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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Wines Above $40

Shipwrecked Champagne

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A bottle the divers didn't chug.
Last summer, divers discovered a cache of incredibly old Champagne in a shipwreck off Finland's Åland islands. Today, someone snatched up part of it. Two 1840s-vintage bottles (one from the long-gone Juglar house, the other from the ubiquitous Veuve Clicquot) sold at auction for 54,000 euros (about $39,000 a bottle). That's plenty, but only half of what Champagne expert Richard Juhlin speculated they might sell for, and much less than the $130,000 that someone recently paid for a huge bottle of the so-so (but Jay-Z-approved) Armand de Brignac. So maybe today's winning bidder scored a deal.

What happened to the other 145 bottles? At least one was consumed, immediately, by the divers who discovered it. One told the press: "It had a very sweet taste. You could taste oak and it had a very strong tobacco smell." Sound enticing? You can hope that the Finnish government releases more.

If you missed the chance to bid, console yourself with 10 much more affordable Champagnes (and other excellent sparkling wines), plus pairings like crunchy hush puppies with Tabasco-spiked remoulade.

News

Royal (Yes, Them Again) Wine

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So, were they waiting till after the wedding to make this announcement? According to England's The Daily Mail, the royal family is going to start producing sparkling wine from one of its estates, Windsor Great Park. Apparently they'll plant more than 16,000 grapevines there in the next couple of weeks. Sparkling would be appropriate, of course—Pol Roger Brut Champagne was served at the recent royal wedding reception (much to my chagrin, as I'd predicted it might be Bollinger when I was on the Today show the Wednesday before the wedding).

Wines Under $20

Last Minute Bubbly: CBS Early Show

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If you haven't stocked up on sparkling wine or Champagne for New Year's yet, here's a clip from the CBS Early Show this morning, where I went through a number of great, affordable possibilities with host Harry Smith. I was also on the CNBC WSJ Report with Maria Bartiromo over the weekend, talking a bit more about the business side of sparkling wine, along with some recommendations. The video on their site isn't working at the moment for some reason, but here's the text of the story.

Champagne

12 Days of Wine Gifts, Day 3

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© Christopher Klapp/Petrossian West Hollywood
Petrossian's Champagne and Caviar Coffret

Some might call me a failure at this 12 Days of Wine Gifts business, but I’ve just been holding on to some excellent things to wallop you with all at once, so I will magically turn three days in to one. So, here, the first installment.

I will not be purchasing this gift for anyone this year, but if I had $490 dollars to spend on one person, this would definitely be high up on my list. Petrossian Caviar’s West Hollywood shop has put together a pretty over-the-top set called the Caviar and Champagne Coffret that contains of 125 grams of Tsar Imperial Transmontanous Caviar, two half-bottles of Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne and two mother-of-pearl spoons. I might be tempted to tack on a couple of these metal straws  to encourage drinking the Champagne straight from the bottles. Unfortunately, this set isn’t available on the Petrossian website, but you can call the shop directly to place orders at 310-271-0576.

Wine Shops

Dom Pérignon's Tribute to Andy Warhol

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Andy Warhol was a big fan of Dom Pérignon. So much so that he and his friends made a plan to drink it to ring in the new millennium in 2000. In his diary entry from March 8, 1981, he writes: “...the ‘2,000’ people — it’s a club of twenty guys who got together and they're going to buy 2,000 bottles of Dom Pérignon which they will put in a sealed room until the year 2000 and then open it up and drink it and so the running joke is who will be around and who won’t...” The stashed bottles have never been found, nor have the other 19 members of the group been identified. It almost makes you want to go on a scavenger hunt!

Now, in a tribute to the pop-art legend, Dom Pérignon has teamed up with Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in London for a limited-edition collection of three Andy Warhol–inspired bottles, vintage 2002. The labels, in red, yellow or blue, recall Warhol’s bold use of color and graphics.

The bottles are available today at a suggested retail price of $150, in NYC at Crush Wine & Spirits and Sherry-Lehmann.

Winemakers

Tasting with Dom Pérignon's Richard Geoffroy

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Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 2000
Contrary to popular belief, it's not every day that I get to taste brand new vintages of Dom Pérignon with its Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy. In fact, I'd never done this until last week when I, of course, jumped at the chance. For being the winemaker of what's arguably the most highly esteemed Champagne in the world, Geoffroy is remarkably well-grounded and funny and easy to chat with. He even has a blog.

The matters at hand were Dom Pérignon's newest rosés, of which there are two. The first, the 2000 Dom Pérignon Rosé, is a 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but Geoffroy thinks the wine "makes a statement on Pinot Noir. The point is to go for the Pinot Noir-the holy grail of winemakers and consumers."  The 2000 vintage is a delicate golden salmon color and has the power, tannic structure and strawberry and sweet cherry fruit of Pinot Noir, balanced by a roundness on the palate and minerality, thanks to the Chardonnay. It's a duality that Geoffroy calls "very Dom Pérignon." The price, a cool $350, is also very Dom Pérignon.

