On the Bubble

Words: Malu Lambert
Photography & Styling: C&D Heierli
Recipes: Diane Heierli

Can you sniff them—the ions in the air? They enhance creativity, boost energy and relieve stress. Ions are invisible molecules found in environments where there are pressurised, moving liquids, such as at the ocean and at waterfalls. Ions are air molecules that have gained or lost an electrical charge. When we inhale them, while walking on the beach or when visiting a rushing river in a forest, for example, the ions get into our bloodstream and produce reactions that are said to increase our levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a mood enhancer, a natural chemical that helps with depression and stress, as well as increases energy.

But wait, isn’t there another way to create this effect, by getting wine to ferment in a bottle, under pressure, as when making Methodé Cap Classique?

So ... is this the secret of the mood-enhancing effect of sparkling wine? Is this why a sip of bubbly always lifts our spirit? Isn’t it the rush of all those lovely little negative ions in our bloodstream that makes us feel so happy, energised and invigorated?

Well, bring on those feel-good molecules! Pop open a bottle now. Perhaps you’ll even get inspired in the kitchen—bubbly isn’t just for drinking, you can eat it too.

You can substitute MCC for white wine in most recipes. Sparkling wine adds an extra element of elegance to any dish; from salads straight through to dessert. The typical flavour profile of fruit, biscuit and nuts pairs well with a variety of dishes.

Just like when using wine in a recipe, quality does matter—don’t cook with it if you wouldn’t drink it. Although that doesn’t mean you have to use the most expensive examples. There are plenty of good-value options on the market too.

Ordered too many bottles for a party? Use the left-over half-empty bottles to add some sparkle to your cooking. Keep in mind that bubbly—and any wine for that matter—will turn to vinegar if left open too long, so if you can’t use it straight away freeze it for another time.
Carol Duval-Leroy (of the champagne house) wrote the book Femme de Champagne, which explores the virtues of not only pairing champagne and food, but also using the bubbly stuff to enhance your cooking.

She writes: “For many, sparkling wines are associated with parties, but not with gastronomy. Yet tasting this wine throughout a meal can be extremely interesting, and although it is a product of blending, champagne offers different flavours depending on grape varieties, soil and vintage…”

Starters
The ultimate aperitif, bubbly works just as well as an appetite enhancer when incorporated into a starter dish.
1. Liven up a salad. It’s easy to make homemade ‘champagne vinegar’: store left-over bubbly in an open wide-mouthed jar at room temperature. Wait a couple of weeks and presto, it will be vinegar. Then simply use as the vinegar quotient in a vinaigrette recipe.
2. Souped up. Replace white wine with bubbly in a seafood soup, to immediately up the ante.
3. The big dipper. Make the most luscious chicken liver pâté ever. The trick is to marinate chicken livers with bubbly before cooking (allow two hours).

Mains
Bubbly is used to being the main event, so channel its star quality into your dish du jour.
1. Bubble bath. Place your fish of choice in a bath of MCC and add herbs. Cook until the fish is ready, remove. Reduce, then finish off with a splash of cream for a luscious sauce.
2. Stir it up. Risotto is the perfect foil for sparkling wine. Replace the white wine in a recipe with the bubbly and use ingredients that complement it, such as shellfish, chicken and mushrooms.
3. Get saucy. A classic ‘champagne sauce’ enhances poultry, fish and meat alike: in a saucepan reduce finely chopped shallots with 150ml of bubbly and pepper. Then slowly whisk in 40g butter. Season with salt when cooked.

Desserts
Bubbly is known for being a wine that you can pair with each course of a meal—as it works from savoury to sweet dishes. Capture this pairing power in a variety of ways with dessert.
1. Effervescent icing. Ice cakes, pastries and cupcakes with a zingy icing infused with bubbly. Simply incorporate around a quarter cup of MCC into your icing recipe of choice. (Fruit flavours tend to work better than, say, chocolate icing.)
2. Drizzle it. Make an MCC syrup by simmering together bubbly, lemon juice, zest, sugar, cloves and cinnamon until it coats the back of a spoon. This syrup is delicious drizzled over fresh fruit or soaked into a cake.
3.  What a pear. You’ll need a whole bottle of sparkling wine for this. Pour it into a saucepan and bring to the boil, adding 200g of sugar. Peel four pears, stalk on (rub with lemon to retain the colour), cook for 5-10 minutes and let cool in the syrup, et voila!