Monday, December 10, 2018

The Tea House Detective with Cremant de Bourgogne

I loved The Scarlet Pimpernel as a teenager (and still do), and think I read most of the series in battered old Library copies that have almost certainly been destroyed by now. What I only started to realise in the last few years was how many other books Orczy had written, including reasonably early detective fiction. Since then I've obviously wanted to read them, but they've not been the easiest books to come by (more or less out of print, and with a mixed reputation which makes a serious investment of time or money a bit risky).

Pushkin Vertigo is one of my favourite imprints, and so far everything I've read or bought (I've bought a lot more than I've read) in it has been international noir so I was almost as surprised as I was delighted to see that they've reprinted 'The Old Man In The Corner', and that early next year we're getting 'The Case of Miss Elliot' as well in 'The Teahouse Detective' series.

I've started 'The Old Man in the Corner' and it's promising to be everything I could want it to be (an elderly gentleman is mansplaining crimes to a competent female journalist, I think she's going to get the last word though). I've also spent quite a bit of time trying to think what Polly Burton of the Evening Observer would drink.

I know she drinks coffee because that's what she's having with her lunch on page 1, and coffee or a good cup of tea (an Assam heavy blend seems most appropriate for the teahouse setting) are obviously a good match for any book, as well as being the lunch time choice of a female journalist of the Belle Époque - but what else would a respectable, independent, young woman of the age drink?

One answer might be Champagne, but Polly is earning a living so Cremant de Bourgogne (or Sparkling Burgundy) would be the economical alternative. When I started out in the winectrade New World Fizz was the thing everybody wanted, then Cava had its moment, and currently it's Prosecco. I've never quite understood why prosecco is quite as popular as it is - beyond its relative cheapness. It's okay, but it's often quite bland and a bit sugary, and there are much better things out there.

One of the better things out there is Cremant de Bourgogne, which is finally getting a bit more attention. The great thing about this wine is that it's made using the Champagne method (bottle fermentation means better ageing potential, more complexity, better quality fizz) from more or less the same grapes as Champagne (though some gamay and aligoté might also be used - there are only 3 permitted grape varieties in Champagne; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier - but that's another post in itself). The short version is that you're getting Champagne quality and flavour for a fraction of the price.

There are plenty of good quality Cremant de Bourgognes around for between £10-£15 at the moment and for that you'll be getting something that will rival any NV Champagne, if you're looking at cheaper Champagne generally I'd recommend the Cremant over it every time. It'll almost certainly be better, and much better value.

I'd also put in a good word for those new world fizzes - quite a few are made by Champagne houses anyway, and they too are excellent quality at very reasonable prices. I don't know why they fell out of favour but they knock the socks of most prosecco's I've tried.


  1. Interesting post, Hayley; I think Prosecco is hugely overrated and usually pretty one-dimensional. We chose Blanquette de Limoux for my sister’s wedding a good few years ago, and it was well received. Which Crémant would you buy for yourself?

  2. I like the Cave de lugny that Waitrose has - it's a while since I've tried any others, but Oddbins used to have a decent one too. If you've got a good local wine merchant I'd take their view on it as well. Not much of a fan of prosecco at all, there are much better things out there for the same kind of money - like your Limoux for a start which I also really like. I'll try pretty much any cremant that isn't suspiciously cheap though, and I've not been disappointed yet.

  3. I like Blanquette de Limoux, too. It was my drink of choice the last time I had Christmas alone and it was a very nice experience (both the Blanquette and the alone bit). I think Prosecco is over-rated, a one-note drink. I have to give some thought to what I shall choose for this year, a whole week alone - oh the anticipation!

    1. It sounds blissful. I only have a couple of days off, and know I won't be at my best/most sociable because I'll be tired and fed up by then. It's just me, my mother, sister, and mother's dog this year - which is how we like it, but we'll still argue about what to watch on tv (my sister and I will anyway) which isn't ideal.

  4. Shame that you have to argue about TV - I don't have one so there is no dilemma here. I hope you will manage to recover from your busy pre-Christmas work load.

  5. The argument is traditional- we'd probably miss it if we didn't do it...