Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year's! ...And Some Champagne

Gilbert Spills It would like to extend heartfelt wishes to all our readers, and wish them the best for 2014.  2013 was a mixed bag for Your Humble Narrator, with some disappointments and some new opportunities.  But I've set myself some goals for this year, and plan on working hard to achieve them.

I had to work on New Year's eve, so I saved my celebration for New Year's Day.  With the madness of December finally over, I had a chance to relax, and spend a little time at home with Mrs. Gilbert.  I picked out  a really nice bottle of Champagne to enjoy, and as absurd as it sounds, served it with our traditional New Year's Day meal of  black eyed peas and cabbage. 

The Champagnes of Pol Roger have been one of our go-to's for some time now; we popped a bottle of the Vintage when the Millenium turned, and we drank a bottle of the Sir Winston Churchill on my 30th birthday.  A competitor had a very attractive price on the Brut Reserve, so I quietly asked a friend who works there to put a bottle aside for me, and I slinked over to pick it up on my lunch break.  Pol Roger has a reputation for being a favorite of the British Royal family, enjoying the status of being served recently at William and Kate's wedding reception.  Aside from these celebrity endorsements, Pol Roger also enjoys the distinction of being one of the few Grande Marque houses to remain family owned.  In addition, despite it's status as a Negociant-Manipulant, they own over 50% of the vineyards from which their grapes are sourced.

This wine is sourced from properties all over the Champagne region, and combines all three of the Champagne grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, in almost equal proportions.  The juice is comprised exclusively of the first pressing of the grapes, or the "tete de cuvee."

I'll confess that I don't have as refined a palate for sparkling wine as I do when it comes to still wines.  It is more difficult for me to identify the nuances of a glass of champagne than it is a still wine, possibly due to the CO2 that the wine gives off, and the tingles it engenders on my tongue.  I can pick up the broader notes, but something about the effervescence causes my taste buds a considerable amount of confusion.  This has led to my adopting a celebratory rather than contemplative attitude towards sparkling wine.  I try not to over-intellectualize the fizzy stuff, and instead  just relax and enjoy it.  That's not to say I just swill it down like a heathen,  but I don't exactly pull out the tasting notebook and attempt to tease out and identify all the nuance.  I'll also confess that because I don't get to drink a whole heck of a lot of Champagne, I'm not as practiced at it as I'd like to be.  

In the glass it shows a lovely lemon gold with a fine bead, and creamy mousse.  I always think of Champagne as being like a piano keyboard, with bass tones at one end, alto at the other, and tenor tones in the middle.  This Champagne plays at the higher end of the scale, with lots of citrusy acididity.  There are some mid-tones at the finish, a little toast and nuttiness.  In all, it was wonderfully enjoyable, and I highly recommend it.  It was an elegant way to begin what I hope is a wonderful year.

Standing in front of Pol Roger on the Avenue des Champagnes, Epernay, in 2010

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