Before I start telling you about other ways in which we get spoiled in this business, I do think you should know that it is hard work. We have the days when 200 cases of champagne drop on us. In this virtual world, one of the things we tend to forget is that wine, champagne, Scotch whisky, Armagnac, Cognac, Calvados, even vodka, have to get here physically. That means that a truck drives up to our warehouse or our street door, and it get unloaded, and we have to put these things away. That means lifting 50lb. cases (champagne), 40 lb cases (almost anything else) and sometimes building stacks that are taller than we are. You can break more than a sweat doing this sort of thing.
Feel sorry for me yet? Good.
Now, let me tell you about lunch yesterday.
Champagne Bollinger had sent their marketing director to town. 20 of the elite (ah, shucks) wine professionals in town were invited to lunch at a restaurant so hot as to not even have been reviewed. The lunch was lovely, with designer ravioli and a choice of albacore or duck (I’ll tell, I had the duck. I always do). The champagnes were as lovely, if not lovelier than the food.
Bollinger is, of course, a grande marquee champagne. That means it is one of the top houses, and has been for more than a century. They make a big, bold and powerful bubbly, with lots of yeast, toast and ripe red fruit on the nose, all inlaid on a backbone of steel. The reason for the steeliness and in general the size, of Bollinger Champagne is that the wine is based mostly on Pinot Noir.
Champagne Bollinger, immortalized in Britain’s “Absolutely Fabulous”, makes a brilliantly bold non-vintage known as Special Cuvee. Laced with bread dough and toast, along with hints of dark-hearted fruit, there are few other non-vintage champagnes that show off the power that “Bolly” brings.
We also got to taste the 1999 Grande Annee, the vintaged champagne that Bollinger puts out. Still tightly wound, it showed itself off like a snake, teasing you in with hissing toast and light apple fruit and then making a leap into the steel of the back palate. This was a lovely companion to the spearmint and seasonal green ravioli with a citrus based sauce. We also got to revisit the 1996 Bollinger R.D. which is just the 1996 Grande Annee that has been sitting on its lees for several more years. The depth and complexity of this wine was a lovely match for the duck.
Two lessons to take away here: We work hard, physically, and earn these occasional rewards. And Pinot Noir makes for a terrifically food-friendly champagne!