Crémant de Bourgogne + Stuffed Dates

Dec 29, 2016 |

popping corks….

Is there a better sound?  Sure, anyone knows the satisfaction that popping lids on jars of preserves makes, yet it just doesn’t quite measure up to the cachet of opening a bottle of bubbly.

Inherently sexy, yet steeped in tradition.  Even the process of opening the bottle is a ritual best savoured.  The foil, the cage and the popping of the cork…it has all the hallmarks of a coming of age and reminds us our Chef’s school days..or daze depending on your perspective!

Lucky to have a handsome, enthusiastic instructor, we stood patiently as we were shown just how to get the thing done.  A collective swoon washed over the class as he explained, “It should be as soft as a lover’s sigh.”  Of course, the diners that evening didn’t exactly have the same, student-led experience, rather a large popping, explosion like eruption.  Regrettably, we believe the mark on the ceiling still exists some 20 years later!

 

 

the pressure….oh the pressure

Imagine yourself opening a bottle of sparkling wine while being judged. To become a sommelier one must complete the sparkling wine service with a passing grade. Remove the cage improperly….lose a point. Allow more than a faint hiss as the cork is removed…lose a point. Drip a bit of wine on the table or god forbid a guest….lose a point. Have the glass bubble over during pouring….lose a point. All the while you are also answering questions about correct service temperature, vintages and cuvées of note and even offering pairing suggestions.

The average amount of pressure inside a typical bottle of bubbly is around 5 to 6 atmospheres which is roughly three times the pressure inside your car’s tire. How many atmospheres of pressure does the average sommelier student feel during their certification exam? Well you only have 8 minutes to get it done all the while you’re wearing an uncomfortable blazer that was bought expressly for the purpose (it’s the bridesmaid’s dress of the sommelier experience…you wear it once then it goes to the back of the closet). It’s a wonder we’ve ever opened another bottle of bubbly again.  Yet we love our bubbles plus they go with just about everything!

So, what to eat in such bubbly, vivacious company?  Something simple because we are all for spontaneous celebrations.  A quick stop at the fancy food market and we scored some sweet Medjool dates, a chunk of Mimolette, and some duck prosciutto; two salty bites destined to keep the dates from being cloyingly sweet.  Strangely, washing these tasty morsels down with bubbles made us think of the best ever grilled cheese sandwich with bacon!  So good!

 

don’t ever let anyone dull your sparkle!

Once upon a time there was only Champagne. The ultimate sparkling wine that made Dom Perignon exclaim ‘come quickly…..I am tasting the stars’.  This mysterious sparkling wine has crowned kings and queens,  launched a thousand ships, toasted countless weddings and rang in the new year time and time again.  It was in the early 17th century, in the cold northeastern region of France called Champagne, tiny bubbles were noticed to have had appeared in the cellared wine. Unknown at that time, an accidental secondary fermentation (caused by the chilly conditions) created carbon dioxide which then become absorbed into the wine, becoming little bubbles and also ticking time bombs. It was not uncommon for bottles to sponataneously explode, causing a chain reaction in the cellar and shattering countless bottles. Le vin du diable, the wine of the devil, it was called and winemakers were desperate to get rid of the bubbles.

 

Thankfully, bubbles were embraced and Champagne has become the official libation of everyday victories and all major celebrations. It was Lily Bollinger of House of Bollinger Champagne that remarked ‘ I drink Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it….unless I’m thirsty‘. We couldn’t agree more Lily! Bubbles should be enjoyed at every occasion. Bubbles are magical. However, let’s be honest…..Champagne is not in our everyday budget. When we are looking for the taste and tradition of Champagne but don’t want to break the bank, our go to is Crémant.

What is Crémant? The word Crémant, describes a sparkling wine made by a certain method and produced in 7 specific regions of France, Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Limoux and Crémant de Loire. The method is the same as that used to produce Champagne; traditional method, whereby a secondary fermentation (prise de mousse) occurs in the bottle. This multi-step, labour intensive production method is the reason Champagne demands such a premium price tag. The time spent in bottle during secondary fermentation is what causes those bubbles to form and allows all those delicious, rich, complex, toasty, bread-like, brioche flavours to develop. Crémant must age a minimum 9 months whereas non-vintage Champagne must age a minimum 12 months.

