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Learning about sparkling things: Method Champenoise

I love wine. All kinds of wine. White. Red. Sparkling. Notice I didn't say Champagne. That's because Champagne is simply sparkling wine from the region of Champagne in France. In Spain they call it Cava and in Italy, Prosecco. Because I'm a wine lover, I know a few things about wine and sometimes I think I know it all. Believe me, I do not! And thanks to a House Special's deal, I got to take a class to learn just how much I didn't know. So, whether you're a newbie or a self-proclaimed expert, if you live in NY and are looking to expand your horizons (or perhaps as a great Valentine's Day idea), I urge you to get the deal for Proud Wineaux (pronounced Wine-O). The class is made up of about 20 people and taught by Jaye, one of the youngest Sommeliers I've ever come across. But what she lacks in age, she more than makes up for in experience and knowledge, having worked at Dean Fearing's The Mansion on Turtle Creek, Tom Colicchio's Craft-Dallas, No-Bu at The Crescent and Jean Georges in New York City. Not too shabby.

Before we sampled anything, we learned about the Method Champenoise, which is essentially how to make champagne. This includes what grapes are used, the process, aging and even opening the bottle. (The cork shouldn't pop, it should hiss.) Jaye's passion for wine is evident and you seem to forget where you are, getting sucked into her enthusiasm for the process.

We tasted three varietals: Prosecco, Chenin-Blanc (Vouvray) and Blanc de Blanc. When I say that some of these are better than some of the priciest champagne, you better believe me. Before we tasted anything, we had to don blindfolds and smell. The various responses of what people noted from smell and taste were vast and often amusing. Once you taste the sparkling wine, you're then given a variety of cheeses, each which enhance the wine that much more and in some cases make it taste even better. I've taken other classes where we've tasted low-end wine and adequate cheese, but in this class you're tasting some very expensive product, both in the bottle and on the plate. I respected and appreciated that.

The class is an hour and a half but we stayed afterwards to talk to Jaye more. She's the most passionate and down-to-earth person who just loves what she does and wants to share that with others. You don't find this with a lot of Sommeliers. I highly recommend this class as a great couples or singles or friends adventure.


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