October in San Diego brings about another local spiny lobster season and along with it opportunities to best appreciate some of the world’s greatest white wine treasures.
Lobster is inherently associated with elegance and justifies a partner of equal stature. For many wine lovers, the mere thought of White Burgundy evokes visions of a heaving lobster tail drizzled with drawn butter. Not to be outdone, there may be no wine on earth that can signify importance as can the venerable productions from Champagne.
White Burgundy is a general term used for chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France. Most often when someone says White Burgundy, they mean a wine from the Cote de Beaune, or the central portion of Burgundy, excluding Chablis to its north and Macon farther south. The perfect balance of oak, fruit, minerality and buttery components produce seriously complex wines which can be described as seductive. They are more refined in style than most California productions and can be some of the most expensive white wines in the world.
Wherever chardonnay is made, it is typically put through malolactic fermentation, a winemaking process that turns malic acid to lactic acid. This process creates chardonnay’s hallmark buttery character and results in a softer mouth feel. Think of this change as the acidity in a green apple vs. the acidity in sour cream.
Look for a Grand Cru or Premier Cru for the best Burgundy has to offer. While the hint of butter in the wine is an obvious flavor match to a traditionally served lobster feast, it is the voluptuous texture of the wine that makes this a magical duo.
The French wine region of Champagne is about an hour drive north and east of Paris and is the origin of sparkling wines. Most Champagnes are not vintage dated as the producer blends past years with current vintages to produce their particular house style. However, in truly special growing seasons, the producer may declare a vintage and distribute an extra-special bottling from only that year. These specialty wines have superb depth of flavor and are typically age-worthy. Most wines from Champagne are light in body, show streaks of chalky minerality, and tickle your palate with miniscule bubbles. Nutty and doughy aromas are also more apparent in vintage Champagne because of the extended time these wines rest among the very same yeast that created its hallmark effervescence.
For a pairing that is akin to royalty, reach out for a vintage dated Champagne to celebrate lobster season. The wine’s natural acidity balances the fat in drawn butter while the bubbles carry all of these profound flavors throughout your palate.
2005 Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard Premier Cru Les Vergers: Patrick Ballow of Jonathan’s of La Jolla says, “You get Grand Cru soil types under a Premier Cru bottling and price. Thriving minerality and acidity in balance with the complex fruit. More about the purity of the mature vineyard fruit than oak presence.”
1996 Joseph Perrier Cuvee Royal: Keith Barr of Bristol Farms says, “Very dry with lots of tiny bubbles and a thick, persistent mousse. Fruit forward with a crisp acidic backbone and a nice long finish.”