Tag Archives: Brut

This Week on the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© Pairing Wine And Food Made Simple

Check out the radio show on The Trail 103.3FM and U 104.5FM.  The live stream feed is online at www.trail1033.com where you can click on “Listen Live”.  The WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© airs on both radio stations Sunday mornings at 11:00AM MST.

It’s 2013 — welcome back to the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show©.  I decided on today’s show topic as it occurred to meet late in 2012 how important relationships are, something I have always known of course.  But I took a moment to reflect on just how important it is in this chaotic world to take a moment, no matter how busy I am, for friends and family.

One of the ways that I do this in my life is to share wine and food with you, my friends on air and also through wine tastings and intimate dinners with friends and family.  Interestingly enough today’s show is all about pairing wines and food so we will be talking about balance which is also the point of today’s commentary for the New Year, finding a balanced and more harmonious lifestyle.

In approaching the topic of pairing wine and food let’s remember the number one rule on the WineGuyMike show, we have no rules.  All kidding aside this is a great guideline to be bound by no rules, but I will say when a wine is well paired with a meal it is a bite of nirvana.

There is much mystique and some draconian like attitude surrounding wine and food pairing, this can be unfortunate.  The hard-line approach is sometimes common amongst want to be wine experts and myopically focused sommeliers. Pairing wine and food should be fun, exciting, and a little challenging as you are thinking about a preparation for a special social gathering albeit large or small and intimate.  I am not suggesting that considering a few very common sense guidelines will not enhance your enjoyment of wine and food because it will.  My encouragement is to not over think this process, consider your guest(s), and to enjoy the moment.

When one considers wine and food thinking about balance is helpful. The balance of both weight and texture of wine and food is a good place to start when determining what wine works best with what food.  Here are a few other things to think about when choosing a wine too:

  • What wine do you like to drink?  Perhaps more important what type of wine does your guest like to drink?  Finding the right wine amongst two friends in itself is an act of pairing, is it not?
  • Consider the texture of the food, is it heavy or light?  Is it a rich or light dish?
  • How is the food prepared, has it been Grilled, Baked, or Sautéed?
  • What about sauce? Sauce has a significant impact on food, is there a gravy, crème or tomato sauce in addition to the food itself?

In considering balance, and in this case I’m referring to weight and texture of the main food entrée and the weight and texture of the wine, I will be choosing the appropriate wine to serve with my dinner.  What is my method of food preparation?  Am I dining in a restaurant?  This too can be a double edged sword as my guest more than likely will be ordering something very different than I will.  So now I have to find a wine that is suitable for both meals, or if the establishment serves wines by the glass and I know their wines have been handled correctly that will be an option for choosing the right wine with the entrée.

Here are a couple more things to consider while contemplating the most appropriate wine to serve with dinner.  Just as foods have texture and firmness wines also have a quality of texture and weight.  Remember we are looking for balance and synergy between wine and the foods they are paired with.  A big robust full bodied wine bold on texture should not be paired with delicate dishes, nor should they be paired with a food dish that is big on flavor.  Big wine and big flavor just don’t work well together, we are looking for that simple harmony between food and wine, not a power struggle.  Mild food dishes do well when they are paired with a wine that is medium to light in body.

What then are some of the basic parameters to consider when pairing wine and food?  When choosing wine the preference is medium to lighter bodied wines that have a balance of fruit and acid, have soft supple tannin qualities, and have moderate alcohol levels.  The best white wine to use in pairing wine and food are Pinot Gris or, as it is known in Italy Pinot Grigio, and Chenin Blanc.  Both of these white wines have a great fruit profile and the acid is a little higher than other grapes and the acid is what brings out the flavor so wonderfully in food.

When it comes to red wines there are a couple of things to consider.  Just like your white wines medium to light bodied wines are best when pairing with food along with the other attributes I just mentioned.  The red varietals that will always work great with food are; Barbera, Gamay, and Pinot Noir.  There is a new wine on the block too that works very well with food, Frappato.  This grape is a native Sicilian grape that is in favor with cult wine drinkers who enjoy pairing wine and food.   Another good rule of thumb to remember with red wines is that if they are light enough to see through in a glass they will work with food fairly well.

