Wine people entertain themselves by imagining which wine they would choose if they were stranded on a desert island with only one option. For me, it is Champagne. Pushed further, I would pick Pommery Cuvée Louise. Is part of my enamour the name? Possibly. Would I love Pommery Michelle as much? I doubt it.
Since this is the best wine in the world, I was pleased to find it listed as one of the 1001 Wines You Must Taste Before You Die.
I have tasted it once before, at Pommery in Reims, Champagne. (Have you ever tried to pronounce Reims before? It doesn’t rhyme with seems. Imagine a high brow Londoner saying France without the F. Plus, it’s more of a growl than a word. Ask me sometime, in person, and I’ll say it for you.)
Anyway, the Pommery Cuvée Louise in France was stunning. The wine is the house’s prestige cuvee. Its top drawer. I remember it as overtly feminine with an underlying core of power and definition. Honestly, I can’t recall the vintage. (Sacrilege !!) But I was there in 2007 and the wine was just beginning to develop, so maybe 2000?
The vintage recommended in “the book” was 1990, and a bottle of exactly that recently came my way as payment for evaluating a wine cellar.
According to Pommery cellar master Theirry Gasco (according to Fine Wine Mag) 1990 was a difficult year, but the Pomeranians wanted to show a prestige wine could be made in a challenging vintage. (Just to confuse things… according to my Champagne superhero, Tom Stevenson,’90 was one of the top vintages of the century. Ripe grapes and high acid).
The palates at this table belonged to Sharon (back from Europe. Yes !!), Ernest (running on daylight savings time), and the lovely Treve. Even before we began, I knew we would argue about this wines position relative to its peak potential. I prefer to enjoy wine relatively young, when it is still fresh and fruit forward. Ernest likes bottles that could belong to Rumpelstiltskin. Sharon is generally somewhere in between. (And we haven’t quite pigeon-holed Treve yet).
This bottle showed the expected signs of development. It glowed with a gorgeous deep golden hue. A mature nose of cereal, marmalade, baked apple and subtle floral notes was complimented by a matching palate. Someone suggested mushroom, marzipan and apple cider. True to my memory, the delicate style was underpinned by a strong, long and balanced finish. Ideally, I would have enjoyed this wine a couple years ago. The girls agreed. E thought it was perfect just then and would hold its own for a few more years.
So what do you do if you don’t have any 20-year-old vintage Champagne lying around? Or 250 bucks to drink? If, like me, you prefer more fruit (and less funky monkey) in your glass, try a non-vintage Champagne. These wines spend less time in contact with the lees and are consequently fresher, fruiter and more youthful.
Whatever the price point, I always want my wine to be a good value. Some of my favorite NV Champagnes are Georges Gardet, Lanson Black Label and Montaudon. However watch this space. As I write, I am on a plane to San Franny to attend a gigantic Champagne tasting. I might have more suggestions after the weekend.
So what about you? What is your desert island wine?