Now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays are behind us, time to indulge in a good read. “The Winemaker’s Wife,” by Kristin Harmel, combines my love of Champagne with historical fiction. The story takes place in the French wine-growing region of Reims just, as World War II is about to break out. Michel, the owner of Maison Chauveau (fictional Champagne house), has just married Inès, who is struggling to adapt to her new life as a wife living and working at Maison Chauveau. Meanwhile, Michel’s head winemaker’s wife is Jewish, and as the Nazis move in and occupy Reims, the reality of survival becomes real. The Germans are looting millions of bottles of Champagne from cellars and Jewish townspeople are being rounded up and transported east. The book is a suspenseful page-turner with the events and decisions made by the story’s characters during those war years, unfolding into the present day and intertwined into the story.
Not that I need a reason to open a bottle of Champagne, but what better way to immerse myself in the historic Champagne wine-growing region as I read “The Winemaker’s Wife,” then to popped open a bottle of bubbly!
The “The Winemaker’s Wife” was provided as a media sample, all opinions are my own.
My Champagne Tasting Notes
Champagne Lilbert-Fils Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV, Cramant, Champagne, France
12% abv | $65.00 Highland Fine Wines, Atlanta | 100% Chardonnay – 50% 2015, 50% reserve wines – dosage 5g/l
Imported by Vintage 59 Imports
Lilbert-Fils is owned by George and Bertrand Lilbert, with a long history dating back to 1746. The estate is small, with just 3.5 hectares of vines (8.6 acres). The vineyards are located in Côte des Blancs, a ridge just outside of Epernay that runs north-south. The estate vineyards are all grand cru; 60% in Cramant, 30% in Chouilly, and 10% in Oiry and planted to Chardonnay grapes with an average age of 45 years. Lilbert-Fils produces only grand cru blanc de blancs with an average annual production of 2,300 twelve-pack cases. (compared to Moët & Chandon with a case production of 25 million). Unlike the house of Moët, Lilbert-Fils makes all their wine from their own vineyards.
Pale to medium straw in color with a fine, persistent mousse. On the palate, racing crisp acidity with notes of green apple, lemon-lime, and minerals. Elegant with a long finish.
My Champagne Food Pairing
Risotto Chive Cakes
Creamy risotto cakes made with Arborio rice, Fontina cheese, and coated with panko bread crumbs are the perfect pairing with a glass of blanc de blanc Champagne. The acidity and bubbles balance the creamy, rich, cheesy cakes and crispy textured bread crumbs.
- coarse kosher salt
- 1 cup Arborio rice, uncooked
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
- 1-1/2 cups Italian Fontina cheese, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- extra virgin olive oil
Bring a 3-qt pot of water to a boil and add two good pinches of salt and the Arborio rice. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Drain the rice in a colander and run cold water until the rice is cool. Drain well.
Meanwhile in a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, chives, Fontina cheese, 1-1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Add the cooled rice and mix to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
When you are ready to cook the cakes, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put the panko crumbs in a shallow bowl. Make the cakes using a 2-1/4 inch ice-cream scoop or a large spoon. Form each ball into a patty 3-inches in diameter and about 3/4 inch thick. Coat each patty with the panko crumbs on both sides.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the patties to the skillet with hot oil and cook for about 3 minutes per side, or until crispy and brown. Transfer the cooked patties to the baking sheet and hold them in the warm oven for up to 30 minutes. Continue to cook the remaining patties, add more olive oil if needed. Serve hot.