In Appreciation of Champagne + Blood Orange and Pistachio Pavlovas

Paul Buisse La Bulle Blanc Brut

“This wine rains kisses in your mouth.” –Insatiable By Gael Greene

The first Wednesday of every month is Wine Wednesday! Spectacular wines under $10.00. Yep. Under $10.00. Sometimes wine is less expensive where I am, but most of the time it’s more expensive. Hopefully that means that I will pick wines that are well below the $10.00 limit for most of you.

I will post wines that I particularly like. I am no specialist by any means, but I do love wine. I know the basics of the different varietals, what regions generally produce, how wines are made, but this space is all about preference. We all like what we like, and you might like what I like too. I will post food pairings and why those pairings are suitable for the specific wine.

Paul Buisse La Bulle Blanc Brut

Price: $8.99

Variety: Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay

I hope you started off the New Year with many glasses of Champagne. And maybe even some Champagne Jell-O shots? Because you deserve it!

But you know what I’m starting to realize? We don’t need a special occasion as an excuse to have some bubbly. I think we could all learn from Heather Dubrow of the OC Housewives. More and more people are starting to subscribe to the idea that you should surround yourself with happy things, and I think Champagne should be a part of your New Year’s resolution. You know, celebrate the small stuff! I know that we would all be happier people for it.

So here’s to 2017! With an affordable sparkling wine pick (because we aren’t actually Heather Dubrow) and a delicate, yet bold treat to match.

If you follow Wine Wednesday, you know that all sparkling wines I’ve featured in the past have been prosecco. No champagne to be seen. And it’s all due to cost. There are a few reasons for this. First and foremost, Champagne is a location-protected name as a region in France. The Champagne region has a rather limited number of acres, so the supply/demand ratio is not to the consumer’s advantage. Another reason is the powerful marketing surrounding Champagne. You never hear about using Cabernet to commemorate special occasions.

The most interesting reason for us as to why Champagne is so expensive is due to the production method. The method which is traditional and required for authentic Champagne (developed by Dom Pérignon! Sound familiar?) has several steps that are very time-consuming and technically difficult. I’m about to totally nerd out on Champagne science, so if you’re just looking for the snacks and drinks, scroll on down! Otherwise, read on.

Every Champagne starts with a base wine, such as a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir (fermented without the skins to keep it light in color), and Pinot Meunier (cousin to Pinot Noir) which are the only varietals allowed in real Champagne. Once this process is complete, wines are generally blended to keep a consistent quality and taste profile from year to year.

After you’ve got the base wine all figured out, the entire batch undergoes a secondary fermentation. An alcohol-tolerant strain of yeast, Saccharomyces bayanus, and a small amount of sugar are added to the wine to facilitate the action of the yeast. This is bottled and left to ferment for about a month and half.

Once the second fermentation is complete, there is an additional aging period that can go on for years. It’s during this period that the magic happens. The yeast cells die off which release those nutty aromas found only in true Champagne. The yeast cells also release cellular material that cause the overall viscosity to increase. That increase in thickness influences the bubbly nature of the Champagne. The air bubbles will move more slowly through the liquid and up the Champagne flute creating a more lasting effervescence in the wine.

After that the process involves removing the yeast from the Champagne and corking the final bottles. The bottles are gently manipulated in position in order to move the yeast deposit to the front of the neck. Then, the bottles are cooled to low temperatures, and the necks are dipped into a coolant bath to freeze the top couple of inches. The result is that when the bottle is tipped up, the yeast icicle pops right out due to the pressure. The next step involves replacing some of the Champagne that is inevitably lost during the yeast removal and is a trade secret for each Champagne house. It could be topped off with a similar sparkling wine, a still wine, and/or sugar to create a sweeter Champagne. Finally, we’ve got the corking and caging before the Champagne makes its way to your hands.

If a wine maker would like to produce a much less expensive sparkling wine outside of the region, they can pretty much disregard all of that traditional methodology. The secondary fermentation could take place in a tank, for example, rather than a bottle. Italy’s Spumante is produced this way. Or rather than the complicated yeast removal, the sparkling wine can be removed from the bottle and filtered before being returned to bottles. And finally, the wine can undergo artificial fermentation like what is done with sodas and most beer. This is obviously very inexpensive but less than ideal.

So now that we’ve got that covered, onto the wine! Paul Buisse La Bulle Blanc Brut. This particular sparkling wine I’ve picked for Wine Wednesday is not produced in the Champagne region of France but rather to the West of Paris which automatically cuts the cost. Secondarily, Chenin Blanc is used as the primary grape varietal along with Chardonnay in a blend which is much less expensive to cultivate overall. It is hard to discern what exact method is used for the fermentation and other steps, but as we’ll shortly discover, the taste profile is similar to what you’d find in a traditional Champagne. A gem of an affordable sparkling wine.