So when you’re looking to pop some corks but not break the bank, may we suggest Crémant. Most bottles range from $20 to $30 and we feel this is something to toast to! Besides, telling your wine-newbie friends that you brought a lovely Crémant to the party (pronounced cray mahn ….yes that t is silent) will sound pretty cool and impressive!

We opted for a Crémant de Bourgogne from producer, Louis Bouillot. The Perle d’Or is from the Millésimés collection, a noted 2009 vintage. Aromatically complex, opening with fruity, citrusy flavours moving towards buttery, creamy and rich toasted bread flavours.  Dry and crisp with a long finish that helped cleanse the palate between bites. The cuvée is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with the Chardonnay spending 6 months in old oak barrels, adding extra dimension. The blend then spent a further four years aging in bottle undergoing a secondary fermentation, producing fine small bubbles and all that complexity.

Stuffed dates with Mimolette and duck prosciutto

makes 12

Ingredients:

12 Medjool dates, pitted
200 g chunk of Mimolette or another hard aged cheese like Parmigiano or old white cheddar
12 pieces of duck prosciutto (substitute regular prosciutto or Serrano ham)
1 shallot, very thinly sliced
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
pinch of sugar and salt

method:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a small bowl combine the shallots, vinegar, sugar and salt. Allow sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Split the dates open lengthwise, stuff with a small chunk of cheese and few slices of shallot. Pinch to close.
  5. Wrap each date with a slice of prosciutto and place seam side down on prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake until cheese is beginning to ooze and dates smell irresistible, about 8 minutes so don’t walk away!
  7. Each many with abandon.

Mimolette is a French cow’s milk cheese that looks like a cantaloupe, it’s got a vibrant orange interior while the crust looks like the surface of the moon. As with Crémant, the production of Mimolette is steeped in tradition. The intentional introduction of cheese mites creates both the signature rind and the unique flavour. Yep they’re pooping on your cheese and it tastes delicious. There’s some dinner party conversation for ya!

The Verdict 

Crémant is your little black dress. A timeless classic that is ready at a moment’s notice and goes with everything.

Everyday occasions deserve a little luxury. We’re not talking about gangsta bling or bachelor party shenanigans or even Formula One celebrations. When you’ve moved past Baby Duck but are not quite in the market for Dom, let Crémant be your gateway.

Whatever the reason for your everyday victories or even defeats, pop some corks and allow a little sparkle into your life.

our bubbles

Louis Bouillot Perle d'Or Brut Crémant de Bourgogne 2009

Burgundy, France

The Crémant de Bourgogne designation only came into existence in 1975 however the Louis Bouillot name has been associated with Burgundy sparkling wines since 1877. 

Bouillot’s  Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wines have been called the Pearls of Burgundy.

A steal at $24.95 but if you can’t score a bottle, Louis Bouillot’s Perle d’Aurore Brut Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne is a great alternative. Lovely, pink, dry and great value at only $21.95!

There is a great bubbly for every occasion…..from everywhere. Think beyond Champagne and be on the lookout for some of these awesome, affordable alternatives.

Like a good friend…we are just trying to push you outside of your comfort zone.

Live a little and expand your palate.

Cheers! 

SOMM

Christie Pollard

Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers

After 10 years as a restaurateur, culinary instructor and caterer, a trip to France sparked an untapped enthusiasm for all things wine.  I gave up the restaurant life,  made a huge u-turn and dove head first into the vast world of wine.  I have never looked back and achieved my Sommelier certification with the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers in 2015.  I love sharing my pursuit of the perfect pairing in a fun, unfussy and ultimately delicious way with my friends, family and those I teach.

CHEF

Josie Pontarelli

Red Seal Chef, Culinary Instructor

I graduated from the Stratford Chefs School in 1999 and achieved Red Seal Certification shortly thereafter. With this strong foundation laid, an opportunity to spend time in California presented itself. While there, I was intoxicated by the seasonality and quality of the ingredients everywhere I looked. This experience proved to be a turning point for me in how I thought about food. It inspired me to have a deep and enduring respect for the people, food and culture that go into the perfect dish.

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