wallet. Cruising through several liquor stores, I was unable to find a bottle of French champagne under $35, while most hovered near $60 or higher. Depending on your budget and your value perception, this might be an acceptable price range for a special occasion, but a terrible idea for Champagne December or other off-the-cuff indulgences.

So what’s your budget?

If your budget is wide open, the sky is the limit. Follow the path your curiosity takes you on all levels of champagne and related sparkling wine. Remember, other French sparkling wines, top-shelf Italian sparkling, California champagne and many Napa Valley bubblies are produced by many respected vineyards and brands.

Pictured: Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Limited Edition bottle.

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Limited Edition

If you don’t have the budget now, or prefer to build up a quality collection incrementally, there are some great ways to do so, and even champagne-of-the-month clubs, if you’d prefer a more seasoned professional to introduce you to different varieties.

For low to mid-range adventures, it may be best to stick to the more loosely defined sparkling wine category, which prominently features California champagnes, asti, prosecco, and other sparkling delights. Investments in high-end French champagne can be occasional splurges, which can help sensitize your sparkling palate. The advantage to this is flexibility, and most importantly, an abundance of size options. The single-serve market has really picked up for bubbly, especially in the low to mid-range.

Pictured: a 4-pack of Cook's 187 ml bottles, and Bollicini 187 ml cans.

187 ml bottles and even cans are available for many low to mid-range sparkling varieties. 375 ml options also abound.

While you can find 375 ml bottles of Moët, I wouldn’t put much faith in this option for the high end of the market. So how do you enjoy your champagne if you’re a solo drinker, or quite sensibly not willing to polish off a full bottle at a time?

Champagne stoppers. Some champagne stoppers even claim to keep carbonation intact for up to a week. Do your research, and this is a time to really pay attention to reviews to ensure that your stopper does what it claims on the tin.  It’s also recommended to try it out on a bottle of inexpensive bubbly first. There are no tears like those shed when you realize your $75 bottle of champagne has went flat overnight. Here are three stoppers to shop:

Champagne December, The First Seven Days: I’m Not Hiccuping. You’re Hiccuping.

Pictured: Moet @Chandon Imperial Champagne label, with glass of champagne in background

This blog is intended for adults, so please always Hermit Safely.

Descend with me, into a journey of the outrageous: an entire month devoted to champagne. Welcome to Champagne December. This was my first seven days.

The Goal

While I was not required to enjoy champagne every single day, I realized my curiosity over different champagnes and my excitement to mix my favorite champagne cocktails meant I did indeed end up having champagne every day during the first week. Go big or go home, I suppose.

Shut up liver, you’re fine

The Research

I spent quite a bit of time researching champagne for this expedition. Online. In liquor stores. Contemplating a dozen bottles of sparkling, I watched patient liquor clerks evolve from suspicious to exasperated as I hovered near shelves, comparing labels. I asked questions over French regions that left store owners’ eyes crossed. Still, I made sure to buy a bottle in each store even if I didn’t find what I wanted, to ensure their time and labor was not in vain.

The Stock

I quickly filled the rather modest liquor cabinet I owned, as I calculated just how much champagne it would require to consume it as casually as Coors Light, my goal for the month. I began to stack it atop bookshelves, and in the fridge. When I finished, I realized I truly only had enough to last a little over halfway through the month.

Once while driving, I felt something warm in my pocket and, assuming it was my phone, realized it was my wallet. Thinking of the sheer quantity of champagne I’d purchased so far, I burst out laughing and laughed all the way home.

The First Days: When Bad Champagne Happens to Good People

It happens. Despite the best research and with the best champagne diversification, you’re bound to end up with a label you don’t like. Still, there will be no naming names, here. I will not drag labels. One man’s poison is another man’s… well.

I recall one of the summers I spent at my Granny’s house, as a child. Being the astutely frugal woman life demanded, she dictated that all outfits must be worn at least twice, before qualifying for the wash. However, I was not the brightest child in those days, and slightly spoiled. I wore each outfit two days in a row, mourning the indecency to any who would listen. It never once occurred to me that I could set each outfit aside and return to it later, after wearing other clothes.

The first few days of Champagne December were like this.

Once I realized that one of the brands I’d stocked wouldn’t work for me, I grew determined to prove my versatility. After all, lackluster champagne is easily rolled into many decent champagne cocktails. I actually wouldn’t recommend wasting good champagne on these cocktails. Thus, I focused my efforts on making good use of bad champagne, and drank it exclusively in the form of cocktails.

However, my enthusiasm for the craft of vintage champagne cocktails, such as Death in the Afternoon‘s, Gloria Swanson’s, and French 75’s, along with a rather dismal champagne to launch the month, nearly did me in. I had some true Groundhog’s Day moments, as the one-two punch of stiff champagne cocktails throwing my nights into disarray, combined with the promise of more bland champagne the next day, left me sighing into my pillow each morning.


The way out is through. I finally realized the futility of giving my time to a champagne that didn’t agree with me. I then had a few theories to test, such as:

How Much Champagne is Too Much In One Night?

Look, folks. As an ex-sailor, I’ve taken out life insurance on my liver long ago. With a rather strong tolerance, I was curious to see if one full bottle of champagne was still enough to do me in as easily as it had a several years before. A full bottle was previously reserved for lazy weekends, where a well-timed nap helped stretched a bottle throughout the day.

The answer is, yes. Not because my tolerance had went through the floor, but via the old adage drilled into me during culinary school and bartending certification – yes, carbonation does indeed speed up the digestive absorption of alcohol. This means in general, a full bottle of champagne can have you walking sideways, whereas several stiff martinis might not. Lesson learned, battle lost.


So how do you overcome this, if you’re not sharing a bottle with a friend every night, or enjoying individual glasses on the town? With some damn good champagne stoppers, to help preserve your bounty.

Finding My Footing

After ditching the marathon cocktails and the bottle experiment, I took a break by enjoying some of my favorite label. Effervescent and crisp, light and wonderful, it reminded me of what I’d originally embarked upon – sensual enjoyment of one of my favorite beverages as a way of living my best damn life. It’s the end of 2017, afterall. Though it may not seem that way, we’ve survived a lot.

Live your best damn lives, people. I’ll see you next week.

Seafood Stew, Salt Cod.


Seafood stew with fire-roasted tomatoes, based in an amazing salt cod and wine demi-glace I made awhile back. I was pretty excited to find salt cod in my store. It was quite salty, as expected. You’ll need to wash it before use, and even then, it packs quite a kick. I eventually used the majority for creating a demi-glace that I froze and later revitalized for a seafood stew. It tasted absolutely amazing.