Wine — Champagne, the other white wine
Champagne, the other white wine

By Tim Protzman

Generation Y puts in it’s two cents

This is the time of year when “the whole world turns into a natural beer cooler,” my college roommate once observed. It’s also the time when the Instant Accu ‘Round the Clock Weather people get all excited. So when they predicted a massive climate event of swirling white hell the likes of which no one’s ever seen before, I took the usual precautions and settled down for a day inside. That was until my son called and said he was bringing several college friends home to watch DVDs, eat and play Front Mission 4. They decided that a warm house with an attached kitchen was a better place to ride out the storm than a cold dorm where the nearest dining hall was 500 yards away. This change of plans sent me out into the storm after provisions, since beef consommé and cucumber salad wasn’t going to cut it with these guys.

When I got to the store it was nearly stripped. The bread aisle was empty, all the 2-percent  milk was gone and the only peanut butter left was the store brand. Apparently, the shoppers had heard the dire weather predictions of “fleets of death clouds unleashing a barrage of icy destruction” and were preparing for the chilly Armageddon. I stayed on the fringes, away from the herd. This left me some pretty weird food choices. An expensive French cheese, organic potato chips, generic Pop Tarts and several ducks, imported from Indiana and at the end of their expiration dates. Each carried a $2-off sticker!

It was snowing hard on the way home. But not quite the Blizzard of ’88, which was actually two great storms, one in early January in the Great Plains states and one in March on the East Coast. 1888 was also a good year for sauterne and brunello, but a horrible year for German wines.

I made one stop. The wine store. It wasn’t as crowded as the supermarket, but had a steady stream of customers. In the back near the beer cooler was an end-cap display of champagne and other sparkling wines. It was old and dusty and ON SALE! Each bottle was marked with flourescent orange stickers. I forgot about the beer and grabbed a bunch of bottles.

Back at home the guests had arrived.

Christian or Christopher (I can’t remember) — a psychology major.

Smelly Dustin, from New Jersey — Wasn’t putrid, but had a peculiar odor.

My son — Never emptied an ashtray in his life.

Pete — Dumb as dirt, but doesn’t know it.

Matty — Looked about five.

G-Balls and his girl friend Jamie — Bright and helpful.

The snow had picked up but it was nowhere near the “eye gouging whiteout conditions!” predicted by the Up to the Minute, Eye Witness, It’s Headed Straight for Us weather people. I soaked the ducks in salt water and started dinner.

Taking advantage of the whole world as a natural beer-cooler effect, I chilled the champagne on the porch. Champagne used to be a generic term for any sparkling wine, but the French got really territorial over this and forced the rest of the world to rename everything.

Methode Champenoise is the fancy way to describe it. In Italian it’s Prosecco or Spumante. The Germans call it Sekt. They all mean wine with naturally occurring bubbles in it.

I wondered how these Generation Ys would react to champagne. When I asked them as they clustered around the TV watching The Day After Tomorrow, one, I think it was Pete, said;

“I dunno know, never had any.”

I decided to have them try them all. It would be really interesting to record their reactions. I’ve found that the less one knows about wine the more honest one’s opinion is. Case in point, I recently found several bottles of 1984 William Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon in an obscure wine shop. It was only $18.99. I knew it was corked when I opened it despite having checked by pressing my finger into it like I would that little spot on a cantaloupe. It was fine. But under the corkscrew it crumbled. The wine was dark and rusty. It had a vinegar smell, but I still drank it. Despite the oxidation, it had subtle flavors and depth. I could still taste the grapes from an outstanding harvest. Naive drinkers would have been less accepting, immune from the pedigree and potential, more about the now and first impressions.

When the duck was roasting and the cherry sauce done I opened the champagnes. I gave them each two flutes and put a different one in each. Their mission was simple: which is better, #1 or #2? Then like some intramural round robin we worked our way to a favorite.

 

Here are the results:

Overall winner — Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut, $14.49 (on sale). Jamie liked its lightness. Chris noted that it had no aftertaste.

Second Place —  Alfred Gratien Brut Rose, $29.99.  “Thick” was Dustin’s comment. Most found the more sweetness appealing. 

Number three — Gruet Champagne from New Mexico. Toasty and oaky with sweet bubbles and pineapple flavors. Chardonnay & pinot noir. Engle NM vineyards. My favorite because of the price. $16.99

Fourth place: Scharffenberger Brut, $17.25. This little gem is back after the vineyard was sold and the name changed back from Pacific Echo. G-Balls and I thought it was very chardonnay tasting, but with bubbles.

Fifth: Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial Rose, $30.49. Everyone liked it, but it was too sweet and a touch syrupy, even with the duck. Full-bodied and heavy, made to be served with food.

After dinner I served coffee and Armagnac, the peasant cousin of Cognac, but a little more earthy. Pete pronounced it “Jagermeister-esque.”

Find your wine

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission can help you find your wine with a click or two. Just go to www.nh.gov/liquor/index.shtml, type the name of your wine into the product locator and click “go.” The site’s search engine will come up with a list of stores that carry the bottle you seek.


—Tim Protzman

 
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