Thursday, 7 May 2015

Viking Line is sparkling this May

Viking Line's boats are celebrating sparkling weeks this May, the highlight of which is Champagne cruise on MS Grace this coming weekend.  We fell in love with Grace's charm already on the Wine Cruise last October and couldn't be more excited. The cruise is hosted by Essi Avellan, Master of Wines and a renowned Champagne expert - all the more reason to get giddy. Plus, there's all that Champagne! How do I know? Because I took part in the press launch a couple of weeks ago. That's how!

By 11:30 AM , my table looked like this. Now, I would have been perfectly happy with the Lehmann's Grand Champagne glasses alone (gotta get me some of those!) but boom! There were goodies on the way!

We started the lunch with a Champagne tasting, you see.

Champagne is nice, there are no two ways about it. It turns any moment into a celebration of life. But should you want to learn while doing that, there are no better teachers than Essi Avellan and her easy-to-approach style. Awarded the title of Dame Chevalier by  Ordre des Coteaux de Champagnen, the first Master of Wine in Finland... a bit of a star in the world of Champagens, I can tell you. 

First we had some Pol Roger Pure Extra Brut, which is a mix of all the traditional Champagne grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier). And dry it is. It's a non-dosage Champagne meaning there's absolutely no added sugar. In addition to very distinctive dryness it has toastiness, apple and gentle yeastiness. 

When it comes to Champagnes, the taste (in Finland and rest of the world) is getting dryer and dryer. Only 150 years ago a bottle of Champagne could easily have a whopping 120g/l of sugar in them!

Next up was Louis Roeder's clean-cut Blanc de Blancs 2008. This Champagne (made, as the name suggests, entirely out of Chardonnay) possesses fruity clarity, floral notes and lovely acidity.

The Champagne is a result of 5-year-maturation process on the lees and a further minimum-of-6-months maturation process after disgorging.

The house of Roeder is also the leading Champagne house in production of biodynamic Champagne. 

The we had some Charles Heidsieck Millessime Vintage 2005. Which has only just been released. Long maturation is typical for this house and this particular one will only get better over the next years.

This Champagne is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and owing to the fairly high proportion of the previous grape (60%) it has the body to prove it. The most dominating features are a generous toastiness and dried fruits, though it does have certain lightness to it, too. 

The next Champagne was also characterized by distinctive toastiness. Henriot Rosé goes through a lengthy maturation on the lees, too. It is subtle, aromatic (apricots most notably) Champagne the elegant bubbles of which won me over already on Wine cruise.

This beauty won over everybody around me, too and will definitely be on our shopping list this time, too. None of the champagnes at the tasting are available on land, so a little cruise on Viking Line is a good idea in that respect alone. Plus, the wines on land are cheaper here, anyway.

Ooh, I'd better stop for some air now. Henriot, one of my favourite rosé Champagnes had me cooing but...

... Boom boom! Then along came this!

Dom Perignon Millessime Rosé Vintage 2003 is a 50-50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The goal,apparently, was to "bring some sparkling Burgundy into it". 

Complex and interesting, much like that Dom Perignon we had for New Year.

After the tasting we sampled the menu designed to accompany the Champagne menus available onboard (there's also a sparkling wine option for this). 

First some shellfish soup with grilled scallops...

...and some more Champagne.  For this dish the recommended pairing was Taittinger Prelude (50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay), which was designed with culinary purposes in mind. To be enjoyed with food, that is. All the grapes come from Grand Cru-wineries. 

For main course itw as pike perch, root veggirs and some pea purée. And of course...

... (you guessed it!) Champagne. With this dish we had Laurent Perrier Pinot Noir-based rosé. Laurent Perrier is the only big Champagne house that makes their rosé Champagne through saignée method, which requires top-notch grapes for it to work.

Laurent Perrier is a bit of an anarchist, anyway. Before them it was unheard of to make rosé Champagne out of anything other than the best vintages. 

The acidity is prevalent already on the nose. Pleasant Champagne with some tartness in the finish.

The dessert consisted of chocolate, raspberry sorbet and toffee sauce where the chef had not scrimped on butter, cream or sugar. The dish had richness, tartness and sweetness making it a bit of a challenge in regards to Champagne pairing (yes, still some more to come!).

We had Piper Heidsieck demi sec. With certain elements it worked better than others.

So, this is what we'll be doing this weekend! How about you? If you can't join us in person, do join us on Instagram. I'm pretty sure there are some fabulous moments to come... at least the World Premier of Veuve Clicquot La Grand Dame's newest edition...!

I'll drink to that! Let's all drink to that!





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