Column: Two iconic French wine cocktails

To add pizzazz to your wine menu, consider today’s offering: Kir and Kir Royale. They are named after Canon Felix Kir, a Catholic priest, French resistance fighter and the mayor of Dijon, Burgundy.

Legend has it that during World War Two, the Nazis confiscated most of the red wine so Kir created a red cocktail from the local white wine and the blackcurrant liqueur, Crème de Cassis. Voila, the Kir was born.

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Traditionally Kirs are made from Aligoté, a dry and fairly neutral white from Burgundy. Aligoté can often be difficult to find, so a white Burgundy made from Chardonnay is an excellent alternative. I enjoy the Louis Latour 2016 Chardonnay ($24.99).

On its own, the Latour is a lovely white Burgundy. It displays a medium straw colour with scents of lemon, pears, apples, vanilla and hazelnuts. The flavour also reveals those elements with “great vivacity” due to the crisp acid levels balanced with the fruit and the flavour of minerals from the limestone soil.

To make a Kir, I poured myself a glass of the Latour Chardonnay and added about half an ounce of the Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cassis de Dijon. This is the blackcurrant liqueur of Burgundy.

Gabriel Boudier has kept the original label created in 1874 for its Crèmede Cassis de Dijon ($40.00). With its distinctive square edged bottle it fits neatly into the refrigerator door.

Unlike many liqueurs, the Cassis has only 20 per cent alcohol so it’s a good match with the Chardonnay. I found the flavours of the white Burgundy are still noticeable but it has more complexity with the added blackcurrant. The fact that the liqueur is not too sweet and has a hint of bitterness means that again, it will be a good partner with the dry wine. And of course the maroon colour adds a touch of class to the pale white.

As there is only 20 per cent alcohol instead of the 40 per cent found in most liqueurs, the Cassis will only last four months in the fridge before it oxidizes and turns brown.

If you want to make a Kir Royale, simply replace the white wine with a sparkling wine, use a tall flute glass, and add three ounces of bubbly and half an ounce of Cassis.  Of course if money is no object, use champagne.

I usually choose a Spanish Cava because it’s more budget friendly and most are dry Bruts, like most champagnes. Although Cavas are made from Spanish grapes, they are made in the traditional method that Champagnes are.

If you want good quality at a low price, choose the Jaume Serra Cristalino ($13.99). Wine and Spirits Magazine has awarded it “Value Brand of the Year” for three consecutive years. I love its nose of toast and orchard fruit with fresh citrus and apple flavours and mineral flavors, supple, lively mouth-feel and clean, crisp finish.

The Cava’s personality is subtler than the Chardonnay’s so the Cassis will appear more dominant in the Kir Royale. And of course anything with bubbles is going to appeal to a lot of people.

Eric Hanson is a Richmond wine aficionado.

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