What bubbly are you drinking when the ball drops this year? Champagne, perhaps?
Most people would say yes, but while they probably are drinking a sparkling wine, they may not actually drinking Champagne.
So what's the difference? You may be expecting a bunch of wine lingo here, but the distinction is actually very simple: all Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Sparkling wine is exactly what it sounds like: wine with bubbles. Champagne, on the other hand, is a geographic region in France, more or less due east of Paris, famous for making sparkling wines (a small amount of still wine is made there, too, but we'll ignore that for now).
But sparkling wine is made all over the world--in just about every country where wine is made--and a lot of it can be very good. What's more, it is often much less expensive than real Champagne. (One of the unfortunate side-effects of Champagne's world renown has been its frequently inflated prices.)
I get plenty of requests in the store for "Champagne," and most of the time, the person is really just looking for an inexpensive sparkling wine. A lot of people make this mistake, and you shouldn't be embarrassed if you have yourself. It's a common misunderstanding (and pretty trivial, really), and we're used to it in the wine business. But this NYE, sneak a peak at the label of whatever bottle your friends pop open--it may be the most delicious sparkler you've ever had, but if it's not from France and doesn't say "Champagne" on the label, it isn't Champagne.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Buying caviar can be intimidating, and not just because of the price. Not many people eat it with any kind of frequency, and so the question we often get is, "How do I serve it?" Here are a few suggestions we have for you:
- Serving it: Keep it in the coldest part of the fridge (never in the freezer, though) until about 15 minutes before serving it, and don't open the container until you're ready to eat. Serve it in the container it comes in or on a small plate or bowl. It's best to keep it chilled on a bed of ice, to keep it fresher longer.
- Eating it: The classic way to eat caviar is on a blini (basically a small crepe). Thin slices of a baguette, lightly toasted will work, too--just make sure it doesn't get crunchy. Add a dab of butter or creme fraiche, and a small spoonful of caviar on top and that's all you need. You can also include diced red onion, capers, and even smoked salmon, if you like. A touch of caviar can work well over a baked potato, too, with mascarpone and chive, or over hard-boiled eggs. I wouldn't waste good caviar on recipes like that, though. Top-shelf caviar in particular, like Beluga or Osetra, has such a fine texture and flavor that too many flavors can often just get in the way. My recommendation: keep it simple. Why complicate things when you're indulging yourself?
- Drinking with it: Of course, keeping it simple doesn't mean you shouldn't have a drink with your caviar, right? There are two classic options in this department: you could do a glass of ice-cold vodka, straight up (just be sure you serve a good vodka--low quality vodka served straight up can be harsh!) Your other option, of course, is Champagne. It can make for a truly elegant experience (and is a bit more user-friendly than vodka). They can get pretty pricey, but if you're feeling tapped out by the caviar purchase, not to worry! There are plenty of great sparkling wines in the $20 range that will match up with it beautifully. Just ask one of our wine guys to help you out with your selection!