This is the first episode of “A GenXer and a Millennial walk into a winery”. Ali and Ute are opening a bottle of champagne and are discussing the life of Louise Pommery, and how Brut champagne came to be.
Also, can you guess what Ali watches on TV New Year’s Eve? And what exactly is “Dinner for One”? Tune into this episode for a fun-filled half hour of conversation between the GenXer and the Millennial.
For a list of sparkling wine for every budget, click HERE!
The sparkling wine enjoyed during the episode:
Moutard Grande Cuvee Brut
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Photo of Louise Pommery and the bottle of Champagne Pommery Brut Royal are from the Domaine Pommery website
Full episode transcript:
Ute: Hello again and welcome to the Thru The Grapewine podcast. I am Ute Mitchell.
Ali: And I am Ali Simpson.
Ute: We are so happy to have you back here for an episode of…
Ali:…a Gen X’er and a Millennial walk into a winery.
Ute: I love that so much.
Before we get started on this week’s episode, please do check out the show notes for a topic request form. So if you have anybody that we should talk about, that we should talk to, or a topic that you want to know more about, just let us know. And of course, follow us on Instagram, send us some comments, we’d love to chat with you.
Ali: Plus, today we are going to talk about sparkling wine. And so if you want a great list of sparkling wines in a number of price ranges and ideas for what to pair them with, we have created a handy dandy PDF just for you. So click in the show notes. There’s a link down there and claim your sheet now.
Ute: So how are you doing today, Ali?
Ali: Pretty good. Finally warming up! Your house is nice and toasty.
Ute: Well, this room is nice and toasty. I have to say to that. So we’re recording this episode in what used to be my son’s bedroom and is now my office. And in the summer it never gets enough cold air from the air conditioning. But in the winter, it always gets too much heat. And I’m a middle aged woman. So I have hot flashes all the time. I don’t need it to be quite so hot, but sacrifices for you.
Ali: Thank you. Thank you. Me and my winter cap and oversized sweatshirt appreciate it.
Ute: Yeah, she’s wearing a freakin beanie in my very warm office. So there’s that.
Okay, so tell me what you brought us today.
Ali: Oh, I brought us a bottle of Moutard Grande Cuvee Brut. It is from the Cote des Bar region of France. And so it is a true champagne. It does come out of the Champagne region. So we get to call it a champagne always exciting.
Ali: So let’s go ahead and open this bottle up
Ute: Because today I get to drink on the show. Last time it was literally…she’s telling me about how she’s drinking some sparkling wine and I’m sitting there with my water bottle and being jealous. So she’s doing it the right way too. Right? Because we learned how to open a champagne bottle.
Ali: Yes. Not everyone can see what I’m doing. So I just removed the foil and as you start to open the cage that holds the cork in, you want to keep your hand over that cage because you have no idea whether that cork is very firmly in there or not. And if it’s going to pop out at you and fly across the room. So, I am also now holding on to the cork, pointed away from Ute! And you twist the bottle not the cork, so… It’s very exciting podcasting.
Alright, so this is a Blanc de Noirs which means it is made from… it is a white wine made from all black grapes. This one is 100% Pinot Noir. It is Brut which means it that is… not very much in your glass. It is Brut which means that it is dry with just a slight hint of residual sugar in there. This bottle was aged on its lees, on the dead yeast cells, for 36 months. And the tech sheet tasting notes say “Refined, rich nose which evokes notes of butter, almond, and brioche. Lively, elegant and balanced palate with good mouthfeel.” So, let’s see how accurate they are. Cheers!
Ali: You can really smell that almond and yeastiness right away.
Ute: As soon as you poured it, I could smell it. And I sat what like 20 inches away from it.
Ute: So I totally could smell it. Oh, it’s very lovely.
So a typical champagne made from the traditional method is going to be anywhere from dry to sweet. This one is a Brut so we know it’s going to be on the drier side. It’s going to have high acid, low tannins, light to medium alcohol and body with flavors and aromas of lemon-lime citrus, yellow apple, cream, butter, almond, toast, vanilla, honey. You could go on! There’s so many different… especially the longer it’s aged, the more of those tertiary flavors you’re gonna find.