The second wine we tasted was extraordinarily exciting, but, unfortunately, you won't ever be able to get it. Let me repeat: you won't ever find this wine. There will only be 350 bottles of it in the U.S. That said, the 1990 Dom Pérignon Œnothèque Rosé (the very first Œnothèque Rosé ever released in this country) is just dazzling.  Œnothèque bottlings are late releases of particularly great vintages, and 1990 is especially important to Geoffroy because it was his first vintage at Dom Pérignon. The copper-toned wine is at once mellow but intense; creamy with spectacular acidity; and has remarkable longevity on the palate. "What I'm after is the lasting sensation of something," says Geoffroy. "I want the finish to be a seamless, gliding, holding note." I'd say he hit his mark.

Wines Under $20

Today Show: Wines for Takeout Food

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Had a fun time today, as usual, on the Today Show with Kathie Lee & Hoda. This time around the subject was wines to pair with takeout food, part of my secret plan (actually not so secret, given I'm blogging about it) to convince the world that wine (a) doesn't have to be fancy/elegant/effete and (b) that it goes with almost everything. You can see the segment here, but to give a quick rundown:

1) Unoaked Chardonnay with Sushi: 2008 Spring Seed Wine Co. Chardonnay ($15 or so, find this wine). My experience is that oaky whites don't do well at all with raw fish (or with shellfish, for that matter) but unoaked ones do. I could have used a Sauvignon Blanc, but from experience I know that Kathie Lee is not a fan—to say the least—of Sauvignon Blanc, so I opted for this tasty Australian Chardonnay. 

2) Gewurztraminer with Kung Pao Chicken: 2007 Hugel & Fils Gewurztraminer ($22 or so, find this wine). The oil and heat of some Chinese dishes can make them tough to pair; I find that Alsace Gewurz's substantial body and spicebox character works pretty well, especially drier versions like Hugel's. For even hotter dishes I'd turn up the sweetness on the wine, maybe to something in a Zind-Humbrecht style.

3) Champagne with French Fries: NV Henriot Blanc Souverain ($42 or so, find this wine). Basically, if it's salty and fried, Champagne is a good bet. And what's more fun that eating French fries and drinking Champagne? Only eating French fries and drinking Champagne while lounging in a bed in a stupidly expensive hotel room with a fantastic view of Paris.

4) Chianti with Pizza: 2007 Antinori Pèppoli ($22 or so, find this wine). Well, Chianti and pizza, right? But there's legitimacy to this beyond the sort of no-brainer cultural connection, which is that with something cheesy and oily (yep) like pizza really needs a red with firm tannins and a nice cut of acidity—which Chianti supplies quite well.

5) Pinot Noir with Tacos: 2008 La Crema Monterey ($19 or so, find this wine). I owe my sommelier pal William Sherer for this one. The reason it works so well is that Pinot's bright fruit can hold up to all-over-the-place flavors in something like a taco; but also, when you've got hot peppers/jalapeños/hot sauce, what you don't want is a particularly tannic red—tannins tend to amplify heat, rather than subdue it. Though, if you're one of those lunatics who likes chewing up scotch bonnets for fun, hey, pour a Barolo with your Mad Dog 357-smothered wings and go to town. 

News

A Wealth of Champagne Information

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I think the advent of September, and, thankfully, a breath or two of cool breeze in NYC, has gotten me thinking about Champagne. (Of course, simply waking up in the morning can make me think about Champagne.) In any case, lately when I think about Champagne, I tend to think about Peter Liem's extraordinarily informative website, champagneguide.net. It is the most in-depth compendium of Champagne info that I've ever run into, largely thanks to the fact that Liem knows more about the history, character, vineyards, soils, terroirs, and producers of this region than anyone else I can think of (save perhaps Tom Stevenson). Membership isn't cheap—$89 a year for a subscription—but when you consider that that's about the price of a single bottle of Bollinger Rosé, it starts to seem more and more like a wise investment.

You can get a free sample of the site's content here. If you have a Champagne lover you're thinking of holiday gifts for, a membership wouldn't be a bad idea at all. And while you're at it, you might check out Liem's entertaining and informative blog, Besotted Ramblings, as well.

Wines Under $20

Today Show: Made in America Wines

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I had a good time appearing on Today this morning, recommending wines for their "Made in America" Friday whip segment. (On the whip they run through four or so variations on a topic in a speedy way.) In this case "made in America" meant not made in California—which was a great chance to highlight some of the other great wine regions in the country. I brought along:

• The NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blancs ($12), a nice, creamy and fairly full-bodied sparkler from Washington State

• The 2008 A to Z Wineworks Rosé ($12), a fragrant dry rosé from Oregon made with (oddly enough) Sangiovese grapes

• A terrific, crisp, Kabinett-style Riesling from the Finger Lakes, the 2007 Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard Dry Riesling ($17), which will also age beautifully if given the chance

• And one of my favorite Texan wines, the 2006 Flat Creek Estate SuperTexan ($19), a juicy, robust Sangiovese blend that I first ran into while touring around the Hill Country with my father, doing some barbecue research.

Plus, I got to see Al Roker sing part of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" from on top of a crane, which was definitely the sort of experience you don't get every day.

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