What makes Champagne so special?

Champagne is a culturally accepted luxury.  While there are many bottles of bubbles we consider to be Champs, there can only be one Champagne!  But even among the ranks of Champagne wines, there are some major production and quality differences.

Champagne Overview

I have to get something out of the way first – Champagne is a place, a region of the world, and not a style of wine.  There I said it!  Sorry to say that “Canadian Champagne” is NOT CHAMPAGNE,  Prosecco is also NOT CHAMPAGNE.  Sekt, Prosecco, Cava these are all types of Sparkling Wines, but none are named Champagne.

To call any bottle of bubbles ‘Champagne’ is kind of like calling Iceberg Lettuce by the name Spinach.  Both are leafy, green, and make great salad.  But Iceberg Lettuce is not Spinach by any stretch.  They taste different, they are grown under different conditions, and cost different prices accordingly!

However, I can easily understand the confusion.  All wine labelled as being produced in the French region of Champagne must adhere to a strict set of production guidelines, making it consistent as the home of the best sparkling wines in the world.  Interestingly the production of Champagne sparkling wine as we know it was born out of economic necessity.  The region of Champagne is a cool, wet region where grapes struggle to fully ripen.  With an average growing season temperature of only 16C, high ripe yields of fruit are hard to come by.  The cool climate gives grapes that are high in acid, and as such Sparkling wine was born as a way to make palatable wine from grapes that could not be made into quality still wine.   Without carbonation, these wines were undrinkable.  Thank goodness for capitalism and innovation!

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How to Chill Your Festive Wines FAST

Have you been following along with our 12 Wines of Christmas ‘Advent’ure?  Every other day we have been revealing one of my best Value Wine picks, along with a Perfect Pairing recipe to go with them.  So far we have gone through a great assortment of Reds, Rose, Bubbles, and Whites!

The only challenge – you read about a great wine, rush out to buy it after work and then discover – dang it you need to wait an hour for it to chill in the fridge.  Or worse, you wait until the end of the day to open your Vine Life Wine Club Advent Calendar, thirsty and tired and discover it’s time to wait for the white to chill. Continue reading “How to Chill Your Festive Wines FAST”

Ultimate in comfort food… Ham & Cheese Gnocchi

In our home one of my favourite things to roast on the weekend is a ham shank.  I then always look forward to the many meal options I can make with the leftovers!  Split pea and ham soup, ham sandwiches for days, and my favorite comfort food… This Ham and Cheese Gnocchi – Paired with my favourite Viognier!

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Why does this pairing work so well?

Both pork and oak contain Lactones, which makes a Viognier that has seen a little oak treatment a fabulous choice that matches the intensity of flavors and molecular structure of the meat.  Smoked pork in particular has a fantastic way of bringing out the apricot and stone fruit flavors found in Viognier.

Because of this, Ham works well with Viognier, particularly rich new world varieties that offer up lots of stone fruit, floral, and mineral characteristics.   While the old world French options are delicious, I find that they are more mineral/terroir Continue reading “Ultimate in comfort food… Ham & Cheese Gnocchi”

Creamy Sundried Tomato and Chicken Pasta

Rustic and hearty with bright sundried tomatoes, this is one dish that can be a little tricky to pair with wine.  The creamy/tomato base can pose a bit of a challenge.  It is a dish that will require a bright, medium bodied wine with juicy acidity to not only match the bright flavours of the tomatoes, but cut through the creamy richness.

For us this dish goes beautifully with bright, fruity and acidic Barbera D’Alba or Barbera D’Asti from Northern Italy!

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Try it with Vietti Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne and enjoy a little escape from the comfort of your own kitchen!  With a rich nose and palate of sour cherries, and a hit of baking spices, and light oak, it is a wine with enough balanced earthiness and acidity to compliment the dark meat in this easy pasta dish.

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Roasted Lemon-Ginger Chicken

At first glance, the thought of roasting an entire bird may seem like something you would reserve for the weekend or a special dinner.

But this no fuss recipe makes enjoying a roasted chicken easy and delicious.  It is a recipe that you really just throw together in a pot, and tastes incredible!

When paired with a high mineral/lime peel flavoured, cool climate Riesling like Charles Smith Wines – Kung Fu Girl Riesling, this bird sings!

Riesling and ginger are exceptional together, and each in this combination pull out the best of all worlds.  If you are going to try and pair an alternate Riesling, be sure to steer clear of the sweeter choices usually labelled under 10% ABV, and if it is a German variety, look for one that is designated Kabinett from the Mosel.

These wines will be lighter in flavour profile and style than their Spatlese and Auslese siblings, as they are made from grapes picked earlier in the harvest when sugar levels in the berries are lower.

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Simple Brown Buttered Carrots

Some times the simplest recipes are the best, especially when made with garden fresh ingredients!

Our garden is offering up plenty of goodies this time of year!  One of our favourites are the ‘little finger’ carrots!

This year I made the mistake of planting them too close together… and as a result my son dug up what he named “Mommy Carrot, Daddy Carrot, and Octo-Carrot”… c’est la vie!


If you have carrots you are harvesting from your own garden that are tender, I find you do not even need to peel them before cooking – they are so delicious, and pretty looking just with the tops trimmed off and sliced lengthwise!

Browned butter adds a rich and nutty flavour to the sweet carrots, and is always a crowd pleaser!

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