|Bonjour les Amis,
As 2016 comes to an end, we can thank King Clovis who invented the marvelous tradition of celebrating New Year’s with Champagne. Apparently in the 5th century, King Clovis promised his Burgundian princess bride that if he won his next battle, he would covert to Christianity. He won & the house wine of the King of Reims became Champagne…
“Royalty loved the novelty of sparkling wine. It was said to have positive effects on women’s beauty and man’s wit.” 17th century Champagne goggles!
Some say Monk Dom Perignon perfected the Champagne bottling process by using thicker bottles & creating a cage for the cork, although not everyone agrees on giving him credit for the invention. He indisputably taught the world about natural fermentation & helped shape the future of Champagne. Sante!
New Year’s Eve Hours: 10:00 – 6:00PM; Closed New Year’s Day
Tous nos vœux pour cette nouvelle année,
Catherine, Manuel & the entire Paris Grocery crew
New Year’s Eve Champagnes and Sparkling Wines
New Year’s Eve is just around the corner, so it’s a great time to load up on some bubbly to share with family and friends. Champagne and other sparkling wines, such as Crémants, always lend an air of celebration to any gathering, and can make it even make it memorable. With this in mind, we are happy to present some of our favorite Champagnes and sparkling wines that are sure to impress.
Before we start, just a few words about Champagne: the three major types and what distinguishes them. There are three general classifications of Champagne producers imported into the USA: Maisons, Cooperatives and Vignerons. The Classification code (e.g., RM-20098-01) appears in fine type, usually at the bottom of the front label, and occasionally, on the back label.
Maisons (RM – Champagne Houses) are the largest classification comprising about 85% of all Champagne imported into the United States. Champagne houses buy their grapes from grape growers from all over the region. The Maisons focus on blending grapes from different regions and vintages to produce a consistent taste year after year. These are the large Champagne brands that have familiar names such as Moët, Veuve Clicquot, Tattinger, etc. Maison Champagnes are widely available and can be found at most reputable wine shops, and upscale grocery chains.
Cooperative Champagnes (CM) are typically wines from a specific village in Champagne and, usually, from locally-grown grapes. There are a variety of ways in which these co-ops function, but normally, the growers supply their grapes to the co-op and the chief winemaker makes the final wine. Perhaps, the most famous of these is Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte.
The last classification, Vigneron, or Grower Champagne (RM), also affectionately dubbed ‘Farmer-Fizz’ by Terry Theise, undoubtedly, America’s premier Champagne selecter/importer. These are the grower-producers of the Champagne world. The word ‘vigneron’ means winemaker, although it really refers to a farmer who cultivates a vineyard for winemaking purposes. Growers typically own small parcels of vineyards in very specific places within the Champagne region. These vignerons tend to the grapes and bottle the wines themselves–it’s because of this fact, that they are considered artisanal products–they are unique wines and expressive of the vineyard and the grower’s own connection to the vineyard. As Terry Theise puts it, you should drink Farmer-Fizz if you’d rather drink Champagne from a farmer than a factory—Veuve Clicquot produces approximately 1.4 million cases of their yellow label Champagne, annually–good point!
Of course, Grower Champagnes aren’t necessarily better than Maison Champagnes, it’s a matter of personal tastes, and availability. I prefer Grower Champagnes because they tend to be more distinctive, requiring a little more thought than an automatic grab at a familiar brand. At a minimum, you should try a couple and make up your own mind. Of course, I’d never turn down a bottle of Bollinger La Grande Année! And now, for some of our favorites.
NV Baumard Crémant de Loire ‘Carte Turquoise’ $19.99
Domaine des Baumard lies tucked away in the tiny village of Rochefort-sur-Loire, just south of Savennières, in the very heart of the ancient Duchy of Anjou. All of Baumard’s sparkling wines are Crémant de Loire and thus subject to stricter regulations than your run-of-the-mill mousseux. A blend of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, the Carte Turquoise has been produced at the Domaine des Baumard since 1957. With notes of cassis, blackberry, pear, quince and citrus notes. The Carte Turquoise end with a delicate and elegant mousse. A simple, charming Crémant that comes at a reasonable price.
NV Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve $50.00
Among the half-dozen top family-run houses in Champagne, the family has been producing wines in Mareuil-sur-Ay since 1818. A beautifully made reserve Champagne built on a style comprising full fruit and finesse. This is a blend of 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. Full-bodied, showing earthiness in the aroma, with plenty of ripe, candied apple fruit on the palate. Firmly structured, it builds in intensity to a long vanilla and nutty aftertaste. Possesses a creamy texture and elegant, tiny bubbles. This superb Champagne was unavailable for a long time; its return in the past few years is certainly welcomed.
NV Champagne Gaston Chiquet Blan de Blancs D’Aÿ Grand Cru $65.00 (RM)
One of the finest aperitif Champagnes in the market, and one of my all-time favorites! Farming 23 hectares of vineyards situated within the perimeter encompassing Dizy, Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Hautvillers, the Chiquet Family has been producing wine since the 1930s. Fresh and fragrant, the wine positively dances on the palate, with hints of fresh citrus, biscuit, chamomile and racy green apples. Possesses nice, tight bubbles on the finish. This is a wonderful Grand Cru Champagne and worth every penny!