Ali: This pairs well with cheese boards, oysters, potato chips and french fries. And my personal favorite with fried chicken.
Ute: Fried chicken!
Ali: So good.
Ute: Alright, we need to do that on an episode.
Ali: That would make great podcasting, just listen to us eating fried chicken
Ute: Right? Full mouth
Ali: What are you tasting in this?
Ute: I instantly got the apple. So like, you know almost a little bit green applely too because I get that high acidity. I can still feel it in my mouth right now after taking a sip for like a half a minute ago.
Ute: So I get the apple right away. I definitely got that yeasty brioche on the nose right away. And I can get it also in that lingering finish in the back of my mouth.
Ali: Mm-hmm. I agree. The creaminess in this too right now. Just… you can’t see..we’re both just nose deep in our glasses.
This is… this is lovely. Have you had this one before?
Ute: [indicates no]
Ali: Okay, I’ve had this one a couple of times. So, I knew it was going to be a pretty good choice.
Ute: I feel very privileged.
Ali: The price range on this one: I got it at the Fred Meyer in Newberg. I want to say… I don’t have my receipt… I want to say was like $35 or $37.
Ute: That’s not terrible at all.
Ali: Yeah. They didn’t have any in the cold section, which was kind of a bummer. They didn’t have like, so I couldn’t just take it and go straight home and open it up. It has to be chilled down.
Ute: But it’ll show relatively quickly. If you just even put it into the freezer.
Ute: A lot of people will also just put it into an ice bucket. Or if you don’t have an ice bucket, a big bowl that is filled with ice cubes, but also filled up with water. And then you just kind of twist the bottle inside that water and ice and that’ll help it cool down as well.
Ali: One trick that I’ve tried before, too, is wetting a paper towel and wrapping it around the bottle. And then putting it in the freezer.
Ute: Oh, there you go. Yeah, absolutely.
Ali: Yeah, like stick it in with your ice cubes there.
Ute: Learn something again.
Ali: So I mentioned that this one is Brut. But I also mentioned that champagne can have that range of sweetness levels. So a few terms to look to look out for on labels so that you know, even if you haven’t had the wine before, you will know what level of sweetness your sparkling wine is that you’re going to be picking. So I’m just going to go through the five terms here quick. The first one is Brut Nature. It means that there’s practically zero residual sugar in this. It is going to be the driest, least sweet sparkling wine you can have. Next is the Brut which is what we are drinking right now. Probably your most common style; it is dry with just a hint of residual sugar. Next are your Sec and your Demi Sec, those two are both going to be noticeably sweeter than your Brut. And then the sweetest sparkling wine that you can get is a Doux and that is d o u x. So look for those labels or those terms on your labels when you are searching for your next sparkling wine and figure out how sweet or dry you want to go.
Ute: Have you ever had to Doux?
Ali: I don’t think so.
Ute: I don’t think so either.
Ali: I feel like Sec or Demi Sec is the highest I’ve ever gone.
Ute: Right. So now I feel like I need to find a Doux just so we can try it.
Ali: Then I will bring like chocolate cake or something too. Because the the paring note there, if you ever want to pair your sparkling wine with a dessert, is make sure your wine is sweeter than the food you’re eating.
Ute: Yeah, exactly.
Ali: They’ll help balance each other out. So yeah, we would need a we would need a nice like dark chocolate. Dark chocolate cheesecake or something.
Ute: Yeah. Love it.
Ali: All right. Cheers.
Ute: Well cheers to that.
Ali: Mmm. Wait, so how was the Brut style even discovered in the first place?
Ute: Wow. Funny you should ask!
Ali: Can you tell us a story?
Ute: I will tell you a story and it is about a very special woman who lived in France. Her name is Louise, and I should say Pommery. But is it Pommery? Do I say Pommery?
Ali: I think so.
Ute: So her name is Louise Pommery. She was born Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Mélin and she was born April 13, 1819 Annelles, and that is in France. So not much is known about her childhood. As far as I can tell, she was only 20 years old when she married her husband, Alexandre Pommery. I see now I kind of want to know if Alexandre has family that’s not French because Pommery seems so un-French.
