Champagne… deciphering a wine label part 2

Interesting information about Grand Cru and Premier Cru…


In our previous post on deciphering a wine label, we tackled: who makes the Champagne, how the Champagne is made, and what type of grapes are used.  In this follow-on post, we will look at non-vintage vs. vintage, dry / off-dry / sweet levels, and rating designations (Grand Cru and Premier Cru).

Vintage vs. Non-vintage?

What’s the difference between non-vintage (typically noted on the bottle with “NV”) and vintage Champagne?  Let’s take a look:

  • Non-vintage (NV)  – Non-vintage Champagne represent the house style of a Champagne producer.  It is the winemaker’s job to ensure the Champagne tastes consistent release after release (typically by blending still wines from different years to create the right flavor before starting the second fermentation in the bottle).  If you find a NV Champagne you like, you know you can buy this NV Champagne from the same producer year-in and year-out and get the same flavor…

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Champagne… deciphering the wine label

Good info about champagne bottle labels…


So here you are at the Champagne section of your local wine shop surrounded by an array of bottles.  You pick one up and look at it, then go to the next.  What’s difference between the two?  You can tell a lot about a Champagne just based on what is on the label.  Let’s take a look!

This is the second post in our Sparkling Series and here we will be deciphering a Champagne label.

First thing, make sure this is a true Champagne – see our previous post on the name Champagne: What’s in a name?  Bubbly, Sparkling, Champagne… .

Deciphering a Champagne Label


The Champagne house or producer (also known as winery) is prominently displayed front and center on the label.  Each Champagne house does have it’s own style, so once you find one you like you may want to try their entire line-up or look for other producers with…

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Uncle Mikey’s Pizza And Italy’s Satin Bubbles


Recently we had the pleasure of dining at Uncle Mikey’s Brick Oven Pizza in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina where we met the owner Mike. He invited us back to his kitchen where he prepares fabulous dishes using recipes that have been in the family for 50 years including hand-tossed pizza that was DELIZIOSO!

 Photos of Mike tossing the pizza dough up in the air…


We ordered Uncle Mikey’s Special Pizza with pepperoni, ham, meatballs, green pepper, mushrooms and onion.  Very generous toppings!


Pairings for pizza traditionally call for beer and Italian red wine. If you are a traditionalist, please stick to your favorite beer or wine pairing with pizza. But, if you are like me and enjoy bubbly with any food, enjoy a glass of Prosecco with pizza.  Prosecco is produced in Italy so it’s a natural choice to pair with Italian dishes. Another fabulous sparkling to serve with Italian food is Satèn style of Franciacorta.


Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Satèn 2011

$40 range. Franciacorta sparkling wine, produced just outside the Italian fashion capital Milan. The Italian word for “silk” is “satèn” and this sparkling is true to its name ~ silky smooth.

Refreshingly bone dry with a creamy finish. Made from 100% chardonnay grapes, this bubbly aged on the lees for 30 months.   In Italy the Satèn style of Franciacorta represents “white wine made from white grapes”, known as “Blanc de Blanc” in other wine regions.

I was very happy to learn that the Satèn style sparkling wines are made in the metodo classico tradition (the same method used to make champagne) resulting in lots of happy bubbles in the glass!

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Chocolate And Sparkling Wine Pairings For Valentine’s Day!



Valentine table on set of WSLS Daytime Blue Ridge Television…

Chocolate and Champagne Pairing

All sparkling wines listed in this post are under $20 per bottle!


RIVAROSE in Salon de Provence …  The lacy label is so pretty! Produced in the southern Rhône Valley, fresh with notes of strawberry and raspberry made from Syrah and Grenache grapes.

Love pink sparkly wine for Valentine’s Day!


Duc d’O White Chocolate Truffles with Strawberry ~ perfect pairing with RIVAROSE!


 Pierre Sparr Crémant Brut Réserve

Cremant is where it’s at! The word refers to sparkling wines made in France that come from specific regions; specifically NOT from Champagne. Cremants are a great way to start to learn the rules of which grapes grow in which regions: Cremant d’Alsace (Pinot Blanc), Cremant de Bourgogne (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), Cremant de Loire (Chenin Blanc), Cremant de Limoux (Mauzac!), and on and on and on. Oftentimes, you’re getting similar quality and on-par deliciousness without the scary price tags that come with Champagne.” —Theresa Paopao (Ribelle) Boston, MA

Notes of biscotti, almond, lemon make this sparkling wine a perfect pairing with Baylee’s Best Lemonade Chocolates (tastes like you are biting into a fresh lemon dipped in rich dark chocolate).


Chandon Rosé

The strawberry and ripe cherry flavors in this California sparkling wine pair perfectly with Fine Champagne Truffles and Milk Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries.




Happy Valentine’s Day!

