Henry's Favorite Wine of the Week: Varnier Fanniere Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs
Written by Henry Beylin, Gjelina Group’s Wine + Beverage Director
As the year winds down, many of us might want to celebrate, or at least commemorate. It's been impactful and heavy. Sometimes it seems as we move through the myriad of challenges, turns and surprises that define modern life we miss out on actually living. Most of us will sit at table for a special meal this week and a celebratory, and thus elevated, wine is called for. While many types of wine are suitable for occasions, I'm thinking bubbles and Champagne in particular, as no other wine brings forth a feeling of tangible specialness and ritual to a meal. But that's a double edged sword that circumscribes Champagne to the occasion, the obligatory toast, or worse, the gift, which keeps it from achieving its true and proper purpose — that of being the very best food wine that exists on earth.
There is simply nothing Champagne does not go with. It has relevance at every table. You cannot get it wrong, period. When it comes to food and wine pairing (it seems obscene to focus energy on this these days, don't you think?) it's like this: Champagne, and to a lesser degree, other properly made sparkling wines, you can't get wrong. White wines, just don't get wrong. Red wine, you must get right. Ease of use, built-in ceremony and the fullest practice of art and science that exists in wine. I'll drink to that.
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The Champagne I think of most these days for occasion or just simple enjoyment is Varnier Fanniere Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs. While there are other Champagnes that are more showy, exuberant, defined and in a technical way better, there are none that, for me, bring a sense of joy and appreciation for the unknowable aspects of wine. Its flavors and, in fact, whole bearing illicit comfort and charm. Made from 100% Chardonnay, it juxtaposes disparate flavors into something elevated, dimensional, expansive but defined and cohesive. White chocolate, graphite, hay, tarragon and star anise. A veritable Chiaroscuro of flavors that are analog in a digital world. Perhaps what I like most about it, what I always noticed, is that it speaks with confidence and with its own voice. A good quality in wine and people.
Whatever you end up drinking this holiday season I hope it brings joy and animated conversation. Most wines will get us talking, some will make us listen, some others will make us confess.