92 Points, Wine Advocate
NV Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain $45.00 (NM)
Just like the label says, Henriot has been making Champagne since 1808. The Henriot family’s hallmark of richness, elegance and depth is maintained in part by exceptionally high standards regarding its reserve wines. The Brut Souverain benefits from an addition of up to 20% reserve wines from a number of different vintages in the Champagne Henriot library; one of the largest percentages of reserve wines in Champagne. The Brut Souverain is both expressive and refreshing, with notes of citrus and yellow fruit and fragrances of elderflowers, as well as, pastry aromas, such as brioche, toast, and grilled almond. On the palate, it’s lively, fresh and balanced, with pastry, vanilla, morello cherry, and candied plum notes. Nicely textured, with a clean, refreshing finish marked by citrus fruit aromas. Makes an ideal aperitif Champagne, or as an accompaniment to lighter dishes.
NV Champagne Vilmart & Cie. ‘Grand Cellier’ Premier Cru $70.00 (RM)
My favorite Premier Cru Champagne! It’s distinctive and very elegant–truly a luxury Champagne. It is made from free-run juice only and is a barrel-fermented wine. Rich and luscious, with aromas of orange blossom, mint, herbs and spice, this wine has richness and great depth of flavor. This wine comes from prime Champagne territory–right on the 49th parallel–in the quiet, Premier Cru village of Rilly, within the Montagne de Reims. Made by the brilliant Laurent Champs, this wine has attained near-cult status as the food Champagne, par excellence—try it!
92 Points, Wine Advocate
NV Champagne Aubry Brut $43.00 (RM)
“… Bittersweet perfume suggestive of gentian and iris mingles with intimations of fresh lime and sea breeze that in turn manifest themselves on a seductively silken palate in both juicy, vivacious exuberance and mouthwatering saliva inducement. A scallop-like sweetly saline and mineral amalgam takes hold in a vibrant finish that leaves me caught between the urge to linger and the urge to take the next sip…”
91 Points, Wine Advocate
NV Champagne Delamotte Brut Blanc de Blancs $60.00 (NM)
The sister estate of the iconic Salon Champagne; both in existence and producing Champagne since 1760. All stainless steel fermentation, a small percentage of reserve wine (10%) and low dosage make for a very rich, round Champagne, with stone fruit notes, toast and persistent bubbles.
CHEESE OF THE WEEK
Fleur de Maquis, Corsica $35.99 lb
This cheese is EXTREMELY hard to come by, so when I finally got 6 rounds in, I got to call a lot of happy Corsicans.
Fleur de Maquis is named after the dense thickets of underbrush on the island of Corsica. Made from the milk of Lacaune ewes, and then coated with a mixture of rosemary & fennel. With time, the cheese absorbs the herbal flavors. Ask for a taste of this gorgeous rare cheese & I think you’ll fall hard.
We have a huge selection of craft cocktail components…
Dr. Adam Elmegirab
Toschi Amarena Cherries in Syrup
Griottines Wild Morello Cherries in Kirsch
Jack Rudy’s Bourbon Cocktail Cherries
THE FRENCH WAY TO RING IN A NEW YEAR
Oyster Plates $10.99
Pradel Oyster Opener $14.99
Serve oysters in style! We found these ceramic oyster plates for you & ordered up some authentic French oyster knives with a beechwood oyster holder.
We have a freezer packed with foie boards from La Belle Farms & Hudson Valley Duck Farms in upstate NY.
Favols Confit Fleurs de Violettes $8.50
This lovely condiment comes from the Aquitaine region in SW France & uses the simplest ingredients: cane sugar, water, pectin, violet flower, citric acid, concentrated blackberry juice. Adds French flair to cheese or foie gras.
White Toque Escargot in Shell with Butter $11.99
Chill some Champagne & pop these in the oven…
White Toque’s Escargot are regarded as #1 in flavor & texture. These are wild helix snails cooked in an aromatic bouillon, processed in Burgundy in the oldest snail factory in France. 12 prepared snails in shell, flavored with a parsley garlic butter. Don’t defrost, just bake for 10 minutes. That’s it! Get some bread ready to sop up the delectable sauce.
Gougeres adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan $40
This recipe is perfect for a New Year’s party as it can be made in advance & goes swimmingly with Champagne.
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup French flour
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated cheese, such as Gruyère or Cantal (about 6 ounces; plus a scant amount Mimolette for color)
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
Bring the milk, water, butter, and salt to a rapid boil in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over high heat. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low, and immediately start stirring energetically with a wooden spoon or heavy whisk. The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring—with vigor—for another minute or two to dry the dough. The dough should now be very smooth.
Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or into a bowl that you can use for mixing with a hand mixer or a wooden spoon and elbow grease. Let the dough sit for a minute, then add the eggs one by one and beat, beat, beat until the dough is thick and shiny. Make sure that each egg is completely incorporated before you add the next, and don’t be concerned if the dough separates—by the time the last egg goes in, the dough will come together again. Beat in the grated cheese. Once the dough is made, it should be spooned out immediately.
Using about 1 tablespoon of dough for each gougère , drop the dough from a spoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of puff space between the mounds. Using about 1 tablespoon of dough for each gougère, drop the dough from a spoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of puff space between the mounds. Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking until the gougères are golden, firm, and, yes, puffed, another 12 to 15 minutes or so. Serve warm, or transfer the pans to racks to cool.
Gougères are good straight from the oven and at room temperature. I like them both ways, but I think you can appreciate them best when they’re still warm. Serve with kir, white wine, or Champagne.
The best way to store gougères is to shape the dough, freeze the mounds on a baking sheet, and then, when they’re solid, lift them off the sheet and pack them airtight in plastic bags. Bake them straight from the freezer—no need to defrost—just give them a minute or two more in the oven. Leftover puffs can be kept at room temperature over night and reheated in a 350-degree-F oven, or they can be frozen and reheated before serving.