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Boulles of color

December 2011

By Stephanie Wells, Paris

If you enjoy champagne, you should spend the holidays in Paris – from post-work drinks, to pots de départ for colleagues moving on, to picnics on the Canal Saint Martin, there always seems to be an appropriate moment to pop some bubbly – and why not drink it au naturel? “Natural” champagne contains very little added sugar in the form of another wine or cognac – this sweetening process is called “dosage” and although it serves to balance out the acidity of the drink, it often produces a rude hangover. Given that natural champagne has no dosage, it is exceptionally dry and nearly hangover-proof; I particularly love its raw flavors and textures.

Each year, come mid-December, the temple of wine known as Augé holds en plein air tastings of natural champagne. For two years running, I have been lucky to have as my escort a true connoisseuse when it comes to natural wine: blogger Sharon Bowman. We’ve huddled around the open barrels together, shivering happily with a crowd of Parisians, foreign importers, and fellow ne’er-do-wells, savoring each bubble bouncing off our eager palates as our woolen hands clutch delicate flutes brimming with France’s finest natural wine.

The crème de la crème are found in natural wine haunts throughout the city, including the famous Le Verre Volé bistro and Vivant restaurant. Each winter, disciples wait to meet the unassuming vintners Jacques Selosse, whose bottles can run up to $200, the proprietor of Ulysse Collin and of my chouchou, Vouette et Sorbée, Bertrand Gautherot. I’ve nearly caught frostbite but it was worth it for a thimbleful of snagged Cristal. Others labels might sound more familiar: Tattinger, Dom Pérignon, and Moêt & Chandon. A magnum of Blanc d’Argile by Vouette et Sorbée and seared foie gras are on my holiday wishlist. The best part? Natural champagne equals no hangover!

Second on my wishlist? A colored scarf to add a punch of color to my otherwise monochromatic Parisian wardrobe. Both parisiens and parisiennes of all generations have an innate flair when it comes to scarves and can wear them every day, rain or shine. Using a scarf to add a streak of color is a trick to revive the complexion and counteract seasonal blues. My American friends ask me how Parisians manage to tie their scarves “just so; in a word: nonchalance.”

Joyeuses fêtes! Bon nouvel an! Champagne!


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