05 December 2011

Champagne Tasting

Guest post by Myra Blackmon

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away….OK, it was really the 1980s and mostly in New York. Whatever. I dated a Prince Charming who loved the best of everything and had the resources to share that love with me.

He took me to LeCirque , then in the Mayfair Hotel, for an elegant dinner. When time came to order wine with our dinner, he said, “Hey, it’s a special night! Let’s have champagne with dinner!”

I have no idea exactly what we drank, but it was unlike any champagne I had ever tasted. It was light, pale blond and had far less carbonation than any bubbly I had ever run up on.  I was hooked, and have loved champagne ever since.

I had hardly thought of that night until last Friday, when I lifted a glass (or three) with Michael McNeill, Georgia’s only Master Sommelier, at a tasting at Shiraz.  Just listening to Michael talk about champagne and trying to absorb a tenth of what he was saying, would have been a grand time. Emily being Emily, of course, it went far beyond just listening.

Michael led us through tastings of ten estate-grown wines. These are from small growers, those who produce anywhere from 3,000-18,000 cases per year, as opposed to the millions put out by the big mass production houses.  These are those extra-special wines, the ones that will put you off grocery store champagne forever.

My favorites?  The light Nigl Brut de Brut, not technically a champagne, but light and refreshing; the Pierre Gimonnet Cuvè Gastronome Brut 2006, made from old-vine grapes, a bit darker in color and richer in flavor (paired with an artichoke, crab and cheese torte) and the  A Margaine “Cuvee Traditionelle” Demi Sec NV, a sweeter champagne that would be great with curry or Thai food.

My food task this week? Planning my Christmas Day menu and getting Emily to help me match the perfect champagne with my courses. Before those few special cases are gone far, far away to homes and tables all around town.