LOS ANGELES LIFESTYLE|CULTURE
By: Adrien Finkel
With New Years Eve just moments away…I can feel the buzz all over Los Angeles as we prepare for the big night! I’m pumped and totally set for it. I’ve got my gold mini skirt, the pumps to match, the car service, and the party planned. But….I came to screeching halt when I hopped in my car to buy the champagne. As I drove down Sunset to my local market I quickly came to the conclusion that I had no idea what to buy. I made a few calls for some advice and the only answer I found was that we people in Hollywood do not know enough about this delicious bubbly beverage. I decided to give my fabulous friend and wine-blogger Julie Gauvin a call. With her blog Vineal Vixen (http://vinealvixen.wordpress.com/) taking over the wine scene and a new eco-friendly wine brand in the works, I knew she would be able to give us sound advice on champagne with class and swagger. So here you have it:
I couldn’t think of a better way to get the party started than by meeting Julie for brunch at Bagatelle on La Cienega. This swanky joint, decked in white and adorned with hanging vintage chandeliers, is known for it’s divine European cuisine and bottle-poppin’ champagne brunches.
Within moments of meeting Julie at the bar I had a mimosa in my hand and was moving my hips to the pumped up jams that everyone was rocking out too. Bagatelle had taken what looked like ultra late night partying and brought it us on this sunny Sunday afternoon in West Hollywood. I felt like we should have been mingling and meeting the who’s who, but instead we got down to business. There was no better place to discuss champagne than at this weekly brunch party where bottles are being brought out with sparklers shining bright and clinking is heard at every table.
I took a break from inhaling my Brioche French toast to ask my expert friend about champagne. Here is how it went:
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOTTLES TO POP THIS HOLIDAY SEASON?
On A Budget: Champagne is a lovely way to celebrate, bring people together, and has a track record of being undyingly sexy no matter the occasion. Francis Ford Coppola’s Sofia is an incredibly fruity, refreshing and affordable sparkling blanc de blancs that can be found between fifteen, and twenty dollars. It’s made in California so its not a true champagne, but the blend of Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Riesling make for an everyday sparkling that upholds a sweet level of elegance, and feminine flair I’d typically look for in champagne.
Moderately Priced: If I’m working with a bigger budget I often reach for a bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial, which is what we have here in our glasses. It’s smooth and easy to drink, while maintaining layers of citrus fruit, and pear from specially selected reserves of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. So, for approximately forty dollars retail you’re guaranteed to enjoy an iconic house champagne.
Ready to Splurge: I do have a champagne I’m willing to splurge on when the right moment calls for celebration. That champagne is Ruinart. It was the first established champagne house in 1729, which centuries later continues to produce some of the finest bubbles I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. The Ruinart Rose is a perfect marriage of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a seductive expression of berry fruits. It’s an intense, upfront rose style of champagne that’s actually quite palatable, as it pairs quite nicely with most dishes. Depending on the vintage (year) a bottle can be purchase starting around seventy-five dollars, and I have say its worth every penny.
WHAT IS THE CORRECT WAY TO OPEN A BOTTLE?
Who doesn’t love the excitement of bottles popping and champagne showers?! Unfortunately, opening a bottle isn’t exactly how we see it in the movies! To start, the bottled should be chilled for several house, otherwise, the champagne will burst from the bottle like seen on the big screen only to create flat bubbly.
**Insiders secret: when champagne bursts from a bottle you know it is either too warm or has been mishandled. The point is to get the champagne into your glass! So try and keep your bubbly between the ideal temperatures of thirty-eight and forty-eight degrees Fahrenheit.
Once you’re ready for a toast remove the foil coating to unveil the wire cage that holds the cork in place. Twist counterclockwise to loosen, but do not fully remove. Its important to keep the wire over the cork should it pop unexpectedly. Next, place a napkin over the cork to keep everything in place and hold the bottle at a forty-five degree angle. Hold the cork, and twist the bottle, not the cork. You’ll begin to feel a bit of pressure as the cork slowly eases out. The trick at this point is to slightly push down with your finger to maintain control until you hear a slight “hiss” which indicates the cork is out. After the cork has been removed let the bottle sit upright for a few seconds to allow the gas to escape before pouring into your glass. Once the foam has settled (ten to fifteen seconds) pour evenly amongst friends. Cheers!
(Word of caution: When removing a cork be advised that champagne is under a tremendous amount of pressure in the bottle. A typical bottle of champagne can shoot a cork up to forty feet at a speed of up to fifty miles per hour. Always open a bottle away from any person or thing that may be injured. )
HOW SHOULD CHAMPAGNE BE SERVED?
Champagne should always be served chilled at approximately thirty-eight to forty-eight degrees Fahrenheit. Simply place the bottle in the refrigerator for a few hours prior to opening and be sure to keep corked until its time to serve. To maintain a proper temperature after opening, place the bottle in a bucket of half water, and half ice. When pouring start with just a little in the bottom, and let the bubbles die down. Then fill the glass about two-thirds full with a steady, even pour.
WHAT IS A PERFECT FOOD TO PAIR WITH A GLASS OF CHAMPAGNE?
When it comes to pairing food and wine I always tell everyone its a matter of preference. Here at Bagatelle I love to pair the Moet & Chandon Imperial with the short rib hash for brunch. It’s a total foodgasm! The beauty behind champagne, and all wine for that matter, go beyond the memories and celebratory events they typically surround. They heighten, and enhance the flavors found on our dish, and the more I learn, the more I live for these moments! At Lukshon in Culver City I almost fell off my bar stool upon sampling their bhutanese red rice with a glass of champagne- it was outstanding! Owner and chef Sang Yoon has truly taken his Asianized menu and paired it with some fantastic wines I can’t stop talking about. So here are two entirely different entrees that paired brilliantly with champagne. It’s quite the versatile grape, but I have to be honest, I can’t get enough of champagne and french fries either! Maybe its still the kid in me?
I KNOW WE ALL HAVE OUR OWN TRADITIONS FOR MAKING A TOAST, WHAT IS YOURS?
No matter the occasion I always toast to a beautiful life. It’s become a tradition I share with anyone I raise a glass with.
And there you have it, lets raise glass to entering 2013 a little bit more Champagne savvy!
Happy new years everyone! CHEERS!