Monday, December 19, 2011

All About The Bubbles? Re-post In Time For The Holiday


“I hate to dump this on you your first day back from vacation but Adam is out with the samples of our vintage Champagnes. These were the only samples we had so he will be stopping by to see you this afternoon” an email from one of our favorite brokers that just so happens to bring in some of my most adored grower Champagne. “Oh just the vintage stuff? Well then I am sure I can try and make some time to see him”….rough first day back in the saddle right? “Some of these might not be as bubbly as they were yesterday” Adam confessed as he began sheepishly fumbling with the amazing line of wines he brought with him. Each bottle was topped with those treacherous little rubber stoppers….the ones with the little plastic caps and flimsy metal clasp, yeah those put-your-eye-out little fuckers. As he was reaching for the first bottle and flipping that metal doohickey, eyes twitching and brow deeply furrowed I explained, “Don’t give a shit about the bubbles kid, I want to taste the wine”. He poured the first wine and went on the tell me, “Some people only care about the bubbles, won’t even taste the wine if there isn’t a bunch of bubble in it” I watched as the fizzy but not violently bubbly wine was poured in the glass, saw it settle and noticed a tiny little stream of bubble rise from the bottom of the glass and break across the surface leaving a tiny little white froth along the top of the wine. I picked up the glass, gave it a good spin, (yup killing even more bubble but….opening the wine) dipped my nose into the wide opening, (I always taste Champagne from a standard tasting glass...always drink it from a white wine glass) and as I took in the rich and amazingly complex aromatics of the 2002 Camille Saves Grand Cru Brut my pirate grin lifted the left hand corner of my mouth. My nose still in the glass wildly taking in each layer…baked apple, pie crust, butter, red fruit…each thing landing upon the other in the most seductively pleasing way, I gave Adam the raised eyebrow and said, “Fuck the bubbles, this is remarkable wine”

When I was in Memphis having dinner with Michael Hughes and Benito I pulled a bottle of H. Billiot Grand Cru Brut Reserve from the fridge after dinner. Everyone was drinking red so they reached for one of the flutes that were still on the table from our starter bottle of bubbles. I tried to convince them to just finish the red and taste the Champagne out of that glass but….well trying to reason with buzzy folks is like herding cats, ask my husband. “This wine is made from amazing Pinot Noir, it can hold up in a regular glass” I tried desperately to explain but as the words fell out of my mouth I watched half the table dump the Billiot into what constitutes as a prison cell of a glass. I watched Benito smell the wine in his flute, he seemed pleased and all but then I slid him my glass….the big glass and had him smell them side by side, “That’s amazing” he said. Now I am not sure if he just meant the wine or how profoundly more generous it was out of the bigger glass but when Michael said, “I may never drink Champagne out of a flute again” I knew that my point was kind of made….I think.

“Will do in a pinch” we say that a lot about bubbly wines from around the world, they’ll do in a pinch. These are wines that have merit; they are frothy, tasty and easy, pleasant. These wines along with many from the actual region of Champagne are best served icy cold and in the straitjacket glass. This is where the bubbles are the focus, the number one most important thing; they should be fine and not raspy, graceful and not burn the tongue. From there the flavors come in and the range and scope that is absolutely about personal preference….sweet, dry, floral, mineral, sea shell, yeast and toast. Cava, Prosecco, Cremant d’Alsace, Cremant d’Bourgogne, California Sparkling, Perrier Jouet, Veuve Clicquot, Mumm’s, these wines all offer a nice celebratory bubble and are most definitely suited for that sexy shaped, elegant looking flute. In fact they are far more pleasing when they are served in one but wines like Billiot, Saves, Godme, Marie-Noelle Ledru and Pierre Peters….well they deserve to be treated like the very serious wines that they are.


Got home after work today and decided to take a soak in a hot bath, just felt the day heavy on my flesh and sought to soothe the arches of my feet, the backs of my knees, the muscles between my shoulder blades….felt myself aching just thinking about dipping my shoulders and hips into a pool of hot, clean, waiting water. Poured myself a glass of wine, plugged the ipod into the docking station…selected Van Morrison to keep me company. With Sail Into the Mystic working its way down my thighs I pulled my favorite sand colored crocheted sweater over my head, undid the button and zipper on my jeans and as I backed away from the mirror, (seriously even I don’t want to see me in my undies) I peeled the jeans from my hips I knocked a bottle of lemon scented bubble bath into the sink. “Oh shit, a bubble bath would be even better” I told myself. Flipped the cap on the bubbly junk, squeezed long squirts of it under the running faucet and instantly had the smell of lemon rind swirling around my day weary head. Perfect.

Did the “ouch ouch ahhh” thing that you do when the water is blazing hot but just feels so fucking good, until my fleshy backside settled into our way too small tub. Drew my knees closer so I was able to drop my whole back into the hot lemon scented water…heard the sizzle as the bubbles burst across my jaw and tickled my ears. “Feel your soul and spirits fly into the mystic” my soft whisper along with my bathtub partner Mr. Morrison. Sat there feeling as if the weight of the world were melting off my shoulders, my eyes closed, my skin clean and steaming. Opened my eyes when the track switched to Aint That Loving You Baby…a plucky little number and noticed….all the damn bubbles were gone. Just a fine layer of sparse fizz remained where the pile of billowy bubbles had been. I was kind of sad at first but as I looked down towards the faucet, saw my legs resting calmly beneath the still hot….still fragrant water, I realized once again that all the good stuff, all the important bits….they were as was the case with that Billiot and the 2002 Saves...lying in wait just under the bubbles.



Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

Yes, we do certainly abuse the great Champagnes and rarely treat them like the great wines they are. Maybe it's from attending weddings where we make them into fountains (wouldn't it be cool to go to a wedding and they had a Syrah fountain?) and drink them from those horrible Marie Antoinette's knockers glasses. Gives us a lifelong disdain for what is one of the great wines on the planet.

Your post should be required reading at your wine shop, maybe everyone else's as well. OK, leave out the bubble bath part (oddly, there are often bubbles in my bath tub, and I don't use bubble bath), but this is beautifully written and should convince people to pay more attention to their great Champagnes, treat them like the fine wines they are.

But, really, My Love, I so want to be in that bath tub sharing Champagne with you. My heart is still pounding.

I love you!

Your HoseMaster

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,

Drives me nuts when cram all that lovely and serious wine into a glass that does nothing at all but essentially vibrate it...ugh.

As far as the bath goes Darling, trust me this is something no one wants to see. Just picture an eggplant sitting atop a tablespoon of water, should give you an idea of what I look like in the tub....gawd awful.

I adore you....

Anonymous said...

Can I confess to ankle jealousy? That sounds so lame, but genetics blessed me with tree stumps for legs.

I've never been keen on Champagne, perhaps I have yet to experience anything good, and abhor the "knockers glasses" as HMW put it. Never understood why anyone would put a wine lauded for it's visual appeal (bubbles) into a flat glass.

Samantha Dugan said...

Dig the new picture...loves me some pickles.

The ankles, the wrist and neck these are the only tiny things I have...kind of odd looking really but thank you for noticing. I didn't even bring up the knockers glasses, just too lame to devote even a sentence to if you ask me. You will have to try a grower Champagne girlie and try it in a nice big, non restraining glass.

John M. Kelly said...

Yummmm... Camille Saves.

I might not embarrass my favorite master somm by asking for bubbles in a real glass at a restaurant, but at home I drink everything out of an old-fashioned glass. Pinot, bubbles, whatever... same glass. A great wine doesn't need a special glass to show well.

I'm starting to feel about the guy who insists on having the "right" glass for every wine the same way I feel about the guy who insists the Wine Spectator and its "calibrated palates" are the ultimate arbiter of his wine investment decisions.

Lately I've been opening all my bubbles at home by sabering off the top with the foot of a wine glass. Can't use a stopper on the bottle after breaking the neck. Recently a friend gifted me a Laguiole saber - too fun.

Charlie Olken said...

Sam--bubbles. Yum.

Kelly--who picks up the busted glass after you?

Both--Attended a Riedel seminar once. Mr. G. Riedel himself in charge.

Had us taste wines out of his special glasses and compare them with wine in dime-store glasses. Guess which ones we preferred.

At the end of the day, we decided that his big burgundy balloon produced the best aromas, so we poured the Bordeaux into it, and, no surprised, the Bordeaux was better in that glass as well.

I tasted hundreds of wines using Riedel Overture Reds--a perfectly shaped 12 oz. glass. We did lots of comparative tastings before setting on that glass.

It is now the glass of choice for everything unless we are trying to set a special table with bigger glasses for effect.

Oh, and by "everything", I mean from simple young wines to cognac and whisky.

Admittedly, bigger glasses with more room for evaporation doe produce bigger noses, but try holdign a comparative tasting with twelve monster glasses in front of five people.

Could not afford the breakage. Could not afford a dishwasher big ehough to hold them. Would not get more accurate results. Wine for the most part is for the "go", not the "show". So Riedel Overture Reds are perfect for all of the wines I evaluate and most of the wines I drink.

One more note. We own a bunch of interesting flutes, and do pull them out for dinner parties. But when we drink bubbly for ourselves, we don't use them.

John M. Kelly said...

Charlie - this is not me but I've found it this easy, and no breakage:

I agree about the Riedel Overture - it is a really good glass. I may drink out of a smallish water glass at home, but at work I use the Riedel or the Spieglau balloon.

Anonymous said...

re: pic

Yeah, stumbled across that one, and it just screamed my name. Sums my life up perfectly!

Samantha Dugan said...

That Camille Saves was brilliant...why can people not see just how remarkable those wines are? Kills me and makes me sad knowing what they are missing...

Those seminars are ridiculously slanted which is why I never attended one. It's like asking if you prefer the soup from a fork or spoon...lame. I drink 98% of my wine, bubbly or not from a Riedel All Purpose glass. Short stem (hooray dishwasher) perfect bowl and a narrow but not tiny opening. I confess that when I am drinking a wicked Burgundy I will pull out the Burgundy glasses but for the most part these glasses work just fine. I've seen those people that bring their own stemware to restaurants and as a real wine person, dude that just makes me cringe....

Katie said...

Great post, Samantha...I'm a bit of a bubble whore, so I'm with you. I drink them once a week unless I'm gravely ill and always enjoy them out of a pinot glass, not a champagne flute...I save that glass for the guests so I can have more and they can have less—fuck 'em! I enjoy playing with their temperature as well. The same bottle of champagne can taste quite different and pair differently with your meal depending on what temp you serve it at. Great piece.

Valerie said...

Love Bubbles. Love the wine. Love wine (bubbles not required) sitting in a bath (bubble required) ... with the music. Love this post!

Michael Hughes said...

I can't even express how much I loved & appreciated what you brought to share. They were truly special bubbles.

Samantha Dugan said...

Thank you for being open to tasting Champagne in a new way....wish I had spoken up when we were pouring the Agrapart but...

Okay yeah, I miss you.

Sara Louise said...

"trying to reason with buzzy folks is like herding cats"


"all the important bit...lying in wait just under the bubbles"

Both are very true Sam :-)

V said...

Crazy-busy day at work, and came home craving Champagne. Pehu-Simonet Bdb sounds just about right. Cheers!