For an affordable, dry, minerally, rhubarby bottle of the pink bubbles, check out the Bugey Cerdon by Domaine Renardat-Fâche. This bottle, imported by Louis Dressner and available in many stores for under $20 including here online. We drank it last night alongside some runny, sheepy cheese and it really put us in a rather celebratory mood. Louis Dressner writes, "The Bugey, halfway between Lyons and Geneva, is one of the tiniest and most obscure wine areas in France. Although the altitude is modest, the terrain is very mountainous, the roads are steep and winding as in the Alps, and the villages are built for cold winters – the houses made of gray/white limestones all bunched together on narrow streets. The region's star wine is the Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale, a semi-dry, pink bubbly made by spontaneous, but incomplete, fermentation. Alain Renardat is a respected vigneron in Cerdon, and he has been a long-time supplier of Alain Chapel's restaurant, in the Dombes. Alain and his son Elie make their Cerdon from Gamay and Poulsard, and follow the technique called "ancestral method" (in wider use is Méthode Champenoise, or else plain carbonation, the preferred method used for supermarket wines). The grapes are picked by hand, pressed and fermented in cold vats until the alcohol reaches about 6 degrees. After a light filtration that leaves most of the active yeast in the unfinished wine, it is bottled and continues its fermentation in the bottle, reaching about 7.5 or 8 degrees of alcohol and retaining a fair quantity of its original sugar. It is more vinous (with grapey primary aromas) than most Champagne, since there is neither dosage nor addition of yeast before the second fermentation."
We love the architectural lines of Riedel's "Vitis" lead crystal glassware, particularly their Champagne flutes, available for about $70 per pair on Amazon.
In the fascinating The Widow Cliquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It (Harper Collins, 2008), Colby College professor Tilar Mazzeo tells the story of the Veuve ("widow") Clicquot who built one of the leading Champagne houses in the early 19th century in an era when few women were internationally famous for anything other than marrying well or divorcing scandalously.