The La Bulle Blanc Brut from the Paul Buisse winery is bone dry with strong notes of bread coming from the yeast. Those yeasty notes are a big part of what draws people to Champagne. Additionally, there are background notes of honey and apple that help round out the overall profile and make it more balanced. So, what should we pair with this delicious sparkling wine? Pavlovas of course!

Pavlovas are light as air, crispy baked meringues. I think Max Falkowitz of Serious Eats explains it best.

“Pavlova is a cream-topped meringue dessert of Aussie or New Zealand extraction, allegedly named for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova whose grace and beauty were apparently best captured in a pillow of egg white and cream.”

If we’re in the mood for celebrating the small stuff, I can’t think of a better way to cap off a delicate treat. I’ve made this pavlova with blood oranges to take advantage of winter citrus, using the Paul Buisse sparkling wine in the sauce. The result is the smell of a bakery taking over your kitchen as you reduce the sauce letting the yeasty wine add complexity. But that color is the real MVP. Topping with pistachios adds crunch and a different kind of nutty sweetness that rounds out the wine. Perfect pairing if you ask me!

Let’s celebrate 2017 and all the accomplishments to come. With all the pretty snacks and all the bubbles. “Real Champagne” or not. Cheers!

Mini Pavlovas with Blood Oranges and Pistachios


Slightly adapted from Alton Brown

Makes 5 personal-sized pavlovas (For a 9-inch large pavlova, go to Alton’s recipe)

4 ounces (½ cup) liquid egg whites at room temperature

Pinch kosher salt

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon vinegar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Blood Orange Sauce

3 blood oranges

½ cup sparkling wine

½ cup granulated sugar


Fully baked and dried pavlovas

1 cup whipped cream

Blood orange sauce

¼ cup roasted pistachios, roughly chopped

  1. Make the pavlovas. Heat the oven to 250⁰F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Use a drinking glass to trace five circles evenly spaced on the parchment. Turn over the parchment so that the pencil markings are on the underside.
  2. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment along with the salt. Whisk on high until stiff peaks form, about 4-5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Slowly add the sugar to the mixer over a couple of minutes. Stop once the sugar is added and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy and stiff peaks form. This should take around 7-8 minutes. If you did not let the egg whites come to room temperature, this will take considerably longer, about 15 minutes.
  4. Once the texture looks right, remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Add the vanilla, vinegar, and cornstarch and gently fold in to incorporate.
  5. Working carefully and quickly, spoon the meringue into the circles drawn onto the parchment. Divide the mixture among the circles. Smooth out with a rubber spatula or offset spatula forming a slight well in the center.
  6. Place the tray in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Do not open the door of the oven during either the cooking or drying period. This will cause your pavlovas to crack.
  7. When finished baking, turn the heat off but leave the pavlovas in the oven with the door shut for 2 hours or until the meringue is crisp and dry. Open the oven door and cool completely, about 15 minutes, before removing the pan from the oven.
  8. Make the blood orange sauce. This would be perfect to do during the long cooling process of the pavlovas. Cut the blood oranges into sections. If you’ve never done this before, you get to pretend you’re in one of those Top Chef prep speed challenges. Cut the two ends of the oranges off (the navel and the opposing side). Put one of the cut sides down on the cutting board. Use your knife to cut the rind off, working from the top, all the way around the orange. Try to keep as much of the fruit in tact as possible. Then, slice a section of orange out cutting just inside the diving lines. This will give you an orange section without the pulpy encasement. Repeat with the rest of the orange and the remaining two oranges.
  9. In a medium saucepan, add the orange sections, sparkling wine, and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, and reduce heat so that it is simmering. Let simmer and reduce for about 12-15 minutes, until it is reduced by at least half. If you have a personal preference for a thinner or thicker sauce, use your judgement here tasting as you go and cooking for a longer or shorter period of time.
  10. When finished reducing, remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
  11. Assemble the pavlovas. Transfer the pavlovas to your serving platter. Top each with the whipped cream followed by the blood orange sauce (orange pieces and all) dividing evenly among them. Finally, sprinkle the pistachios on top and serve! Enjoy immediately.
  12. If you’d like to prepare in advance, keep everything separate and seal the pavlovas in an airtight container for up to one day to keep them crispy.

PS if you’re interested in finding out more about wine varietals, production, regions, history, etc. I highly recommend Wine Appreciation from Christian Butzke. I took class from Dr. Butzke during my undergraduate education, and I often refer back to this book.



  1. January 6

    The pavlova leads to an argument every christmas in my family over which country invented it. I tend to favour the NZ side. Australians tend to steal alot of New Zealand inventions and claim them as their own haha. Love your description of champagne – it makes so much more sense now x

    • Kelsey
      January 12

      Ha! Hopefully you all are eating pavlovas at the time of these arguments 😉

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