At last it came — Champagne Day. The message from Champagne USA made it clear: the seventh annual Champagne Day is Friday, October 21. (They attribute the day’s origin to a wine blog “Vintuba.” Perhaps I’ll hear more about the 25th, recently pointed out to me as International Champagne Day. No matter, as I said earlier, I take no chances and will drink Champagne on both days. Determining the precise date recognized world-wide is not an exact science.
My choice today has been a 2008 Pertois-Moriset, the oldest vintage-dated Champagne in my little collection. I don’t know if Pertois-Moriset has declared a vintage since 2008, but I have a few bottles and I used one of them, delighted to see that it has weathered well.
When I used to visit the Champagne country several times a year, nearly always to see my late friend, Al Ricciutti, the only American at that time making Champagne, I would leave his estate in Avenay val d’Or and drive through a neighboring village, Mesnil-sur-Oger, where I was told the finest of all Champagne Chardonnay grapes are grown. Mesnil is home to the Pertois-Moriset vineyards, taking their name from two generations-old families whose son and daughter married and renamed the property in 1951. Their impressive red-brick winery is at 1, Avenue de la Champagne, making it one of the first grand cru mansions you see coming into Epernay.
My bottle was 100% Chardonnay, qualifying it to be classed a Blanc de Blanc. I have long since stopped doubting the ageability of Chardonnay and of Champagne, so I was not surprised to experience lively, tiny bubbles and a freshness quality smacking of a yeasty, nutty character with an impressive length.
My wife and I drank half the bottle before dinner and stuck the bottle in the fridge to be finished tomorrow. Even though the fizz will still be strong for another day or two, I don’t think the remaining wine would last till the 25th when I shall find yet another Champagne for that observance. It is good to honor our wine holidays!
Still basking in the WINE SPECTATOR 40-year glow, I watched a short video this morning showing Alison Napjus talking with the late Etienne Hugel about pronouncing Alsace grape names. Having sat several times in that same spot with the Hugels, especially with Jean (Johny) Hugel, I felt a bit of envy, wishing I could once again be there.
Alison has done many interviews with Alsace wine people and really knows the region. Her mission in this video, was specific: just how do you say those German names in France.
Most of you have learned enough history to know that in the space of just over a hundred years, the French province of Alsace went from France to Germany back to France three times until it remained French starting in 1945. Even today, as I walk through Strasbourg, I can point out holes in building walls where German street names had been screwed in next to where today’s French names are placed. I am familiar with the humor in older Alsace families whose names had gone from Garde to Wache to Vache to Kuh to Cul in a single generation.
That means, of course, that the wine trade in that region — where Johny Hugel used to say “we are specialists in wine and war” — the productio0n of wine vacillated between German and French administrations. The grapes, however, have always been common to both nations on both sides of the Rhine River.
I won’t attempt to explain production techniques of the two former adversaries, but will praise Alison’s effort to teach Americans that Riesling is really Reeesling and not Riceling. That the wurz gets the accent in Gewurztraminer and that the s is silent in Pinot Gris.
I even learned the argot a bit — Jinette Humbrecht, for example loved her “Gewurz” ; Johny referred to Klevner almost as often as to Pinot Blanc for the same varietal. Anyway, just before writing this, I went to my cooler and took a bottle of 2012 Zind-Humbrecht Reeesling for dinner. It will not only be pronounced correctly, it will be consumed with appreciation. Salud. Or Zum Wohl.
It’s hard to believe that WINE SPECTATOR has been around for 40 years. I don’t recall when I first started reading it and subscribing to it, but I know I have been an appreciator of it almost from the beginning. As many of you know the November 15 issue contains a reprint of the very first issue from April, 1976, and it isn’t hard to see by comparison how far the magazine has evolved.
My first Grand Tasting was the SPECTATOR’s 10th. My flight from Paris to New York had been delayed, and a Manhattan cabbie did a tremendous and horrifying deed by getting me to the Marriott just before the registration desk was closing down for the evening. In her haste to get me in, the registrar filled in my badge and pointed the way to the Grand Salon. In the doorway, I encountered Hubert Trimbach also a bit tardy for the event. His first words to me were “What, have they come back again. I’ve only been gone two days and here they come.” He was pointing to my event badge on which the registrar had written Germany after Strasbourg.
I was grateful to have run into him. The event was overwhelming to a first-timer, so Hubert was a blessed mentor and made sure that the entire Alsace delegation would make sure I got to the right places at the right time.
This issue of SPECTATOR sent me to my dusty photo albums. No I-phones in 1991, so I had to make do with a real camera, but no one seemed to mind. Actually, events were so busy with meeting and greeting and sipping and commenting that there was little time to fuss with a camera. After that first evening, I left it in my room for the rest of the weekend.
That Grand Tasting was a memorable one for me. I met a lot of my heroes and heroines of the wine world and had several conversations with Julia Child. There were more than 1,500 people at that Tasting, and all of them had common interests and were willing to share them. From the Rothschilds to the Gallos to the media critics and reviewers, we were all of the same family, willing to share life and wine stories.
Whatever pains the founders of SPECTATOR had experienced by 1991, its future then was assured and it has every reason to believe that it still has a yet greater future. I have met many of the magazine’s staff and the wine personalities they write about and commend the SPECTATOR for its success and for its devotion to educating us all about our favorite beverage.
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