In our culture, bubbly wines are too often reserved for special occasions or celebrations. But I strongly believe that, first of all, every day should be celebrated just a little bit, and definitely with delicious wine and food–and secondly, sparkling wines can be handcrafted, terroir-expressive wines with incredible flavor and personality. Bubbly is also fun because it comes in so many different forms–pét-nat, true Champagne and methode champenoise, off-dry, etc–and it’s so light and fresh and delicious.
On March 15th, for one night only, I’m pairing up with chef Nick Korbee at Egg Shop in Nolita, for a special 5-course meal featuring exceptional sparkling wines, with dishes paired to go with them. (Yes, we chose the wines first, and then decided on the dishes!) It’s going to be a lot of fun–the perfect mid-week, and mid-March, pick-up–and I’d love to see you there. Tickets can be purchased via this EventBrite link; there are two seatings but space is very limited, so act quickly. If you’re the kind of person who likes to dine solo (like me!), you’ll enjoy the spots at the bar, and you can high five me as I run around the restaurant like a crazy person with magnums of Gamay rosé. Oh, and there will be a special welcome cocktail, too, courtesy of Boukman Rhum. See you there on the 15th!
Something that’s kept me going through this extremely disheartening and terrifying political situation we’ve found ourselves in, over the past few months, has been the knowledge that I had an upcoming trip to France. France, of course, has its own challenges and is now also in the midst of a corruption-inflected election cycle—but exploring the wine regions is a direct affirmation of the power of culture to persist, even in these times.
While the world seems to be crumbling under its own weight, small-production winemakers are managing to find better and better ways to work with terroir and deliver the most beautiful, purest juice. It’s inspiring to see people do something very well, with all the care they can muster, simply because it brings joy to them and others.
I started the trip in Champagne, and while my time there was short, it was also very productive—thanks to my friend the Champagne expert Peter Liem, who arranged some very special visits with growers. My appreciation of terroir-driven Champagne has grown enormously over the last six months, and I’m eager to learn more and more. Next, I took at 7:30am train out of Champagne to meet the Jenny & François crew in the Loire Valley, where a series of large wine fairs—La Dive Bouteille, famously held in the dramatic underground caves of Saumur; the biodynamic-focused Renaissance that Nicolas Joly organizes; Thierry Puzelat’s Les Penitentes; and Les Anonymes, which we didn’t make it to—took place over the course of three days. We visited a few producers around Angers—the legendary Olivier Cousin; and young Etienne Courtois—plus Renaud Guettier in the Coteaux du Loir further up north.
Some people in the industry have been attending these wine fairs for many years, and they complain about how big and difficult to navigate they’ve become, but for me as a first-timer, the whole experience was completely magical. It was especially satisfying to see that the 2016 Loire Valley wines, after an extremely difficult growing season resulting in drastically low yields, are wonderful—very nice concentration, flavor and acidity—despite being scarce.
After the tastings, I spent a few days in Paris, dropping too much money in restaurants seeing friends who live there, and stumbling around the beautiful pharmacies, shops, and cafés on the Rue de Martyrs.
I feel very privileged to be able to do all this, given that certain populations of the world are arbitrarily having their mobility restricted. In recent months, I’ve found myself wishing that I wrote about something besides wine and food and cocktails, so that I could feel like my words could form part of the resistance. But on this recent trip in France, I remembered that joy and pleasure are also vital parts of human existence; and I reflected on how the fight for terroir—to keep land healthy and chemical-free, and to discover the possibilities of soil and viticulture—is also a political act. A small one, yes—but small, in a world where lust and greed have gotten completely out of control, is exceptionally beautiful.
At the moment, I’m fighting off jet-lag with the help of some very good French melatonin, and sorting through material and thinking about stories to pitch and blog posts to write based on this trip. More to come soon.
We are all going to need a lot of wine this holiday season, yes? It’s time for some really good bubbly. Try one of the bottles I’ve recommended for Vogue.com, and make sure to pop that cork nice and loud to give a big F-YOU to a terrible, emotional year; here’s hoping for a better one. Read my recommendations for holiday sparklers on Vogue.com, here.
