Champagne barrels, Vilmart ChampagneNo matter what is going on there is always something to celebrate.  To that end, you’ll want to pick up a bottle of grower champagne from Paris-Madrid Grocery that just arrived yesterday.  These distinctive bubblies are crafted by small winemaker-vigernons that are incredible expressions of their terroir. Importer Terry Theise recognized the uniqueness of these grower-producer champagnes over 20 years ago, and introduced them to the American market.  To sum up Terry’s words, Champagne mega-producers have an “industrial mindset”; they purchase grapes and blend wines grown in different areas of Champagne to create a product.  Grower-producers craft Champagnes from their own parcels, allowing fascinating expressions of their unique terroir.   Give them a try!

Pazo Senorans AlbarinoMake a toast to women winemakers on March 1, 2022, International Women’s Day!  Spain has a wealth of top women winemakers and we carry wines from these exempliary estates: Pazo de Senorans Albariño (Marisol Bueno), Bodegas Vega Sicilia (Begoñia Jovellar), El Maestro Sierra sherries (Ana Cabestrero, actually the entire company is run by women), Viña Tondonia (Maria José López de Heredia), Marques de Murrieta (Maria Vargas), Gramona Corpinnat, (Ana Lopez).  In contrast, France has women winemakers at several top Bordeaux estates such as Sandrine Garbay of Chateau d’Yquem and smaller representations in other regions such as The Rhone and Loire Valley.

AjvarHave you cooked with Ajvar?  It makes a spectacular dish with baked eggplant and cheese. Ajvar’s origins are most likely Macedonian, and it’s widely served in former Yugoslavia nations and other Balkan countries.  We discovered it in Croatia where it was served as a dipping sauce for fries, on top of lamb meatballs, and as a side dish to be enjoyed on fried eggs or vegetables. Roasted red bell peppers are the basic ingredient, along with eggplant, garlic, olive oil and vinegar.  Some versions include spicy peppers to give the sauce a little heat.  Purchase a jar of Ajvar at Paris-Madrid Grocery or make it yourself (although the results will be better in summertime with vegetables at their peak of flavor).Eggplant with Ajvar To make my recipe: Cut two medium eggplants into slices, salt both sides and drain in a colander for 30 minutes to draw out moisture. Then lay the slices on paper towels, cover with a cutting board and put weights or heavy books on top to press out remaining moisture.  After 10 minutes, remove the eggplant slices from the weights & paper towels, and place them in a clay cazuela.  Layer the eggplant with slices of melting cheese such as Arzua-Ulloa cow milk cheese, or Etorki sheep milk cheese and the Ajvar sauce.  Top with grated Grana Padana cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. A tasty Rhone rouge such as Domaine Fond Croze Shyrus would be a great accompaniment.   (These three cheeses and the wine are available at Paris-Madrid Grocery).

Grower champagne arrivals:
Aubry BrutAubry Fils Brut, NV, 1er 750 ml ($48 00)  35% Chardonnay, 30% Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir, 5% Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Fromenteau.  50% of the blend is the 2017 base vintage and 50% is from the perpetual reserve going back to 1998. The fruit comes from four Premier Cru villages – Jouy-lès-Reims, Villedommange, Pargny-lès-Reims, and Coulommes-la-Montagne.  Undergoes malolactic fermentation.  The Chardonnay is aged in used barrique, and the remainder in stainless steel, then the blend is aged on the lees for 24+ months.    “A creamy viscosity complements the texture of this harmonious version. An accessible crowd-pleaser, with lightly juicy acidity and delicate flavors of chopped almond, baked pear, saline and citrus.”   91 points Wine Spectator

Pierre Peters Cuvee de ReservePierre Péters Cuvee de Reserve Brut Grand Cru NV 750 ml  ($63.00) 100% Chardonnay; a blend of the 2017 vintage base with 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1995 through 2016, except 1999 and 2003 (22 vintages!)  from four Grand Cru villages: Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Cramant, Avize, and Oger. 75% undergoes malolactic fermentation.  Aged in stainless steel, oak cask and concrete on fine lees for 24+ months.  “…the latest rendition of Péters’ NV Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Cuvée de Réserve offers up a lovely bouquet of citrus oil, pear, pastry cream, dried white flowers, hazelnuts and crushed chalk. On the palate, the wine is medium to full-bodied, fine-boned and elegant, with ripe but racy acids, a delicate pinpoint mousse and a long, saline finish. As usual, this is an immensely refined Champagne that exemplifies the timeless style of this Mesnil-based Chardonnay specialist.”  91 points Wine Advocate

gaston chiquet blanc de blanc d'ayGaston Chiquet Blanc de Blanc d’Ay Brut Grand Cru NV ($58.00)  100% Chardonnay; all 2015 vintage from Grand Cru village Aÿ with clay and limestone over chalk soils.  Undergoes malolactic fermentation, ages in stainless steel then on the lees for 40+ months.  “…the latest release of Gaston Chiquet’s NV Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs d’Aÿ is showing beautifully, opening in the glass with scents of crisp yellow orchard fruit, white flowers, blanched almonds and fresh peach. On the palate, it’s medium to full-bodied, bright and charming, with a succulent core of fruit, a delicate pinpoint mousse and a nicely defined finish. Elegant and expressive, this is a beautifully balanced Blanc de Blancs that would make for a perfect aperitif.”  92 points Wine Advocate

Mousse Fils ChampagneChampagne Moussé Fils L’Or d’Eugene NV ($51.00)  80% Meunier, 20% Pinot Noir, this is a perpetual blend of 50% 2003-2017 reserve wine and 50% from the 2018 vintage.  The perpetual blend gives depth and complexity; the 2018 vintage adds freshness from the new harvest.  Aged for 18+ months on lees in stainless steel.  “Wafting from the glass with a deep and complex bouquet of golden orchard fruit, honeycomb, mirabelle plum, candied peel and fresh pastry, it’s medium to full-bodied, satiny and layered, with a rich and sapid core of fruit, lively acids and a delicate pinpoint mousse.”  94 points Wine Advocate