Champagne Floozy: [sham-PEYN FLOO-zee], noun: 1. A woman of the early days of Champagne, before her time, who decided it was ok for women to partake in the drinking of Champagne. 2. A lifelong foodie turned wine industry professional based in Durham, NC.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Champagne and some more Champagne and some thoughts on Wine Jargon

   Wine people just looooove wine-speak, right? You know what I'm talking about; it's all those words and descriptions that make all the rest of you non-wine people intimidated and unsure of yourselves. In the know folks like Robert Parker say things like: "This wine tastes of blackberries, currants, scorched earth, road tar, cedar, truffle, and smoke, with an undercurrent of sage and mineral on the finish."

   But here's the truth about wine, and the grasp of this reality could make any human being who can appreciate something as simple as the difference between a red delicious apple and a granny smith into a "wine person": Wine is an agricultural product, above all else. Just like an apple, a pear, a peach, or a stalk of asparagus. Granted, there is human manipulation involved, but at the heart of it, its a fucking fruit. You like fruit, right? If you can bite into a strawberry or a tomato and tell if it's ripe or not, you can be a wine person.

   Let's forget, for a moment, all that scorched earth. Let's rethink wine tasting. Rather than putting our noses in the glass and trying one up each other on who can get the most detailed, minute, arcane impressions from a few whiffs, let's instead ask ourselves: Does this wine taste good? What kind of fruit am I tasting? (and believe it or not, we do not have to be specific here...a color will work fine. Red fruit. Black fruit. Blue fruit. Yellow fruit. Green fruit. Get it?) Is this wine in balance? This last question is really the most important. What we are looking for is a balance between sugar/fruit and acid. Balance is the single most important factor in what makes a wine great, no matter how humble or highfalutin it's origins. And while Winespeak is fun, and can be a big part of the pleasure for some of us, it's certainly not required.

   It wasn't always like this. Rather than being entities composed of strings of adjectives, wines were described in terms of body, fruit, acid, and overall balance. Many of those adjectives are subjective, anyways. Truth be told, I don't want to be cerebral about my beverages all the time. Sometimes I'd just rather be hedonistic.

omfg i love champagne so much
   I am reminded of these sentiments every time I open a bottle of what has to be my favorite type of wine: Champagne. Not Cava, not Prosecco, not methode-champenoise from anywhere else. I will be a wine snob on this point. Champagne is actually just better, and thats why it's expensive. That's why we can't have it all the time, and why opening a bottle for a special occasion is the occasion. I've had crazy dreams of standing in Champagne vineyards that were WWII battlefields (historically accurate) and looking down to find that the ground was soaked in blood and Champagne. I think that, in a past life, I was a bottle of Champagne. I'm a little nutty about Champagne, but can you blame me? It's Champagne, after all. I try to have some every few months or so.  

Which brings me back to my original point. The wine I love the very most is also the wine to which I have the hardest time applying my hard-earned Winespeak. Who can really describe something as ethereal as this lovely beverage, with it's perfect tiny bubbles, astounding richness of fruit and acidity, and delightful feel on the tongue? (Not to mention it's heady after effects, which are pretty much guaranteed to put my notoriously moody Bigsy in a great and goofy mood.)  Not that we won't try to describe, of course.

On Saturday, at the end of our shift and the end of our twice-yearly Sale Week, Eb opened, as seems to be the tradition, a bottle of Champagne. (I had already picked out a bottle that was waiting for me in the wine chiller.) This time he opened the lovely Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose NV, which is considered by many to be one of the finest examples of Rose Champagne available. It was delicious, practically weightless but packed with flavor, and possessing the most delicate red fruit aromas. The nose reminded me of Strawberry mousse (Eb said Raspberry), and that finish just sailed on and on and on and on.

After sharing a toast with my co-workers, Bigsy and I headed home, where I promptly opened a bottle of Pascal Doquet Grand Cru NV and parked my tired butt on the porch for the foreseeable future. The vineyards for this grower champagne are located in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, a village of Grand Cru standing in the Cotes-de-Blancs sub-region of Champagne. Pascal and his wife Laure farm the soils biodynamically and all the grapes are hand-harvested. In the cellar, it is aged in both tank and cask before it sees at least two years resting on its lees, sometimes as many as three (far more than required by law), which help to impart it's notable richness and body.

And what richness. What body! This was the wine equivalent of that buxom secretary on Mad Men. Opulent aromas of toffee and vanilla were gently layered over a zesty core of ripe stone fruit and mineral. Damn, baby. Damn.

Bigsy and I sat on the porch, talking and enjoying a welcome drop in temperature as the sun went down, with the kitties lounging at our feet, watching Montford strolling by in it's summery short-shorts. And we drank some Champagne, down to the last shimmering, glorious, bubbly drop.Then we ordered cheap delivery pizza, because we were tired and hungry, and I suppose you can't be fancy all the time.

Koko insists that the Champagne must be grower. I won't argue with him.

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