Wednesday , October 27 2021

Add some sparkle

Our wine expert Steve Hearnden may not take much notice of Vaelntine’s Day these days, but he’s still going to raise a glass or two of champagne it its honour!

Here we are again, in another year! They seem to pass so quickly and it only seems like a couple of days ago we were fighting ‘the Beast from the East’! February is a short month and that has an added bonus: we are nearer the warmer weather again.  

February means Valentine’s Day, too, although I must confess I do not take much notice these days (killjoy, I know). But I will celebrate it with a glass (or two) of Champagne. I have written about my Dumneil Champagne before but there is a special cuvée to recall now. It is aptly named Amour de Cuvée Blanc de Noir 1er Cru. With the word love in the title it has to be perfect for February 14; it also comes in a golden coloured silky bag – just perfect. And it’s made from the two black grapes, namely Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, at 50 per cent for each. I must say that the Champenoise love the Meunier more than I do, but only the very best grapes are used for this wine, specially selected for their aging potential. With five years in the cellars, what more do you want? This wine has small, fast bubbles forming a perfect mousse and the aromas and taste are beyond description. Unfortunately, you have to pay a premium price for wine made from grapes which are specially selected and picked by hand! However, spoil yourself at £39 per bottle. It’s still a snip for the outstanding quality – it is so unique and special, too! If you need to eat then try it with saddle of lamb. This Champagne is not available anywhere else in the UK so it is really special!

If, however, your budget doesn’t quite stretch to that figure then why not try a Blanquette de Limoux – Tete de Cuvée, le Moulin Bulles. Monsieur Burrel has been making this sparkling wine for many years and it is all traditionally made using wood rather than stainless steel. In this fairly hilly region of Limoux – the Pyrenees can be seen on the horizon – the micro-climate is perfect for grape growing. All are picked by hand – this is an outstanding alternative to Champagne and has so much character. The aromas are biscuit and brioche because of a high percentage of Chardonnay grape. The wine is dry and soft with a long aftertaste. The mousse is sound, too, with even bubbles escaping out of the top of the glass. It’s perfect for any occasion and does not need food to accompany it, but just try nibbles and a little cheese. The locals are convinced that they made sparkling wine before the Champenoise; I will leave them to argue that out! It’s £17 per bottle for this wonderful bottle of sparkling wine.

  • Tastebuds Wines, Norwich Road, Strumpshaw, opens by appointment. Visit

Recipe published in Feast Issue 33

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