When it comes to sparkling wine, let’s just say I’m not picky. No matter the bottle, grape or region, something about the first taste of those bubbles always feels luxurious. Since I’m hosting a big New Year’s Eve bash this year, I’ve literally got “15 bottles of Champagne” on the list for my next grocery trip… and that doesn’t include the the bubbly I’ll be mixing into the punch and cocktails. That said, I thought it high time I got a little more educated about everyone’s favorite fizzy drink. So with the entire Camille Styles crew in tow, we headed out to the ultra-chic new Goodall’s Bar in the luxurious Hotel Ella, where we met Alyson Anderson of Republic National Distributing Company to guide us through Champagne Tasting 101. The champagne was flowing, the hors d’oeuvres were top notch, and we all walked away from the evening feeling just a bit more prepared for December 31st festivities. Click through for the gorgeous photos by Kate Lesueur!
The great thing about sparkling wine is that is goes with everything, so you don’t have to stress about making any “wrong” food pairings.
Goodall’s passed around delicious pan fried risotto cakes with asparagus tips and truffle oil.
Goodall’s Bar & Kitchen is located in the luxurious and modern Hotel Ella in Austin’s historic Wooten Mansion. I can’t think of a more glamorous bar in town, and it’s the perfect place to sip bubbly and ring in the new year.
We tasted six different sparkling wines. Five of the six were made in the Champagne region of France (meaning they are actually Champagne), and the sixth was from California.
The right way to open a bottle of sparkling wine: Firmly hold the bottle by the punt (the glass cavity at the bottom of the bottle — every bottle is made with this to control pressure) at a 45 degree angle. Remove the foil and the wire cage from the top of the bottle, and rather than twisting the cork, you gently, yet firmly, twist the bottle. When the cork comes out, you want it to be as quiet as possible.
The cool way to open a bottle of sparkling wine: With a saber! Hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle, then firmly and quickly slide the knife down the neck of the bottle. This should leave such a clean cut that you can drink out of the bottle. Needless to say, leave this technique to the experts, folks!
Nicolas Feuillate Brut. A great value wine that delivers wonderful, complex flavors. This champagne is a rich and creamy blend of three varietals (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay) and boasts flavors like dried fruit, lemon meringue, quince and honey, and clean citrusy acidity.
Pour like a pro: Insert thumb into the punt, and without touching the edge of the glass, pour a little sparkling wine, then stop. Then pour a little more, and stop. Do this until the glass is filled halfway. The reason for pouring a little bit at a time? It allows the bubbles to express themselves.
In addition to the risotto cakes, we also devoured popcorn with garlic, black pepper and salt and some super tasty sweet potato fries.
GH Mumm Cordon Rouge. This classic blend is the official champagne of many prestigious sports events such as Formula One, where winners receive special edition magnum bottles on the podium to celebrate with (and spray everywhere). This firm and lively champagne has toasty aromas and flavors, and a lingering finish.
When tasting, put your nose into the glass and smell, you can swirl a bit, but beware of over-swirling, as this causes the bubbles to go away.
Piper Heidsieck 1785 Brut. Bruts are the driest wines, and the grapes for this rose are sourced from 60 different vineyards in Champagne, giving it a complex profile. The tasting notes: yeasty, herb-tinged and toasty.
Schramsberg Blanc De Blanc. Our one non-French taste of the evening is this all-American sparkling wine. Citrus flavors make this wine food friendly, so while this can be enjoyed by itself as an apéritif, it’s also great with oysters, ceviche, grilled sea bass and other seafood. Or serve with aged Gouda or hard cheeses and as a counterpoint to soft triple creams.
Fun fact: Richard Nixon toasted with this wine in his historic “Toast to Peace” in 1972, when he was the first US president to go to China.
Perrier Joüet Grand Brut. A multi-vintage with the best that Perrier Joüet has to offer year after year. Look for notes of orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, plus sweet aromas of apple, pear and citrus, then lingering with notes of toast and butter on the finish.
Perrier Joüet Nuit Blanch. Released in 2013, this dessert wine is the newest member of the Perrier Joüet family. It’s a sweeter option than the Grand Brut, yet offers the same elegant structure but with a more rich and creamy fruit feel.
Here’s hoping your New Year’s Eve is overflowing with bubbly… cheers!