Friday, August 22, 2008

The best wine in the world…and the winner is – Champagne

Why in God’s name Champagne?

Champagne is often used to celebrate a joyful moment or occasion and we all know it from New years evening, where it’s a regular. The label Champagne is also common used to all kinds of Sparkling wine, even if Champagne is only allowed to this small region located 150 km northeast of Paris. Champagne is also associated with glamour and an extravagant lifestyle – at least if you drink it more than 2-3 times a year. But here is its worst enemy in my opinion. It’s only when you begin to treat Champagne as a wine, not a thing or a phenomenon, you will see how great a wine it is.

I will explain.

First of all, it’s of course great, that you here have a beverage that you immediately connect with something positive. Your enthusiasm about Champagne will probably not be reduced when you see tiny bubbles rising from a beautiful Champagne glass. The role of this unique and traditional Wine is of course being massive used on a commercial scale. Huge industrial companies and luxury good groups are behind such prominent houses as; Krug ,Möet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart, Mercier, Mumm, Perrier Jouet, Roederer, Gosset and Piper Heidsieck. As a passionate wine drinker you will at some stage be challenged on the fact that you sometimes feel you pay more for marketing budget, fancy gifts box’s and in all essence make a tribute to shareholder value. It’s much easier to adapt to the storytelling version, where you feel you buy a unique product from a small producer - a person behind not a company.

But the rule off all the fluff, hula hula and glamour works both ways. As a consumer you have to pay attention of what’s inside and when you are able to do that, with an open mind - you are one step in the right direction.
On the producer side – the small Grower Champagne house live side by side with the Grand Marques. The big house use millions of dollar to promote Champagne all over the world and the small Growers are happily making some kind of benefit from this focus. Even if you can sit, as a wine geek like me, and analyze a wine from A-Z, there will for sure be a positive vibe from Champagne, which will be generated from smart marketing people, creating a big balloon of images of a good life, when drinking Champagne. But at the end of the day – it’s a wine, even if it can make you smile for several reasons – remember that.

When you start treating Champagne as a wine, it will automatically change the way you drink it. Hopefully, you will let pop the cork more than 2-3 times a year. When you are about to pick a wine to drink, you will think of Champagne as the alternative to white, red or dessert wine, and not only as aperitif or a palate cleanser. Yes…you heard me – Champagne is the most universal food matching drink out there.
The obvious reason for this is of course the bubbles or more correctly put - the mousse. It cleanses the palate and keeps the taste buds fresh and ready for the next serving. Champagne will also be a perfect companion to the food, making sure that both food and wine will have something to say, as Champagne has an enormous purity and subtle feel like no other wine.

In addition Champagne’s diversity and ability to age will opens a wide window of dishes, which can be successfully matched. A crisp young Blanc de Blanc with elegant fish dish or a dark mysterious 15+year old Vintage Champagne with some Pinot Noir in it, matched with a more concentrated dish – soups or even Foie Gras. The choices are endless.

In a world of wine databases and skilled journalist’s ratings wines, I feel there is a tendency sometimes to forget the simple role of drinking pleasure. A journalist has to keep some sort of objective focus on the wine, as they have a listening audience. For sure there are palate preferences escaping these professional palates, but the professional taster has a hard time not recognizing the term you can call “A well made wine”. A wine of such character is a wine, that might have an impressive concentration or in general just a high quality. But a well made wine is not necessarily a wine you could drink a whole bottle of (at least for me). You see – the professional taster sometimes only have one glass before he or she moves on to the next, as they have a huge portfolio of wines to cover each year. But for you and me, the consumer – we are the ones sitting with the whole bottle and feel the heaviness or the problems with a well made wine. So where am I going with this….

It all comes down to drinking pleasure and in my humble opinion Champagne earns itself another trophy. For me the real pleasure of seeking a great wine, could be narrowed down to, how much you look forward to the next sip. Champagne has with its mousse a unique way to keep the taste buds curious, and never will they feel tired by high alcohol, tannic overload or heavy structure. Champagne is an intelligent wine – a wine where you will not necessarily be presented with big opulent WOW monotonous fruit core, but a wine, where you slowly will see magic escape in tiny dozes and complex evolvement in a glass. The more wine you drink, the more you will seek to be challenged and not be given all clues in glass no. 1. Great wines tend to demand more from its taster and great Champagnes can like no other wine inspire you to concentrate and focus even more.

So have I managed to tickle your curiosity? There is only one way to find you – you have to drink more Champagne.

Good luck – but be warmed, when you are hocked, there is no cure.


No comments: