Do you like good champagne? Truly good champagne, the kind that costs more than a hundred dollars? If your fantasy is to taste dozens of the world’s best champagne, you should have been at the Wine Media Lunch here in New York last week.
First, you have to imagine being surrounded by bottles and bottles of the world’s most expensive and coveted champagne. It is a heady experience, sort of like being six-years-old again and spending the night alone at FAO Schwartz – and the venue was fab! It was Felidia restaurant, where Lidia Bastianich, the PBS celebrity chef responsible in part for Lupa, Esca, and Becco, oversees this bastion of Italian cooking along with chef Fortunato Nicotra.
Wondering what Chef Nicotra would pair with the champagne was an adventure in itself. The surprise turned out to be an entire whole, poached salmon, its color matching that of the palest rose wines. At the table, I was sitting at the table with Ed McCarthy, author of Champagne for Dummies, and Ed did a fantastic job of introducing the wines and telling funny stories about many of the journalists in the room.
As for the champagne, here are my top picks:
I liked the Bollinger Grande Annee Brut (1999, $115), the Veuve Clicquot “La Grande Dame” Brut (1998, $135), Henriot “Cuvee des Enchanteleurs” Brut (1995, $135), Charles Heidsieck “Blanc des Millenaires” (1995, $120), NV Krug “Grand Cuvee Brut ($150 — notes indicate more than others it had a very autolytic character) and really responded to the Pol Roger “Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill” Brut ($180) with its concentrated flavors.
I discovered that more than any other champagne offered, I really liked Alfred Gratien! This was especially true for the Gratien “Cuvee Paradis Brut Rose (NV, $120) which I’d actually buy with my own dime! It was so special and fabulous, with a gorgeous pale rose color and pleasant aroma.
NYC and other top wine-centric cities have many champagne events, especially for the trade. If you are in a situation where you will have tens, or even hundreds of top champagnes opened for your education and enjoyment, here’s how to play it.
1. Spend at least two weeks prior to the event researching each champagne to be served.
2. Create “dry tasting notes” for as many as you can, and take them to the event. Dry tasting notes are researching what a wine “should” taste like without buying or tasting it (this can be quite expensive). Then you will be able to more easily imprint the dry notes with what is in your glass.
3. Create a customized form and fill it out at the event. Sometimes you will get a little book or stapled list and can scrawl your notes, but they are hard to read after the event.