Maybe it’s quarantine madness or just the realization that we need to celebrate each moment as it comes, but I seem to have had a lot of bubbly in my glass of late. So when I saw that the June #Winophiles topic was “Unexpected Pleasures in Champagne,” I knew I had just the thing.
A Little Champagne Background
Almost all of us that drink champagne know that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the primary grapes from which it is made. And many also realize that Pinot Meunier is quite prevalent in Champagne. But what a lot of folks do not realize is that Champagne law permits seven different grape1 varieties to be used in Champagne production. In addition to the well-known Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier varieties, Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are also permitted to be used in champagne. Admittedly they make up a small percentage of total paintings at 0.3%2 but they are out there nonetheless. And given the small plantings, it is indeed special to be able to find these varietals in champagne.
NV Laherte Freres Les 7 Extra Brut, Champagne, France
When I came across the NV Laherte Freres Les 7 Extra Brut Champagne at a local shop here in Houston3 and learned what it was, I was intrigued and had to get a bottle.
The wine is so named not only because it is one of those rare champagne bottlings that contains all seven permitted varieties, but also because the house is in its 7th generation with Aurélien Laherte at the helm. The seven varietals are represented as follows: 18% Chardonnay, 18% Meunier, 17% Pinot Blanc, 15% Petit Meslier, 14% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Gris, and 8% Arbanne. The Laherte Freres champagne is also interesting because it comes from a solera of sorts, with a continuous blend of each vintage since 2005. Each bottling is a blend of 60% of the current vintage and 40% of the solera. And the dosage is pretty low at 4 g/l.
As the varietals were pretty evenly represented, I could not say that one dominated more than the other. But what a gorgeous, balanced wine with fine bubbles and nice structure along with toast, hazelnuts, green pear, and lemon lime. Linear and taught with abundant minerality, depth of flavor, and a long finish. It is wines like this that keep me coming back for champagne over and over again.
The Pairing – Smoked Chilean Sea Bass
It’s grilling season and we put just about anything on the grill, whether it’s the gas grill or the smoker. A couple of weeks ago it was hot dogs with first level toppings paired with Sangiovese. Interestingly enough, some effin’ wine snob got all judgmental about pairing wine with hot dogs. Like really dude? People like him are precisely the reason I added my voice to wine. Drink your wine with whatever the f*ck you want! I said what I said. Anywho…
This time around, I was in the mood for fish. And since I’m borderline obsessed with the smoker (like I want to put everything on it), we decided to cook some Chilean sea bass on it. The fish was marinated for a couple of hours and cooked in an herbed garlic citrus marinade. And some buttah of course! It went into the smoker for about 30 minutes and was So.Darn.Good! Even better was that Thing 1 loved it! Every time I get a kid to love something seafood based, I count it as a parenting win. Thing 1 is also into chargrilled oysters and Thing 2 loves sushi and shrimp cooked in every way imaginable. At least part of my parenting is working out. Maybe…
As for the pairing, I’m counting this one as a win. Chilean sea bass is a fattier type of fish with a firm, rich white flesh, and melt in your mouth flavor. Add in some citrus and butter and it’s the thing of champagne dreams. The racy acidity that we love about champagne was great at taming the fattiness and buttery richness of the fish. A successful paring all around.
Be sure to check out what champagne gems my fellow #Winophiles are popping:
- From Martin: “Champagne Drappier’s Blanc de Quatre Blancs; A Taste of Champagne’s White Heirloom Grape Varieties” www.enofylzwineblog.com aka @martindredmond
- From Cam: “Pour un Pique-Nique Sur le Patio: Roasted Citrus Tart + Jacquart Brut Mosaique” on Culinary Adventures with Camilla https://culinary-adventures-with-cam.blogspot.com/ aka @Culinary_Cam
- From Cindy: “A Stroke of Serendipity – Discovering Champagne Louis Brochet Brut 1er Cru in London” aka @GrapeExp_Cindy on grape-experiences.com
- From Nicole: “A Super Fancy Pants Grilled Cheese Pairing: Salmon Caviar Croque-Monsieur with Charles Dufour Bulles de Comptoir 6 La Benjamine 2.0 Champagne” on SommsTable.com
- From Robin: “Champagne & BBQ, Chartogne-Taillet meets Rollin’ Smoke” aka @CrushGrapeChron at https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/
- From Terry: “Champagne and Sticky Asian Chicken Thighs: Whoa!” on Our Good Life Www.terristeffes.com
- From Jeff: “The Polar Opposite of House Style at Champagne Coessens” on “Food Wine Click!” https://foodwineclick.com/ aka @Foodwineclick
- From Susannah: “Falling In Love with Champagne: My First Visit to a Wine region” on avvinare
- From Sue and Gwendolyn: “Two Days of Unexpected Pleasures in Champagne: Day One” and “Day Two” on winepredator.com aka @artpredator