Happy holidays, and THANK YOU to all of you who actually take the time to read (or help with) my work, who send feedback, who have said clinked glasses with me at events or perhaps even poured me a glass. Really, truly, thank you.
After following the orange wine trail around L.A. last month, I wrote about some of the highlights of that city’s wine scene, as well as about orange wine in general, for MUNCHIES. Read here.
And over on Vogue.com, I share some recommendations for special, delicious, but not extremely expensive wines that will definitely impress whatever company you’re keeping over the holidays. Read here.
The wine pictured here is not mentioned in the story (and this photo was taken at June Bar in Brooklyn, not in L.A.), but it is a very delicious orange wine made of Sauvignon Blanc, from Sepp Muster in Austria.
If you’ve ever had the chance to taste really good Champagne, you are undoubtedly aware of how special, terroir-driven, historical, and complex this famous bubbly wine from Northern France can be. There are some bad Champagnes out there, true, but with a bit of research it’s remarkably easy to find extraordinary Champagnes from growers and houses alike, in the $45-55 range at a good retail store.
Two great ways to learn more about Champagne: (1) buy the wonderful new book, But First Champagne,by the Washington DC-based writer David White; he spent time in the region getting to know producers of all sorts, and the book is written in a way that’s very approachable, no matter your level of knowledge. If you like picking up a special bottle of Champagne from time to time and enjoying it with dinner–because Champagne is not just for celebrations!–then you’ll appreciate having this book at home.
(2) go to the Fête du Champagne! Generally speaking, this event (taking place in New York, various events Nov 3-6, grand tasting Nov 5 at the Metropolitan Pavilion) is mostly geared toward those who already drink quite a bit of Champagne. But there is a very cool seminar on offer with Champagne expert Peter Liem, for just $95, that will basically survey the region through six wines, which I’m sure will include some special selections.
If you do live in New York, check out the Fête, and I’ll see you at the Grand Tasting! Also, it’s a nice way to get your palate primed for RAW Wine fair, Nov 6-7–but more about that to come! Check back here next week for a profile of RAW founder Isabelle Legeron, an overview of RAW, and a listing of events (i.e. after-parties and ticketed dinners) with RAW producers. Meanwhile, I’m off to buy some liver-cleansing vitamins, to prepare.
Fall’s crisp weather makes me thirsty for really great wine–and I don’t mean expensive, fancy wine. Just drinkable, tasty juice that I know will pair well with excellent food and company.
I’m sure you feel the same way. That’s why I asked the good people of San Francisco and New York’s sommelier worlds to chime in on my latest piece for Vogue.com, sharing the wines they are most excited to drink this fall–in their own words. It’s a pretty stellar list, and nothing is too expensive or difficult to find. So read the story here, and get drinking! Cheers.
Catching up on updating this site with some of my recent coverage!
I wrote about the deliciousness that is Picpoul, a truly underrated grape / appellation, for Food Republic. There are, in my mind, three white wines that are truly knock-out with oysters (excluding the whole sparkling category): Chablis, Muscadet, and Picpoul. And guess what–Picpoul is waaaaaay cheaper than the other two! So, if you’re as broke as me but still like white wine and oysters, you need to read about Picpoul. Plus, the article involves someone aging wine underwater. Read here.
And over on Vine Pair, where I have a weekly column, I explored the question of whether that notorious monk Dom Perignon actually cribbed the whole methode champenoisefrom an appellation in Southern France! Plus, there’s just some good sparkling wine info, which is always helpful since bubbles are somehow way more complicated than they seem. (Every time I think I know all the ways of making sparkling wine, I learn about a new one.) Read here.
Along these same lines (as in, Southern France themed), I sang the praises of dark-hued rosé for Vine Pair. Read here.
and soon you’ll be hearing all about mezcal because I just got back from an amazing trip to Oaxaca! I had the pleasure of joining a group of raucous mixologists from around the country for a few days with El Silencio, and then spent time doing independent journalism because even though I believe that balance is importance to telling a good story, and you can’t really get that from visiting one producer only. Hasta pronto!