I am not the first person to advise that one should have at least one bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine in one’s refrigerator at all times. Even in periods — or perhaps especially in periods — of prolonged exposure to one’s home environment devoid of outside visitors, a bottle or two of bubbles at the ready is a must.
At the moment, I have a cava and a sparkling wine from California in my ice box, chilling for a late-afternoon toast or a brunch of poached eggs and asparagus, the latter of which brings to my mind an anecdote conveyed by legendary food writer M.F.K. Fisher that took place on a train during a journey with her “kindly, urbane uncle.”
She was 19 years old, and the exchange took place in the train’s restaurant car. Her uncle asks her if she would prefer a “a fresh mushroom omelet or one with wild asparagus.”
When she mumbles in “shy ignorance” that she doesn’t really care, he firmly reprimands her: “You should never say that again, dear girl. It is stupid, which you are not. It implies that the attentions of your host are basically wasted on you. So make up your mind, before you open your mouth. Let him believe, even if it is a lie, that you would infinitely prefer the exotic wild asparagus to the banal mushrooms, or vice versa. Let him feel that it matters to you. . . and even that he does!”
I would prefer the wild asparagus, and though it was not a wild bunch, asparagus is what I paired one day recently with a bottle of sparkling wine from England, Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvée. Chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier from the house’s vineyards and several vintages are in the elegant bottle, as is a great sparkling.
The Nyetimber estate, located about an hour south of London, was mentioned in the Doomsday Book, and the first vines were planted there in 1988 — the aforementioned classic trio. Eric Heerema bought the estate in 2006, and Cherie Spriggs and Brad Greatrix have been the Nyetimber winemakers since 2007.
I chilled the bottle in an ice bucket for 15 minutes, and poured the sparkling into a Schott Zwiesel white wine stem. The wine’s bubbles were distinct and fine, and brioche and a touch of nutmeg are evident in the aroma. I had poached the asparagus in butter, and, after sprinkling it with salt and black pepper, ate a piece, following it with a sip of the wine.
It was a delicious combination. The salt played well with the apple hints in the Nyetimber, and the asparagus’ acidity was lifted by the wine’s spice notes.
The estate puts a code on each bottle of Classic Cuvée that one can enter on the Nyetimber website and learn the particulars of the wine. For example, my bottle’s blend was 62 percent chardonnay, 30 percent pinot noir, and 8 percent pinot meunier, with the following vintage blend: 2015 (80 percent); 2014 (9 percent); 2013 (3 percent); 2011 (3 percent); and 2009 (5 percent). It was bottled on March 13, 2016, carries a riddling date of August 12, 2019, and was disgorged on August 20, 2019. Don’t care to know all of that? Perfectly fine, the contents will be no less pleasurable.
The Classic Cuvée carries a suggested retail price of $55. Ask for it at your favorite wine merchant.
For more wine, travel and other stories from James Brock, check out his website Mise en Place.