I had a discussion once with my parents about Champagne, trying to explain to them what was so special about it. It is true that the Champagne they usually drink rarely deliver, and are relegated to “whenever bubbles are needed” (as I always say, Champagne is at the same time the best and worst marketing campaign of all times). Of course my mother immediately jumped on this opportunity and asked me to organize a Champagne dinner… I happily obliged, even though it took us several years before it actually happened. That was one week ago.
I had selected two bubblies with completely different styles. We had home-made gougères and parmiggiano/thyme madeleines (both of them being perfect pairing for Champagne). We started with a NV Pierre Peters “Perle du Mesnil” BdB, one of my favorites to start a nice evening. It showed really well, pleasing, light and easy without the dosage that makes typical meal starters undrinkable. At this price point it’s hard to beat, and a crowd pleaser. The next one was a NV Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne BdN - I was trying to show 2 opposites: one a Grand Cru BdB, the other a tiny BdN production from the much heralded Côtes de Bar region coming from a specific plot (Clos des Ursules). Unfortunately it failed to deliver, although it improved a bit with time. I felt this one in part a problem with the lack of information on the bottle. I know all the grapes in this bottle come from the same vintage… but which one? With no information on this and/or disgorgement date, I had to guess if it was an “old” or “young” bottle. This one was probably too young, and therefore not giving much. A mild disappointment.
I gave a lot of thought to this and wanted to prepare a dish with sea scallops (noix de St Jacques) but didn’t know what exactly, and what to pair it with. My friend Michael Lux suggested a simple saffron sauce, and the Dom Pérignon I had planned for the next dish. The dish was excellent, and incredibly simple to prepare: heat up some oil, sear the sea scallops 2 minutes on each side, put away, déglacer with a bit of liquid cream, add saffron and that’s it. Remember to heat up the plates. This succulent dish was paired with 1996 Dom Pérignon and well… what to say? I have a category of wines called “perfect pairings”. Whatever you’re having, the pairing is great (Exhibit A: Roumier’s Les Cras). I feel Dom Pérignon is just one of those. I don’t think I need to say much abou the 96 DP that hasn’t been said before. All I can say is: try this pairing.
Take a filet mignon, sear it on both sides. In another pan, prepare some mushrooms (I prefer them just like that, some apparently prefer to desecrate them with garlic or parsley). Unroll some puff pastry dough, add one layer of cured meat (bacon, coppa, etc.), then add one layer of mushrooms. Put the filet mignon on top of it, roll the dough, put in the oven. Another extremely simple recipe that will deilver. I had planned the aforementioned DP for this dish, but replaced it by NV Selosse Contraste. Another great pairing. The rustic element of the dish played well with the power of this champagne, my favorite in the Selosse line-up, year in and year out. It can be hard to describe until one remembers that this Champagne is aptly named: contrast. That’s what it is. Power and elegance. An obvious character denied by finesse. Accessible yet long. Simply a great bottle of wine.
Here I managed to have only half of the intended effect, which was to play on the trend of oxidative Champagnes by pairing one with Comté, trying to recreate the Vin Jaune typical pairing. I went for a NV Selosse Initiale, which was ok for this pairing with a clear oxidative character (green apples and so on). But I should really have gone for an Extra Brut. This would have really driven the point home. It was still a decent pairing.
Guess what? Yet another incredibly easy recipe that delivers: strawberry soup with basil. Orange juice, quartered strawberries, finely cut basil, brown sugar, and a few hours in the fridge. That’s it. Delicious on a summer night. The pairing was tough so I went for as sure a bet as a I could think: Francis Boulard’s Petraea. It’s a solera Champagne (the only other one I know of being Selosse’s Substance), and I wanted to try the 99-04 one. The first bottle was unfortunately horribly corked, so I went for another one. My second attempt was successful and the “99-04” Boulard Petraea was just as expected, a beauty showcasing complexity, depth and power, but somehow managing to stay light on its feet. I wouldn’t say the pairing was perfect (benig the toughest and maybe “most impossible pairing of the night”–may Francis forgive me!) but it worked well enough, and we enjoyed the end of the bottle “as is”, the perfect conclusion to what I felt was a great dinner.
Other recent stuff:
2007 Joguet Chinon “Cuvée Terroir”: As good as this wine is, it shouldn’t be drunk at lunch on a hot summer day. I still liked it, but know it can be much better.
2004 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc: every time I drink a white Bordeaux I’m thinking I should have more of those i my cellar (which shouldn’t be too difficult since I have none). Fortunately enough the Bordelais are quick to bring me back down to Earth with their great pricing strategy. Still a really nice wine that I wish I would drink more often.
I also had the 2003 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc a few months ago (which one thing leading to another prompted us to open the 2004 recently) and found it also to my liking, in a way less marked by the vintage than I thought… except (snice it was served blind) I first guessed it as a white wine from Provence. That means this is a true “Rovani wine”: a wine that gets widely different reviews based on whether you rate on what it is, or what it should be (a category of wines named after the “great” Burgundy critic, who had to deal on an every day basis with the tough question of “should a Burgundy that tastes like a Northern Rhône get a great review”–to which he unfortunately answered yes).
1990 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle: I somehow have 6 (well, 5) of those, so it was time to try one. Or not. If I have ever have kid (or grandkids), they will sell me for it. Or sell it with the bulk of my cellar to a White Zin producer from the Finger Lakers area. Who knows? In the meantime, this is not ready to drink. It still gives pleasure, though, especially the incredible silky mouthfeel, unlike any other wine I’ve tried so far. This is what silk would feel like if it could be drunk. There were other stuff, like aromas and length and whatever, but nothing that really matters right now.
2002 Roumier Chambolle: let’s be serious. Everybody has his limits, and there’s just a certain amount of time I can go without drinking one of those. Unfortunately the temperature in my small flat in the south of France was a steady 82F, meaning there was no way I could keep some of those with me. So it had to wait for me to go back to Paris. I am happy to announce I will however soon be reunited with my cellar, and I’ll certainly drink to that! Anyway, this was brilliant (what else?) I only half believed the reports in the recent thread about 2002 red burgs being in a nice phase right now, but this clearly showed it was the case (even though my little finger is ready to bet I will appreciate it even more some years down the road). Some of you might notice that I am raving about an 8-year-old village wine that is not yet ready to drink. And yes I am! Enough said.
2000 Figeac: Bob made me do it! I swear! Ok, there’s a bit of bitterness at the end of the palate. I didn’t even dislike that part. Everything else is great, and this bottle was a treat. Just my kind of wine, but it sure helps knowing what one is getting into with Figeac. It’s not the run of the mill St-Emilion.
I just remember I forgot to report on my trip to Italy back in June. So let me make this report even longer.
Let’s start with the wine I will remember: 2006 Roberto Voerzio Barbera d’Alba Ceretto. This sets a new high in my discovery of the area. I’ve had some really good Barbera d’Alba, but this is simply insane. Isn’t this supposed to be one of the “lower appellations”? Somebody should tell this guy. I’ll take that over the 2006 Nebbiolo from the same guy.
Apart from that, some Vermentino (del Bolgheri?) from Emilio Grasso was really nice, his Chardonnet Educato was decent. 2009 La Spinetta Vermentino, different but not bad either. 2004 Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabotte Mentin Ginestra (?!?), seems really good but way to young still. We had some other stuff, really good actually like some unknown 99 Chianti that was probably very poorly stored but is for sure the best ever bottle of wine I’ve had in a restaurant for 22 euros (!).