In closing I would like you to remember to consider what is really important, the relationship with your dinner partner or guests and please don’t over think the wine and food pairing.  It’s just not that complicated or important, you should enjoy what you and your guest(s) like.  I want to wish all of my listeners an a New Year filled with thoughtful relationships, and good health.  With this thought in mind I toast to you.

Be sure to check out the blog at WineGuyMike.com for my wine suggestions and if you live in Missoula be sure to visit Liquid Planet for your ultimate wine shopping experience.  I’ll see you on the radio friends.

For a great selection of wines to pair you food with be sure to visit Liquid Planet, Missoula’s “Best of Beverage”, located in the Heart of Downtown Missoula.

The  wines suggested today receive the WineGuyMike™ Seal of Approval™   www.wineguymike.com is your wine resource.

From my table to yours,



YouTube; My YouTube channel of course is WineGuyMike™ or the actual URL link: http://www.youtube.com/user/WineGuyMike?feature=mhum

Facebookhttp://on.fb.me/hvHsil please “like”

Twitter; https://twitter.com/WineGuyMike

Todays podcast on pairing wine and food; http://trail1033.podbean.com/2013/01/06/wine-guy-mike-for-january-6/

This weeks WineGuyMike YouTube preview on pairing wine and food; http://youtu.be/DAcXPbZr0TI

Last Weeks podcast on Champagne and Sparkling Wines; http://trail1033.podbean.com/2012/12/30/wine-guy-mike-for-december-30/

Recent podcast with wine visionary David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyard; http://trail1033.podbean.com/2012/12/23/wine-guy-mike-for-december-23rd/

Recent podcast featuring Christophe Hedges of Hedges Family Estate; http://www.trail1033.com/Podcasts/Podcast-Wine-Guy-Mike-for-December-9-554603

YouTube preview for this week’s show featuring David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyard; http://youtu.be/i8cwHoT0Dpk

Recent podcast; (full length conversation) with Maximilian Riedel, CEO Riedel Crystal of America http://trail1033.podbean.com/2012/06/24/wine-guy-mike-for-june-24/

NBC Montana Today TV Segment; Perfect Patio Wines and food pairing; http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/Mike-Tornatore-8-7-12/-/14594602/15999458/-/67a5ri/-/index.html


Champagne and Sparkling Wines, “All You Need To Know”


This week WineGuyMike™ writes all about all things bubbly for your New Year Celebration and understanding the differences between Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Cava, Prosecco, and Spumante.  In this post, I am also suggesting sparkling wines in a variety of price ranges that offer the consumer value.

What is the difference between Champagne and Sparkling wine?  Sparkling wines and champagne are still wines that have been infused with carbonation. True Champagne is made in France will be noted by the capital letter “C” on the label.  Other sparkling wines called Champagne will be designated as “champagne”, notice no capitalization. Three grapes are used in Champagne, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.  It’s white because only the juice of the grapes is used.

The four methods of Sparkling wine production:

1. Carbon Dioxide Injection – soft drinks and inexpensive sparkling wines are produced using this method.  It produces large bubbles that dissipate quickly.

2. Charmat Process – wine undergoes a second fermentation in large bulk tanks and is bottled under pressure.  Prosecco and Asti are produced utilizing this method, smaller longer lasting bubbles result from this method.  Many Sparkling wines are made using this method.

3. Méthode Champenoise – this process takes place in the bottle and requires hands on attention.  During the second fermentation, the carbon dioxide stays in the bottle and this is where the bubbles come from.

4. Transfer Method – the cuvee is bottled for the second fermentation which adds complexity.  But the wine is then removed and stored in large tanks after it has spent the appropriate amount of time on yeast.


The Champagne region of France not only produces some of the finest sparkling wines in the world but some of the finest wines in the world too.  Typically there are three grapes used in the blend for sparkling wines; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.  Different vintages are used to create the blend or better known as the “Cuvee”.

Champagne is expensive due to the traditional method of how it is made, Methode Champenoise and techniques known as second fermentation.  This process takes place in the bottle and requires hands-on attention.

Pink Champagne or sparkling Rose is strained through the Pinot Noir grape skins, truly a delight.  Methode Champenoise is the true French fermentation process.  The wine is fermented twice, once in an oak barrel, and the second time the wine develops carbonation in the bottle while aging a minimum of one year.

Blanc de Blancs is true French Champagne, it is produced entirely from the Chardonnay grape.  Blanc de Blancs fermented using the Methode Champenoise process, producing white Champagne.

Designations of quality:

Prestige Cuvee

This Champagne is the highest priced and is available only in small quantities.  It is designated “Prestige” because the grapes come from the best grapes from the highest rated villages, it is made from the first pressing of the grapes, produced only as a vintage, and will have been aged longer than vintage and non-vintage Champagnes.

Vintage Champagne

Some select years produce an outstanding grape harvest.  The Vintage Champagnes are aged for at least three years.  Here is an example of a few companies who produce these Vintage Champagnes; Veuve Clicquot, Perrier-Jouet, Moet & Chandon, and Taittinger.

Remember a Vintage Champagne will be identified by an actual year marked on the label, but expect to pay a premium for this.

Non-Vintage Champagne

The majority of Sparkling wine on the shelf of a store is non-vintage.  These are a blend of wines aged for two years.

How to Select your Champagne:

■Brut is Dry

■Extra Dry is Semidry

■Sec is Semisweet

■Demi-sec is Sweet

Quality Champagne Cellars:

Ayala, Billecart-Salmon, J. Bollinger, Canard-Duchene, Deutz, Charles Heidsieck, Heid Sieck Monopole, Henriot, Krug, Lanson, Laurent Perrier, Mercier, Moet & Chandon, Mumm Perrier-Jouet, Joseph Perrier, Piper Heidsieck, Pol Roger, Pommery, Louis Roederer, Ruinart, Salmon, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot

All things are not at equal when it comes to sparkling wines and Champagne.  So what makes all of these types of sparkling wines different?  The answer is how they are made, the type of grapes, and the yeasts that are used in fermentation and left behind in the bottle to age with the sparkling wines.

There are 2-3 elements of wine that create aroma and flavor.  The first element is the fruit, and the second is the yeast used to ferment the wine.  Fruit and yeast combine during fermentation to produce aroma and flavor or sense of taste.  The third influence upon the wine in your glass may be from an oak influence during the wines aging process.

Other sparkling Wine Regions:

Loire Valley of France produces Crémant, while the Asti region of Italy produces Asti Spumanti, and Prosecco comes from the Veneto region.  The Catalonia region of Spain produces the world’s most popular sparkling wine, Cava.  Quality sparkling wines made in Italy are made by the Metodo Classico process or what the French refer to as Methode Champenoise.

Prosecco is an Italian wine, generally a dry sparkling wine, usually made from grape variety Glera, which is also known as Prosecco.  The Veneto region of Italy is where Glera/ Prosecco is grown and produced.

Prosecco is mainly produced as a sparkling wine in either the fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante, gentile) styles.  Prosecco spumante, which has undergone a full secondary fermentation, is the more expensive style.  The various sparkling wines may contain some Pinot Bianco or Pinot Grigio wine.  Depending on their sweetness, Proseccos are labeled “brut”, “extra dry”, or “dry”, with the brut being the driest.

Unlike Champagne, Prosecco does not ferment in the bottle consequently the wine goes off or gets old quickly and should be drunk as young as possible, preferably within one year.