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A Dozen Rosés = A Bubbly Bouquet

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Please find here a bouquet of a dozen carefully selected Rosés, any of which will add a thrillingly pink sparkle to your Valentine’s Day.

MercatBrutRoseLargeMERCAT Brut Rosé Cava, Penedes, NV ($14.89)
A blend of 40% Macabeo, 40% Xarel-lo and 5% Parellada with 5% red Monastrell (aka Mourvedre) (all 15-40 year old vines) aged 18 months and disgorged to order with a final dosage to 0.75 residual sugar.     Pale-salmon-orange color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-light-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and light phenolics. Fine fruit-toast sparkling wine nose. Clean but slightly earthy with red fruit essence and enough citrus to keep it balanced. Delicious, fresh, mineral. Enough toast. Lovely balance. Delicious. BearScore: 92.

FRANÇOIS LABET Rosé, Crémant de Bourgogne, NV ($15.99)
From the owner of Ch. de la Tour in Clos Vougeot comes this methode champenoise Rosé sparkler made from 100% Pinot Noir grown in Burgundy.    Copper-pink in color, fully sparkling; just…

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Supernatural Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Paired With Raclette


Saturday night was full of bubbly fun.  Our small plates dinner began with one of my favorite appetizers: Smoked Trout Dip With Sweet Onion Vinaigrette…here’s the recipe from Food and Wine Magazine:

We paired the smoked trout dip with a rosé champagne ~ Champagne Louis De Sacy Brut Rosé Grand Cru and served the dip with rustic potato chips. This champagne is in the $60 range. Lovely salmon pink color. Notes of toasted almond and brioche. Creamy and balanced with the freshness of rich ripe fruit.



And then a  pleasant surprise..Supernatural Sauvignon Blanc 2014…so different than traditional New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc…

Traditional New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc…wine aficionados either love it or hate it. Personally I hate it.  I usually find New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to be grassy and green bell peppery and why would anyone put that in a glass?

But, the  Supernatural wine had such a cool label…I just had to try it!



The Supernatural (the name refers to the estate’s viticultural practices) is farmed organically, vinified naturally and estate grown in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Hawke’s Bay is one of New Zealand’s warmest, driest regions and this has made it one of the country’s leading producers of wine. $25 – $30 range.

 The smoky and spicy notes of this wine are characteristic of the sun-drenched south sea days Hawke’s Bay is famous for. The Supernatural is complex with layers of citrus, passion fruit and honeysuckle.

This lovely wine was a fabulous pairing with Raclette cheese melted over buttered “one bite” tiny Yukon Gold potatoes.


 Pictured above ~ Raclette cheese melting in a Raclette broiler.

Raclette is an ancient Swiss dish that dates back to the time when Herdsmen would pasture their cows high in the Swiss Alps. Once they had set up camp they would cut open their wheels of cheese and warm them on a rock by the campfire, scraping the edge of the cheese as it melted over cooked potatoes, sour pickles and baked ham to create a hearty meal.  Raclette comes from the French verb racler, to scrape.


Accompaniments to Raclette included tiny Yukon Gold “one bite” potatoes, cornichons, watermelon radish pickles and pickled pearl onions, homemade hot sauce,  artichokes with sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.  Served with my favorite Bok Choy Salad:

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Lovin’ Avocado Toast ~ Happy Healthy New Year!


Lately I’ve been craving Avocado Toast…rich ripe mashed avocado on toasted baguette…it’s like butter baby!

Here’s “the rules” for making Avocado Toast which is an easy and healthy way to make dinner in a hurry:

  1.  Purchase a good quality baguette from your local bakery (Big box store baguette won’t give you the yummy toasty goodness required for this recipe).  Slice the baguette diagonally into 1/2 slices and place on baking sheet.  Broil the baguette slices in the oven until lightly toasted.  Remove from oven.  (No butter or oil required!)
  2. Spread toasted baguette slices with ripe avocado.  Keep avocado, tomatoes, red onion and other Avocado Toast ingredients in your refrigerator along with a baguette or two in your freezer so  you will always be ready to make Avocado Toast.
  3. Have fun being creative with toppings ~ my personal favorites are chopped fresh tomato, finely chopped red onion, arugula and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Many more ideas for toppings include balsamic vinegar drizzle, crumbled bacon, finely chopped hard boiled egg, chiffonade of fresh basil, squirt of lime juice, fresh corn off the cob, chopped green onion, crumbled goat cheese and toasted pine nuts.  There are hundreds of ideas to top Avocado Toast on Pinterest too.
  5. The important thing about the toppings for Avocado Toast is that they are fresh. I tried topping the avocado with a pre-made bruschetta topping instead of fresh tomatoes and it just tasted mushy. Embrace fresh for this toasty treat!
  6. Avocado Toast is easy to pair too…equally delicious with a chilled bubbly, red wine or fruity Sangria.


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