What Makes Champagne So Special?
Our guest today is Ellen Crosby, the author of seven novels in the Virginia Wine Country Mystery series, most recently The Champagne Conspiracy. She’s joining us to talk about—what else?—champagne!
Ellen Crosby had a background as a journalist before becoming a novelist, so when she began to research the world of wine for her novels, in which the protagonist is a vintner, she took the details seriously. "If you don't get the facts and the technical details right, people are going to throw your book at the wall," she says.
"The one thing I learned" about winemaking while writing the series, Ellen recalls, "is that it's very hard work, and very dependent on the weather." This is especially true in Virginia, where Ellen's series takes place. She says that Virginia wines are much more comparable to European wines, due to the climate, than California wines, which are more comparable to Australian wines. In Virginia, you're faced with frost, snow, and hurricanes that can significantly impact the season's harvest.
But a good bottle of wine is well worth the work it takes—especially champagne, the title character of Ellen's latest book, The Champagne Conspiracy. "When you think about celebrating, you think about popping a cork and having champagne. It's always associated with something special: a wedding, a birthday, a graduation, an anniversary. It's just a wonderful drink. It's got the fizz, it's got the bubbles; it's just the perfect drink to celebrate something with."
Ellen fell in love with food and wine while living in France. "I learned to cook in France. What was so wonderful was that we had a market in the village we lived in. Every Saturday we'd go there. Everything was brought in from the farmers around town: the cheeses were there, the fresh homemade pasta was there, the fruit was brought in; everything was fresh and wonderful. People discussed it with such great fluency and interest in love that you really started getting into what you were going to serve. Then we'd go to the wine store and have these huge discussions about the first course, the second course, as though they were some very big decisions that had to be made. Then you'd serve this great meal for your guests."
And the most important wine tip Ellen shared? "If you like it, drink it. That's the bottom line. You don't have to have white with fish and chicken and red with meat. You can try all different things with cheeses...if you like it, it's the right wine for you."