Prosecco is Italy’s answer to refreshing, well-made, sparkling wine that is low in alcohol, about 11 to 12 percent by volume.  Created from predominately Prosecco grapes in the northern Veneto region of Italy in the foothills of the Alps.  Prosecco is light, affordable, and fun.  This Sparkling wine is aromatic and crisp, with nuances of yellow apple, citrus, pear, white peach, and apricot.  Today’s Proseccos tend to be dry and very bubbly and typically will present itself as light, fresh, with an initial intense bouquet/aroma, but simple and straightforward compared to Champagne.

Prosecco is made using the Charmat method rather than the Champagne method, the French method of making sparkling wine.  The Charmat method is a second fermentation in pressurized tanks rather than in individual bottles.  The shorter, tank fermentation is preferable for Prosecco because it preserves the freshness and the flavor of the grapes.

Asti Spumante is a sweet sparkling wine.  It is produced in the province of Asti and made from the Moscato grape.  Spumante is a fruit forward sparkling wine that is grapy, and has a low alcohol content usually around 8%.  Moscato d’Asti is a sparkling wine that is frizzante in style and for my palette I find these wines to be more refined than the Asti Spumante.

Cava originated in the Catalonia region at the in the late 19th century.  Originally the wine was known as Champaña until Spanish producers officially adopted the term “Cava” (cellar) in 1970.  Cava wines are fermented and aged in the bottle in underground cellars.   Today 95% of Spain’s total Cava production is from Catalonia.

Cava is produced in different styles ranging from dry to sweet; Brut Nature, Brut (extra dry), Seco (dry), Semiseco (medium) and Dulce (sweet).  Under Spanish Denominación de Origen laws, Cava can be produced in six wine regions and must be made according to the Traditional Method with second fermentation in the bottle.  The grapes used to produce Cava are Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo, Chardonnay, Pinot noir, and Malvasia.  The Chardonnay grape is a latecomer to the scene despite being a traditional grape used to produce Champagne.  It was not introduced in the production of Cava until the 1980s.

In order for the wines to be called ‘Cava’, they must be made in the traditional Méthode Champenoise.  Wines made via the low-cost Charmat process may only be called ‘Spanish sparkling wine’.   A rosé style of Cava is also produced by adding in small amounts of red wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha or Monastrell to the wine.

Cava made by the Champagne method is a very acceptable alternative to French champagne.  Cava is usually made by the Coupage method, whereby must, a.k.a.(grape juice) from different grape varieties are subjected to the first fermentation which is blended until it is consistent with the wine that the winemaker wants to produce.  After the Coupage, the wine is put into bottles and yeast and sugar added.  It is then cellared for the second fermentation and aging.

Crémant is produced in the Loire Valley of France and is the largest producer of sparkling wines outside of the Champagne region.  Crémant has to be aged for at least one year and it is handpicked.  The producers are also limited as to how much can be harvested, this all according to the French A.O.C.

There are seven French appellations that carry the Crémant designation in their name:

1.Crémant d’Alsace

2.Crémant de Bordeaux

3.Crémant de Bourgogne

4.Crémant de Die

5.Crémant du Jura

6.Crémant de Limoux

7.Crémant de Loire

Crémant de Loire’s are a blend of the Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Cabernet Franc.  In Burgundy, Crémant de Bourgogne must be composed of at least thirty percent Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris while Aligoté is often used to complement the blend.  The Languedoc region in the south of France produces Crémant de Limoux.  This Sparkling wine is produced from the indigenous grape Mauzac, with Chenin blanc, and Chardonnay rounding out the wine in small amounts.

The Crémant Sparkling Wines are pressurized less than Champagne and therefore have a larger looser bubble as a result.

California Sparkling Wines:

Sparkling wines from California use a few grape varietals such as Berger and Chenin Blanc to blend with the traditional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.

Producers to look for in California; Hacienda, Domain Laurier, Roederer Estate, Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon, Codorniu-Napa, Iron Horse, Jordan, Mumm-Cuvee Napa, and Schramsberg.

Remember the name “Champagne” can only be used in Europe on bottles that actually are produced in the Champagne region of France.

As a consumer, you now are empowered by the information WineGuyMike™ has shared with you.  I would like to wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

From my table to yours,