Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

Hope your New Years was peaceful and lovely and spent with those you care for.

Yours truly celebrated the New Year by opening a bottle of the 1996 Henri Abelé Champagne - Brut - Reims, France ($55). Its makeup is: 47% Chardonnay; 34% Pinot Noir; and 19% Pinot Meunier.

This is a gorgeous, savory, rich-tasting wine. The color is a dark straw yellow, apricot on the nose, sporting an almond and croissant flavor. This Champagne is a bit acidic, so best to pair with food.

The semifreddo I made for dessert paired magically with the Champagne, cutting through the dessert's sweetness, but still showing its nutty character that matched the semifreddo. A semifreddo is an Italian term for a half-frozen dessert. In this case, the flavor was chocolate hazelnut.

Here is the recipe for the semifreddo. It is delicious and extremely easy to make.

Chocolate Semifreddo
  • 2 1/4 cups chilled whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of Frangelico (Hazelnut liqueur)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Toasted almonds
  • 9 chocolate cups
Take a handful of almonds, chop into small pieces, and toast under a medium-low heat being careful not to burn. After the almonds have browned, immediately transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl and set aside. Combine whipping cream and vanilla in another large bowl. Sift powdered sugar and cocoa over. Using an electric mixer, beat at mid-high speed, add in vanilla and liqueur, continue to beat until soft peaks form. Spoon the mixture into chocolate cups, which can be purchased in a gourmet/specialty store. Freeze until cream is set, at least 1 hour. Top with toasted almonds.


When you are buying a bottle of Champagne* or Sparkling Wine, you will notice different jargon on the label (for example, XD or Brut). This is important because it is in reference to the Champagne's degree of sweetness. Listed below are the different levels of sweetness, starting from bone dry like the Sahara Desert, to sugary sweet. The most common type of Champagne/Sparkling Wine is Brut, although throughout the 19th century Champagne was generally much sweeter than it is today.

Levels of Sweetness in Champagne/Sparkling Wine (starting from driest to sweetest)
  • Brut Natural or Brut Zéro (less than 3 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Brut (less than 15 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Extra Sec or Extra Dry, XD (12 to 20 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Sec (17 to 35 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Demi-Sec (33 to 50 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Doux (more than 50 grams of sugar per liter)

* Champagne can only be called "Champagne" if it is made in the Champagne region of France, blah, blah, blah. Everything else is called "Sparkling Wine".


forrest said...

Excellent post!! i love the Henri Abele, and i think your notes were spot on...
For my New Years bubbles, i had a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut Very Rare '88. Goodness what a magnificent champagne... a delicate, finesse filled wine that has achieved its marvelous aging potential.
The cuvée this Vintage represents 20 Premiers or Grands Crus villages.The grape are 68% Pinot Noir and 32% Chardonnay.
The bubbles were so lovely small, and fragile but they lasted a good long time. The aromas were intricate and recherché with hints dried tropical fruits and flower petals which elegantly harmonized against biscuit-y/ cake tones.
The palate demonstration was a vibrant billowing fizz that revealed layer after layer of wonderful subtleties...
i served it with a perfect accompaniment of . . .A GLASS! ;)

Sorry for rambling... oh and my blog is now at:

People made some comments about the old name... so here is the new name!

V said...

That is awesome. I have not had a chance to try the Veuve 88 Rare, but it's on my (growing) list of things to try. Love your blog. :)