Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Great Champagne Quandary: An Afternoon with Pol Roger

Do we really need a celebration to have Champagne? Why is it that typically there has to be a wedding, birthday, or New Years to pop open a bottle of bubbly? Champagne pairs well with food, so why not open a bottle simply while prepping dinner?

Somehow, though, most people feel as if they need some rational to reach for a bottle of bubbly.

Mind you there have been some who could find excuses easily. Coco Chanel is said to have only drunk Champagne on two occasions – when she was in love or when she was not. Churchill started his day with Pol Roger – a bottle a day just to get things going. Someone, I’m not sure who, said you needed Champagne as much in defeat as in victory.

Last week, I decided that being a sunny Sunday afternoon was reason enough to have a bottle of Champagne. But not just any bottle, the day merited a great bottle of bubbles.

Surprisingly, I experienced a nagging sense that I was being decadent or doing something over the top. There were, after all, accomplishments and achievements over the last few months that I hadn’t yet taken time to acknowledge or celebrate. To hell with it, it was Sunday afternoon and I was alive and well – that was reason enough.

Now all that was over with, the question became what to have? Something with just a little edge – a Blanc de Blanc with a little power to it. I considered the two bottles of Salon but they need a little age. I’m also still using the notion that they are investments to justify the inclusion in the cellar.

Since there were no other bottles of Champagne in the wine fridge or in the rack, it was off to the liquor store. On the way, I still had to fight off that annoying sense of needing a reason.

After exploring the latest new arrivals at the liquor store, I found a bottle of Pol Roger vintage Blanc de Blanc – a 1999. All the grapes from this cuvee are from grand cru vineyards in the Cotes de Blancs. All the bottles have undergone hand remuage. The 1999 vintage was warm, and the rain came at the right time. Good vintage, good grapes, good producer. This was just what I was looking for. By the time I got home, the nagging went away.

The bottle went into the ice bucket immediately, and after what seemed to be a suitable interval to show some decorum, the bottle was opened.

The bubbles were very fine and persistent to the eye, a wonderful light gold colour. The nose was at first toast and almonds, then after a few moments floral notes started coming to the forefront with a secondary note of iodine or seashore if you prefer. All good so far, in fact the nose was quite wonderful.

On the palate the acidity was well balanced by the 10.5 grams of residual sugar. The palate as well started out toasty, but not as yeasty as I’d expected. The floral got a little more specific and became all violets. The bubbles remained persistent in the glass. The finish was long, and it had a nice edge right till the end of the bottle. Seafood – oysters especially – would be a good food match.

And there’s no question that being Sunday afternoon was reason enough to have this excellent Blanc de Blanc.

Retail was $88 at the LCB, but this Champagne seems to be available for around $80 on the net.

Susan’s Note:
Personally, I’ve always thought of Coco as having had a remarkably astute attitude to life in addition to exquisite taste.

I’ve heard Frank’s quote of uncertain origin – in victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it – attributed to Winston Church but more often to Napoleon. Who knows, perhaps it was a grand case of plagiarism. Regardless, it’s got a charm, wit, and wisdom that I like.

However, one of my favourite quotes is from the grand lady of Champagne herself – Lily Bollinger. When asked when she drank Champagne, her famous reply was:

I only drink Champagne when I’m happy… and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – I unless I’m thirsty.

So now it’s the Monday of a long weekend – sounds like an excellent reason for another bottle of good bubbles.


Anonymous said...

Nice Post
Steven Spurrier

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