Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday Night Bubbles

I don't usually write about a wine for Friday Night Bubbles if I drink it at restaurants or at friends' houses. I can't be as attentive to the nuances of aroma or flavor that way, I can't track the wine's progress over the course of the evening the same way I can in my own house. And I like to be able to photograph the Champs myself - it's just something I've grown accustomed to.

This week is an exception, as I had a wine at a restaurant recently that really moved me. I have no photos to share, and I didn't make notes at the restaurant so my tasting notes will be of a general nature, but there is something worth sharing here.

My in-laws were in town for my daughter's 2nd birthday, and we went to dinner at one of my favorite local places, Rosewater. We celebrated with a very fine bottle of Champagne, the 1996 Pierre Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Gastronome. The 2002 vintage of this wine was featured just a few weeks ago in another Friday Night Bubbles post, by the way. And while we very much enjoyed the 2002, the 1996 is an entirely different animal. A more formidable animal. Maybe an animal that might hunt and eat the 2002, should it be hungry.

Cuvée Gastronome is a low pressure Champagne, at 4 bars instead of the typical 6. The idea here is for the wine to get along more easily with food - less mousse to interfere, or something like that. I don't think I agree, thusfar, that this makes the wines more food friendly. Quite the opposite, actually. Of the low pressure Champagne I've drank, including a couple of vintages of Cuvée Gastronome, Cedric Bouchard's wines, and a Doyard wine, all of them seem to me best consumed alone, as food would so easily overwhelm their delicacy. But that's just me, maybe you've experienced something entirely different, and do share.

1996 is one of those super-vintages, one that carries with it very high expectation. But there are questions as to whether or not the some of the wines will be balanced, as they are so high in acidity. This wine was, to me, a great example of what a 1996 should be - a perfect amalgam of delicacy and grace, with richness and power. The nose is immediately more mature, as would be expected, and it offers several layers. There are lower register rich notes of toffee that blend seamlessly with upper register notes of bright citrus fruit, the whole of the thing encased in a delicate mineral shell. Really a beautiful nose, and by the end of the 30-45 minutes I spent with this wine all of the parts were in perfect harmony. And I have no doubt that it wasn't finished unwinding at that point - this wine clearly has more to reveal. On the palate it was a delicate blend of roast nuts and ultra-clean fruit, with a strong vein of acidity to ground everything. This is a wine that defies the temptation to list flavors and aromas because ultimately it was in perfect harmony and nothing stood out. It was just simply beautiful wine. I would love to drink it again in 5 years to see how it evolves.

I need to put more Champagne in the cellar.

4 comments:

Henri Vasnier said...

Low pressure champagne well able to stand up to food, although also delicious on its own: 1998 Launois (Pere & Fils) Mesnil Sable. They produce a multivintage low-pressure wine as a matter of routine, a vintage one not that often.

Get in touch in five years. I have a case of '96 Gimonnet Gastronome sleeping in my cellar. I doubt that we'll have finished it by then :)

Brooklynguy said...

he henri (who apparently never sleeps) - I don't know that I've seen Launois around NYC. Do you know who brings it into the US? Smart smart smart to buy that wine by the case. be careful about what you offer...

henri vasnier said...

Well, it's an hour earlier here than it is in New York. The only US source I know of (obviously there may be others) for Launois is K&L in California, klwines dot com. Gary Westby is their quite knowledgeable champagne buyer.

Henri Vasnier said...

Brooklynguy - if you'd like to take up that offer or just make contact, get in touch at seven six 3 dash four 5 eight nine 6 oh nine. I was born in Bronxville and among my favorite memories (you may not be old enough to share these) is sitting with my dad in the upper deck down the right field line at Ebbetts Field and watching Duke Snider hit balls into the Sinclair station across Bedford Avenue in batting practice. I haven't been back to NYC since the mid 1990's but still have a soft spot in my head for the place. Tough to find coal fired pizza ovens anywhere else, that's for sure.