The memories behind a bottle of wine
Tom started off the new year with the customary resolution to drink more champagne. It is not the first time he has made the resolution. This time, to get off to the right foot, he uncorked some bubbles as his first wine of 2014. At least the resolution so far hasn't been broken.
This bottle had special meaning for him and his wife. It was the 1995 Comtes de Champagne, the most expensive and most prestigious champagne made by Taittinger. They bought the bottle a few years after their first visit to Champagne for their 20th anniversary in 1990.
One of their stops was Chateau de Marquetterie, the historic chateau owned by Taittinger and used for only special occasions. They were dwarfed by its cavernous rooms during an exquisite lunch with Taittinger's managing director. By the end of the two-hour meal, they were giddy from drinking variety of wonderful champagnes, most notably the Comtes de Champagne. A year later, they splurged on a bottle in the hopes of one day reliving the experience. That day came Jan. 1. The wine was as good as we remembered, it and the rest of the day was lost to recalling our incredible lunch and tour of the Champagne region. A bottle can hold great wine, but it also can hold great memories.
Not many people think of aging champagne, but it's quite a treat. Champagne producers don't encourage cellaring their wine for selfish purposes: they want you to drink it now, then buy another bottle. Their marketers argue it's meant to be drunk now because the bubbles can't last forever.
We disagree. First, the bubbles do last although not entirely. Second, a lot of bubbles can mask the delicate flavors that will evolve with age. Our Comtes de Champagne still had bubbles, but it was the flavors and texture that matured. Foremost, the wine was incredibly rich and round with exquisite apple, biscuit and almond flavors. Made entirely from chardonnay grapes, it had aged as well as a French burgundy.
Not all champagnes age well. Don't plan on cellaring Korbel or Tott's, for instance.
Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a wine column for newspapers for more than 20 years.