OPEN THE WAL­LET, POP THE CORK

These Cham­pagnes are worth a sea­sonal in­dul­gence; you won’t be dis­ap­pointed

Montreal Gazette - - WEEKEND LIFE - BILL ZACHARKIW You can hear Bill Zacharkiw pair wine with rock on CHOM-FM (97.7) Fri­days at 7:45 a.m. twit­ter.com/Bil­lZacharkiw face­book.com/ bil­lzacharki­wwine

Ev­ery­one has that in­dul­gence for which they are will­ing to pay a lit­tle more: Cars, shoes, cloth­ing, crys­tal knick-knacks. I’m not judg­ing — I have my own weak­ness, and it’s Cham­pagne. Not sparkling wine, but Cham­pagne. While the name is used by many to sig­nify any sparkling wine, Cham­pagne comes only from the re­gion of the same name in north­ern France. What makes it so spe­cial, and worth the ex­tra cash? It’s the fi­nesse of the bub­bles, the some­times in­tense min­er­al­ity, the sub­lime tex­ture — there al­ways seems to be just the right amount of fat wrapped around its core of acid­ity and min­er­al­ity. When I drink Cham­pagne, it al­most al­ways in­volves food. My favourite pair­ing is raw surf and turf — fresh oys­ters and steak tartare — but Cham­pagne goes with pretty much any­thing. Which ones to buy for the hol­i­days? While this is far from a de­fin­i­tive list, here are some I drink at home.

UN­DER $60

There isn’t a ton of choice un­der $50, or at least not a ton of va­ri­ety — most of what’s avail­able in that range tastes the same. I tend to drink a good sparkling wine in­stead for that price, but when I need an in­ex­pen­sive Cham­pagne, Paul Go­erg ’s Blanc de Blancs ($46.75, SAQ # 11766597) is my choice. Taut, lean and dry. If you want some­thing a touch richer, the Ni­co­las Feuil­latte Réserve ($48.50, SAQ #578187) is also good. Over $50, things get a bit more in­ter­est­ing. The Pierre Ger­bais, Grains de Celles ($52.50, SAQ # 13647014) is an ex­cel­lent al­laround Cham­pagne from a small, ar­ti­sanal pro­ducer. The Ca­nardDuchêne, Cu­vée Léonie ($52.25, SAQ # 11154700) will sat­isfy those who prefer a more tex­tured Cham­pagne. Oth­ers that of­fer a touch more depth are the Brut from Deutz ($58.75, SAQ # 10654770) and Nathalie Fal­met ($59.75, SAQ # 11797377). I call them Goldilocks wines: not too dry, not too sweet, they are just right. If you want a more pow­er­ful Cham­pagne, try the Blanc de Noirs from Fleury ($58.50, SAQ # 13090631). Made en­tirely with red grapes, this wine has some torque. Or­gan­i­cally grown as well.

THE CLAS­SICS

While I love to taste new wines from new pro­duc­ers, there are cer­tain Cham­pagnes I pur­chase year af­ter year, be­cause they never dis­ap­point. I love Blanc de Blancs (100 per cent Chardon­nay), so I al­ways have a bot­tle of Hen­riot ($79.75, SAQ # 10796946) dur­ing oys­ter sea­son. It’s like Grand Cru bub­bly Ch­ablis. A close sec­ond is Pierre Gi­mon­net Cuis 1er Cru ($68, SAQ # 11553209). On a more full-bod­ied note, the Ruinart Brut ($82, SAQ # 10326004) is a clas­sic three­grape blend of the two Pinots and Chardon­nay. I wish I could have this stuff run­ning from my taps. Rosé Cham­pagne has been gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity at my place. Lau­rent-Per­rier has earned its rep­u­ta­tion on the back of an ex­cep­tional bot­tling ($99.75, SAQ # 158550). If you want to pay much less, Lan­son ($65, SAQ # 11588639) of­fers an im­pec­ca­ble pink Cham­pagne; it’s less nu­anced, but still shows the sub­tle fruit I want in a rosé. My favourite? That’s a con­stantly mov­ing tar­get, but my choice over the last year would be Bérêche’s Ex­tra Brut Rosé, Cam­pa­nia Re­men­sis ($124.25, SAQ # 13253314). Ex­tra Brut means ex­tra dry, so all the flesh in this wine is from the grapes and not su­gar. Nu­anced aro­mat­ics, se­duc­tive tex­ture, great length — this is the wine I drink with my raw surf and turf, and it han­dles the food with dex­ter­ity.

ALLEN MCIN­NIS

The fine bub­bles and sub­lime tex­ture make true Cham­pagne worth the ex­tra cash.

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