We were getting together for dinner last Friday night. Friends and neighbors, all from our building. There was to be fancy schmancy mac and cheese made with top top shelf cheeses and pancetta. There would be salads and fabulous wine and I was in charge of bringing dessert.
Since it was a work day with plans for lunch and shopping with a friend I figured a cake from Le Fournil was in order. But I also wanted to pick up a little bubbly, an apéritif perhaps, to start off with a little pizazz.
Taking advantage of the fact that I was working in Ballard in the morning, I made a pit stop for paper goods at Fred Meyer. It was there, while looking for my paper towels that I remembered how much I've always enjoyed shopping the wine department at Fred Meyer and that perhaps I could find some good bubbly in a pinch.
For a supermarket they always have a few little gems worth taking home and the wine buyers for the chain make an extra effort to feature quality Pacific Northwest wines and a few obscure producers and varietals on their shelves. I like that.
It was while perusing the sparkling wine/apéritif offerings that I found a bottle with a label that caught my eye and caused me to giggle then and there, the way one tends to do when buying funny greeting cards at the stationary shop.
The label had a frog, a lady frog, dressed in the manner of a can-can dancer, windmill in the background, leg about to kick her chorine petticoat, lips crimson red. To top it off, the label read Vin Vivant (lively wine).
Vin Vivant, what a gas! Not only that but the price was great ($15) and the bottle also happened to have an unusual twist: one of those Grolsch beer porcelain re-sealers.
The name of the wine was Risqué (an omen, perhaps?) and it was billed as a Blanquette Méthode Ancestrale (Sparkling Wine) produced and bottled by Les Vignerons du Sieur d'Arques in Limoux, France--for Toad Hollow's, the Healdsburg, California label--with a 6% alcohol.
Fabulous! Just what I was looking for to start our meal. Odd, yet cute with a name a label to provide some laughs, something our group always welcomes. I guess you know by now what happened next.
I, of course, placed the bottle in my cart and made my way to the self-checkout area. With a label so cute and a description so me me me, I just HAD to buy it. The price was great (less than $20) but the bigger question was, would the wine be any good?
But since I had never seen or tried this wine before, finding out if it was any good would have to wait until it was properly chilled and later opened at the table. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
When the cork popped and we started pouring the wine into our ten or so little bistro glasses I could not wait to take the first sip and see if the gamble had paid off.
It did! This little wine was just the thing. Fizzy, slightly sweet, like a French version of the Italian Prosecco. Light and fruity and lively, just like the spunky bonne vivante Mlle. Toad on the label.
This refreshing juice was not only perfect as a quick apéritif but worked very well when tasted against the Mac & Cheese and later on with the gorgeous Gateau Cassis we had for dessert. I can see it also working very well for light brunch fare or to be mixed in to make Mimosas.
This is a very fun, quaffable wine that refuses to take itself seriously and that should be enjoyed by those with a taste for bubbles, off dry wines, whimsical labels, gimmicky bottles and comedian-type winemakers.
Wine snobs are also welcomed.
From Toad Hollow's website:
"Risqué (Methode Ancestrale Sparkling Wine)
Vibrant! Frivolous! And ... Oo-Lah-Lah ...
When Can-Can was introduced in Paris in the 1830's, it was quickly dubbed, "Le Ballet Risqué" for its rousing energy marked by high kicks and daring naughtiness. Soon it became a symbol for the Parisians' famous devil-may-care attitude.
"Risqué" recaptures that spirit. This "vin vivant" (lively wine) is a crisp and fruity sparkling wine with low alcohol (6%) and the taste of fresh green apples and pears. Softly effervescent with just enough sweetness to seduce your palate as an aperitif or tempt you when you want something perfectly naughty to finish ... or, perhaps ... to start again!
Methode Ancestrale- Oxford Companion to Wine - This method is rarely used and results in a lightly sparkling, medium sweet wine. It involves bottling young wines before all the residual sugar has been fermented into alcohol. Fermentation continues in the bottle and gives off carbon dioxide. The wine is designed to be sweeter and less fizzy than a champagne method sparkling wine and no dosage is allowed."