Confessions of a Champagne Snob

From the North Coast Journal

champagne_c_w250h250.jpgIt happens every year about this time, in magazines and newspapers, online: an outpouring of effervescent enthusiasm for holiday sparkling wine bargains. "The best of West Coast bubbly has rarely been better," trumpets San Francisco Chronicle Magazine. The online wine merchant features the "Top 20 American Sparkling Wines," from a modest $19 for Francis Coppola 2008 Sofia Blanc de Blancs to a staggering $100 for Schramsberg 2002 J. Schram. Words like "festive" and "elegant" promise a transcendental experience.

They lie. Well, they pretty much have to lie. No one would be long in business selling wine or print ads if they told the truth: American sparkling wine at its best is not in the same class as even the least expensive imports from Champagne. The fact is, it may never be.

The world of cuisine is fertile ground for happy, often accidental inventions: the 18th century discovery that oil and vinegar could, by careful blending with egg yolk, be emulsified into Sauce Mayonnaise. Peking Duck: an ancient dish, eaten by wealthy Chinese, consisting of just the crisp skin of a fattened duck, slowly roasted to a glossy brown in a long process taking a whole day. Distilled spirits, a byproduct of 8th century alchemy that produced what an Arabic poet described as, "a wine that has the color of rain-water but is as hot inside the ribs as a burning firebrand."

But the ultimate adventure may have been the one that produced gold from straw.

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