Ali: It doesn’t roll off the tongue. Like…
Ute: I mean…
Ali: …the rest of those names just did. I’m sitting over here in awe
Ute: Pommery…Pommery! Okay, so I’m just gonna keep it simple and say Pommery. So anyway, she got married to him, and he ran a very successful company in the wool industry. She and Alexandre lived very comfortably. He had a lot of money. And she had a child in her early 20s. And then, and this is so crazy, because back in those days, you had children all the damn time, right?
Ute: She didn’t have another child until she was 38.
Ali: Holy cow!
Ali: Oh my gosh.
Ute: I mean, at that point, I’d be like, “Nuh-uh!”
Ali: I’m done.
Ute: No way!
Ali: Too much time has passed!
Ute: This is this is….
Ali: Says the person who’s never had children!
Ute: Well, yeah, okay, there’s that. What really gave me a chuckle about the children is actually that their names were Louise and Louie,
Ali: Not confusing at all.
Ute: So if you decide that you’re going to have children, maybe, you know, a little bit more creative.
Ali: Differentiate their names! Got it!
Ute: Alright, so in 1856, so they more or less retired, because they had money and they were living comfortably. But in 1856, Alexandre decided he’s gonna go back into a new industry, and he chose the wine industry. But unfortunately, he died only about two or three years later. And we don’t really know how he died. There is you know, depending on where you read it, you know, it’s either under mysterious circumstances, or he fell. I don’t know what he fell off or how he fell but he died. And Louise, who was at that point, barely 40 years old, took over her husband’s company. She decided to move away from red wines, and focus on champagne only. She was in Reims at the time, just like the widow Clicquot. And she actually had her workers and convinced other winemakers, too… other growers too to leave the grapes on the vines for a longer time. So the addition of sugar would become unnecessary, and the result was a higher quality champagne.
Ali: That is interesting, because you definitely don’t hear you hear when you’re harvesting grapes for, especially for sparkling wine production. You pick them early, you pick them first, right? You want that balance of acid and sugar.
Ali: That’s really interesting.
Ute: Yeah, I find that interesting as well. So like other champagne houses, Louise owned cellars below the city of Reims. And those were these chalk pits that were also called crayères. And this is really interesting. When the Roman Gallo Roman people came to build the city, they needed stone. And so they went down and like deep below the surface, dug these tunnels and these crayères to get rocks out so that they could build the city. And so there’s miles and miles of these tunnels underneath the city, which lent themselves really well to aging champagne. And of course, now that I’ve been to Reims and I have seen the Veuve Clicquot cellars, which were really super cool, I kind of wish I had taken the time to see Pommery. I’ll just have to go back.
Ali: I guess so.
Ute: Yeah. But you’re going there next year, right?
Ali: It’s it’s in the works. We are planning our honeymoon right now. We’ve been married for a couple of years, but due to COVID we haven’t taken our honeymoon yet. So we were deciding between Japan or wine tours through Europe. We landed on Europe!
Ute: I was just gonna say okay, so my vote, if I have any say in this, my vote is for Europe and you need to go there.
Ute: And there’s you know, other reasons because they literally still… Okay, no, I’m getting ahead of myself. Okay. So, anyway, here’s why Louise Pommery is such a big deal. In 1874, with Louise pushing the later harvest of grapes and her desire to create a less sweet champagne for her British market and in particular, Queen Victoria who requested it, the Brut version of champagne was born. Suddenly a bottle went from 150 grams of sugar to only 30 grams. You remember from a previous episode that at some point, especially the Russians were known to consume champagne that had up to 300 grams of sugar per bottle. Like…eww!
Ali: I think my taste buds all just shriveled a little!
Ute: And even 150 grams, when you think about that…150 grams of sugar in a bottle of champagne is still so sickeningly sweet.
Ali: I was thinking, even 30 grams is quite a bit.
Ali: Because Brut is what, like six ish grams per liter so yeah, even 30 grams. So, uff dah!
Ute: Things, things have changed… there! Two sips of champagne, and I can’t talk anymore. So we do have Louise Pommery to thank for the Brut champagne. Apparently, and this is another really cool thing, the 1874 vintage was so good that a song was written for it called Ode to Pommery 1874. To the tune of Old Lang Syne.
Ali: Is that the New Year’s Eve song?
Ali: Oh okay! Timely!
Ute: Yes, quite timely. So if you want to find that online, I think the first three lines are available or are known. I don’t think that there’s anywhere I could certainly not find it. I don’t think there’s anywhere with the entire lyrics are listed.
Ali: And now we give you our rendition….Just kidding!
Ute: No, we’re not doing that!
Ute: So Louise died on March 18 of 1890 at the age of seventy, so not very old. Though, in those days, probably pretty average. The business did stay in the family for a long time. But eventually it started bouncing around between owners and went through some hard times. And today Pommery is owned by the Vrankin family and is quite successful. Supposedly, they still have a bottle of that famous 1874 vintage in their cellar. So again, you must now go there and confirm this for me.
Ali: Who do we have to make friends with…to drink that?
Ute: Oh my gosh, can you imagine? Yeah, that’ll never happen. I’m sorry to say, [takes a sip of champagne] Oh, it is very good.
Ute: I mean, it’s not a Pommery. But you know, it’s French.
Ali: I was working off of what Freddie’s offered me. I don’t think they carry this one.
Ute: Okay, well, so this episode is going to air on the 29th of December. We did mention it at the beginning that we’re going to have a little bit of a PDF sheet for you with recommendations for a sparkling wine that you could buy for New Year’s Eve, for instance. So you can just hop into the show notes and click on the link and put in your email address and that’ll get you that PDF file. But I am curious, of course, as we were with our Christmas conversation, what what do you do for New Year’s Eve? And you know, what do you eat? And what do you drink?
Ali: This year, we are going there’s just a small group of us. We’re going to go do some wine tasting in the Valley.
Ute: That’s nice.
Ali: And then we are having people at our house and we are probably going to play board games and Harry Potter is going to be on in the background.
Ute: Aw, really? You’re gonna watch Harry Potter for New Year’s Eve?
Ali: I love doing Harry Potter and bubbles on New Year’s Eve for some reason. I don’t know.
Ute: That is so adorable.
Ali: Even just like in the background. I have seen it enough. I don’t need to be paying attention to every minute of it. But yeah, I just… I find comfort in this routine. So…yeah
Ute: Yeah. I mean, I watch a lot of holiday movies that I watch every single year and I just have to it’s just part of my tradition.
Ute: But for New Year’s Eve, so I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. In Germany, we have this and it’s an English language skit. It’s called “Dinner for One”. It’s 11 minutes long. Okay, you’ve got to watch it.
Ute: It is so funny. So it’s 11 minutes good. It’s from the 1950s or something. And it is in black and white. And you see the one character is Miss Sophie and she has her butler, James. And Miss Sophie is celebrating her 90th birthday and she’s invited her you know four best friends. And all four of them are dead. And so James, the butler has to be all four of them. So she’s telling James, you know, what he has to serve. And you know, it’s, you know, your appetizer and it’s the, you know, the soup and it’s the whatever. And with each round, of course, she needs an alcoholic beverage. And you know, so she’ll go for the white wine and then she’ll go for the port and everything. And every time that she says what she’s going to have with it, James goes, “Same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?” And she goes, “Same procedure as every year, James.” And so poor James goes and he grabs a bottle of alcohol, and there’s like this tiger hide on the ground with like a big head and he trips over that head every time. And so he pours for Miss Sophie, and then he pours for the four friends. And he has a drink for each friend and go into character.
Ali: Oh my gosh.
Ute: And so with each round, he gets more wasted,
Ali: Because he’s drinking for four people!
Ute: Because he’s drinking for four people. And it is so funny. And like I said, it’s only 11 minutes long, but he goes through this entire thing, completely just wasted by the end and she finally goes “I think I shall retire now, James” and he goes, “Alright, same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie.” And she looks at him and she goes “Same procedure as every year, James”. And he goes, “I’ll do my very best!”
