The Little Guys

So accustomed are we to hearing about and buying Champagnes from the well-known and well-established houses (Veuve Cliquot, Tattinger, Moet & Chandon, and so on), that it’s easy to miss the fact that scores of delicious Champagnes are made by small growers.

These growers, often family firms, make what might be called artisanal Champagnes fro the grapes they grow. As a result, a small grower’s Champagne is usually besed on a very uch smaller number of base wines that are blended together before the wine undergoes the second, bubble-inducing fermentation.

Fewer wines in the blend mean that a small grower has less flexibility in creating the flavour of its Champagne; rather its Champagne will necessarily reflect the terror where the grapes were grown. In the past, many small growers sold their Champagnes exclusively in France, but a number are now being exported (albeit in small amounts) and they are fascinating to taste. Among the producers to look for: Rene Geoffroy, Jean Milan, and Pierre Peters.



Amarone: Say Cheese!

Despite the rather common assumption that all red wines taste good with cheese, many cheeses can make red wines taste flat and hollow. A wine that truly stands up to even dramatic cheeses is amarone. At 15 to 16 percent alcohol and with a Portlike body and deep bitter chocolate, mocha, dried fig, and earthy flavours, amarone is a powerhouse. The italian wine expert Victor Hazan (husband of famed cookbook author Marcella Hazan) suggests that amarone is the perfect wine to drink with a roast, being careful to save that last glasses to sip during the finale:: a plate of walnuts and bite-size chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano.