January 30, 2005
I was in a cellar of my local liquor store a couple of days ago when I took a notice of this old, really old champagne. It was Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 1975, a vintage champagne made exclusively using chardonnay grapes.
It is not very uncommon for good wines from good vineyards to keep several decades, but it is not as much a case with champagnes as with red wines; 30 years is really long for most champagnes.
And besides, this Dom Ruinart was incredibly cheap - almost too cheap. So it naturally made me guess that this would not be a) a very good vintage, or b) thus overstocked in the market, or both of the above. But again, just because I wouldn't find a 30-year old champagne so cheap everywhere, I changed my mind and grabbed the bottle to the casher (I had been there to buy another wine).
To enjoy the old bottle of wine, I whipped up a platter of small toasts:
I made three kinds of them: toasts with Vacherin Mont-d'Or cheese, chocolate toasts with olive oil and fleur de sel, and fig and brie toasts with almonds.
Vacherin Mont-d'Or is a winter delicacy that is so soft even chilled, and melts on a slightly warm toast.
Chocolate with olive oil and fleur de sel (extra-fine sea salt) might sound odd to some, but when I first came to know about it in a book by Amanda Hesser Cooking for Mr. Latte: a food lover's courtship, with recipes (2003, W.W. Norton & Co.), I thought it would be great. Thin slices of baguette with small pieces of bittersweet chocolate (I used Araguani, a Valrhona bitter chocolate) were lightly toasted just enough to melt the chocolate, then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and topped with just a sprinkle of fleur de sel. The combination of olive oil and chocolate was lovely, although a tiny bit sweeter chocolate might have been just perfect.
This combination of brie cheese, fig spread, and chopped salted and roasted Spanish marcona almonds on toast was based on samples that were given out at a Whole Foods store last year. There were his mother and I that tried one, and both of us liked it so much we bought a whole set of products for the toasts so that we'd reproduce some at home for a Thanksgiving dinner. At Whole Foods they used Dalmatia fig spread which was great, but this time I used regular fig spread as I didn't have Dalmatia's. I also tried a tiny twig of fresh rosemary on top; this worked tremendously good I think.
Now with all these small nibbles ready on a pretty white plate that my sister bought me while I was in Japan, I opened my bottle of old champagne, which came out almost amber in color and with very little bubbles left after three decades.
This was my second time having old vintage champagne; last time was when my friend got a bottle of some 25-year old Dom Perignon and we opened it at a French restaurant in Tokyo, and that was when I found out that such a old champagne could still hold bubbles, while enjoying what was totally different from regular, "newer" champagnes.
This time, however, the wine was apparently too old - it obviously didn't endure this long period of time, either because it wasn't good enough a wine to last such a long time or it had not been stored in a right condition, or maybe both. It nevertheless had a remnant of noble crispness of blanc de blancs, and tasted better with sweeter toasts (Vacherin, unfortunately, didn't really go good with this particular wine, even though I love the cheese, anyways). Thirty years seemed to have been rather too long for this bottle and I couldn't help wishing that I had had it ten years before - how good it would have tasted. But you never know.
Anyhow, cheers to the wine that has lived a bit too many years, and to myself who has to live many more years to come. Happy birthday to me.
posted by chika at: 1/30/2005 01:12:00 AM