I remember the day I came home from Georgetown University. I was so proud of my MA Degree and wanted to share my joy with my grandparents. When I pulled up to the horseshoe drive, I was greeted by my grandfather who had been working on his roses. After the customary pleasantries, Gramps asked me the all important question.
“Now that you have mastered your subject, and a bright future awaits you,” he paused for effect. “What do you know?”
Immediately I was ready to share all that I had learned over the past two years when I realized this was not the way to impress my grandfather. Gramps spoke seven languages and was well-read. What next came to mind was Plato’s Socratic Paradox. “Ipse se nihil score I’d unum script, all I know is that I know nothing.” But before I answered, I also considered my grandfather’s sense of humor.
All I know is that I was born and I will die, and it is up to me to make the most of what lies between the two extremes,” I paused for effect. “Champagne is one way to make this paradox bearable.”
This week we will take a look at my picks for the upcoming Valentine festivities. Once again, I am joined by my very special friend and fellow sommelier, Elena Boiko.
Our first selection, Stepane Coquillette 2007 Carte Bleue Melesime Brut is an exceptionally delicate and elegant Champagne. It is a blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir. In the glass its coloring is of bright yellow straw. To add to the wine’s allure, there are generous amounts of bubbles accompanied by an almost heavenly bouquet. There are aromas are filled with citrus fruit, honey, and white flowers. On the palate it is wonderfully refreshing. Flavors of apricot and pear dominate, followed by lemon, lime, and hints of hazelnut and ginger. The finish is clean and long. A memorable gift at only $85 a bottle. The alcohol content is 12.5%.
“A wine of graceful balance,” Elena smiled pleasurably. “It just melted in my mouth.”
“A nice wine with ideal effervescence.”
Our next selection, Lanson 2002 Gold Label Brut is 53% Pinot Noir and 47% Chardonnay. Lanson has created a wine to attract the international market. The 2002 is versatile and the appropriate Champagne for any occasion. In the glass, the light golden color gives it the appearance of being light and fresh. There are just enough bubbles to entice the beholder to sample this wine. The bouquet is aromatic and filled with notes of apple, fig, toffee, and yeast. On the palate the wine is deep, rich, well-balanced, and elegantly textured. The flavor is dominated by honeyed apples and pear on the back palate. The finish is long and creamy. The alcohol content is 12.8% with a bottle price of $90.
“This is a lovely and festive wine that is right for any type of celebration,” Elena’s smile was bright and lively. “Due to its versatility, it can easily pair with a wide array of dishes.”
“I would pair the 2002 with eggs,” I paused in reflection. “Poached eggs, to be more precise.”
Next up, Saint-Chamant 2004 Brut Blanc de Blancs. In the glass, this lightly colored wine sparkles and is alive with rich bubbles. The bouquet is laced with aromas of baked apples, brioche, and toasted almonds. On the palate, the 2004 is dominated by the flavors of almond, apple crisp followed by ginger. We also noted that over the hour, the wine continued to open up and showed quite nicely. The finish is bright, long, and complex. The alcohol content is 12% with a bottle price of $95.
“This wine is as versatile as it is effervescent,” Elena was quick to add. “I particularly like the 2004 as an aperitif. It is great with clams, mussels, and oysters.”
“I agree, very nice with hours d’ oauvres,” I paused to collect my thoughts. “I would also pair this wine with desserts. This would go nicely with my favorite, bread pudding.”
Our last selection, Cattier Brut Blanc de Noirs, is perhaps the most versatile of the Champagnes on this day. It is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier. In the glass it has an alluring color of amber gold with yellow highlights. The bouquet is quite expressive and filled with the persistent aromas of ripe fruit. On the palate, there is good balance to this medium-bodied wine. It is rich in red berries, followed by dried fruit, quince, and just a hint of jam, which ends in a finish that is crisp, dry, and pleasant. The alcohol content is 12.5% and a bottle price of $95.
“Indeed the most versatile wine of the day,” Elena was quick to add. “Pair with both red and white meats, sea and river fish, and medium cheeses like Emmenthal.”
“Now that we have tried these four Champagnes, what are you considering for our Valentine celebration?” Elena toyed playfully.
I am planning to surprise her with a bottle of Krug Brut Grande Cuvee. At $150, it is well worth the investment.
“But that my friends, is another story … “