Ali: Oh my gosh!
Ute: So anyway, Germans watch this every year at New Year’s Eve.
Ali: Is it because Miss Sophie’s birthday is New Year’s Eve?
Ute: I don’t think so.
Ali: Okay, alrighty!
Ute: But maybe it is. I mean, it is now! And so, you know, there’s different versions. You can find them on YouTube, you know, they’re like comedians in Germany who did German versions of it. And there’s a Lego version. And I mean, it’s…
Ali: I want to watch the Lego version!
Ute: It’s pretty funny.
Ali: Okay, maybe maybe we’ll play that before we start in on Harry Potter.
Ute: You should. But, like but watch the original version first so that you can really appreciate the Lego version?
Ali: Okay, I will.
Ute: So what are we doing New Year’s Eve? I mean, so this year, we have, you know, two young grandsons. And we’re going to go over to my daughter’s house and the boys will eventually go to sleep and we’re going to be playing board games and I will bring my Cho Wines Blanc de Noirs.
Ute: Because that is some good stuff.
Ali: That’s really good. Yeah.
Ute: I need to have something exciting to drink. I don’t know what we’re going to eat. I have no idea. We, with Christmas, it’s always this ritual of we’re going to eat Raclette. New Year’s Eve is just…
Ali: Free for all
Ali: Whatever’s left over. Clean my fridge out!
Ute: Yeah, I mean, I it might it might be just that.
Ali: Yeah. Start your year with a clean fridge.
Ute: Yeah, that. I don’t know about clean fridge.
Ali: No leftovers.
Ute: No leftovers. Yeah.
Ali: Do you? Will you have all three of your kids over there or just…
Ute: All three.. Oh, well, you know what, I don’t know if my son is going to be there because he’s living with his girlfriend now. So I’m entering that phase of my life where I’m having to get used to the idea that they’re not always going to be around for holidays. But I’m going to just, you know, be in denial until it happens.
Ali: You got the grandbabies.
Ute: I do have the grandbabies. Yes. And I’m gonna just spoil the crap out of them.
Ali: Yeah. Nice. That sounds fun.
Ali: It’s always nice to just …those…those big holidays you get to spend with family.
Ute: Yeah, exactly.
Ali: People close to you.
Ute: Yeah! Is it possible that we’re done?
Ali: I know that went.. [dog starts barking] Oh, yeup!
Ute: That’s my dog!
Ali: We’re done! The dog is like, “yes, we are.”
Ute: “We are done! Let me bark.” Actually, he heard the doorbell. And when he hears doorbell…My dog is completely useless. But when he hears the doorbell ring, man, he is on the job.
Ali: Oh, man.
Ute: So yeah, this is much shorter than I expected it would be.
Ali: Yeah, same.
Ute: So I was kind of hoping we’d be talking for longer. Well, I guess all that is left for us to say is we do want you, of course, to check out the show notes. Again, fill out that topic request if there’s anything that you really like to hear us talk about something maybe a little bit more educational than you know babbling back and forth about what we’re doing New Year’s Eve.
Ali: Isn’t everyone interested in what we’re doing?
Ute: Well, maybe someday we’ll be so famous that everybody’s gonna want to know what we’re doing all the time
Ali: Vision board. It’s up there now.
Ute: We are also concurrently working behind the scenes on how we can improve our services. So we’re working on that online course, like we said before, we are going to start uploading here in the next few days, our episode transcripts onto the website thruthegrapewine.com. So if you want to share it with someone, or if you want to just read through the notes again, or transcript again, you can do that. It’ll be up in just a few days time. And we’re just going to work on I mean, we’re on episode 12. Now, so it shouldn’t be a whole lot of work to put up these episodes that we have so far.
Ali: Yeah. We’re also still working… planning through private tastings. Hopefully we can start offering those soon. For anyone that is interested. Stay tuned to the website. We’ll be putting updates there as we have them.
Ali: Also on our Instagram, so make sure you are following us there for any of those updates.
Ute: So with all that all that we’ve got left to say is of course, Prost!