Persephone Rising: Korbel Champagnes as a Rite of Spring

The Greeks had a lovely myth about the arrival of spring: Persephone, daughter of the harvest goddess Demeter, was forced to spend half the year in the dark underworld, and during her sojourn there with Hades, human beings endured an increasingly bleak autumn and a testing winter. However, with the advent of spring, Persephone left her gloomy prison, trekked upward, and when she reached the surface, the earth blossomed. I often think about this story when I sip sparkling wines, which have an impressive power to lift the human spirit, and so I think it decidedly appropriate for me to describe three of my favorite Korbel Champagnes by relating them to the annual ascent of Persephone.

During her long and tiring climb, Persephone would doubtless require some liquid refreshment, and Korbel California Champagne Non-Vintage Chardonnay ($12) would be a good choice, because it has an extraordinary capacity to delight the palate. While the first sip of this Champagne is enchanting, after a moment’s reflection – and a second sip – the wine’s surprisingly generous character reveals itself. Its soft, altogether delectable apple and pear flavors express themselves immediately, and they are soon joined by appealing nuances of butter and vanilla-oak. These luscious complexities help to make this Korbel Champagne a splendid dinner wine that would perfectly complement most seafood and poultry dishes.

When Persephone at last leaves the cavernous darkness and walks upon the carpet of flowers that have bloomed to honor her, I am confident that she would immediately request a glass of Korbel California Champagne Non-Vintage Brut Rose ($12), since this wine seems to capture the very essence of springtime. Its strawberry and cherry flavors are as bright as they are delicious, and the wine’s crisp finish adds additional zest to its already vivacious personality. Although this Champagne is ideal for sipping, it has more than enough substance to accompany casual fare, particularly the sort that is typically brought on picnics.

After spending so much time in gloomy surroundings, Persephone would doubtless want to celebrate her return to the world of light by donning an attractive, floral-print party dress, heading for a good restaurant, and drinking some excellent wine, and I suggest that the perfect choice would be Korbel California Champagne 2006 Natural ($15). This complex wine deserves careful study, but its admittedly aristocratic nature certainly does not preclude its being paired with good food or sipped lovingly on its own, especially since it offers so much character at a very reasonable price, with ample, well-focused cherry, berry, tart apple, and citrus flavors and a long, uncommonly flavorful finish.

The tale of Persephone Rising might be just a beautiful myth, but we all have occasions in our lives when our spirits could use some lifting, and I suggest that sipping any of the Korbel Champagnes I have described would prove a sovereign remedy for whatever dark mood might hold one in thrall. I also submit that the feeling of having ones spirits restored is quite springlike in character, and that consequently the experience of springtime is in some sense always and everywhere potentially available to us. And for that bountiful gift, I think it appropriate to thank both Persephone and the winemaking team at Korbel Champagne Cellars.

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