Off the Vine: Let's toast to Champagne

December 18, 2013 

While many people think that Champagne and June weddings are made for each other, I beg to differ since my niece is getting married between Christmas and New Year's Eve, so what a perfect occasion for touting Champagne -- a wedding, Christmas dinner, and ringing in the new year.

Several hours east of Paris lies the Champagne region, which is the birthplace of sparkling wine. Legend has it that a monk named Dom Pérignon missed the mark while making wine for his Abbey in the early 1700s. One winter, he mistakenly bottled and corked the wine prior to the completion of the fermentation process. Fermentation remained dormant during the winter months, but when spring arrived and the bottles warmed up fermentation resumed and trapped carbon dioxide in the bottle which caused them to explode. After opening a bottle and taking a drink, Dom supposedly stated "Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!" Whether or not this quote attributed to Dom ever took place will never be known -- but Dom Pérignon's name lives to this day and is synonymous with great Champagne.

It was Moët & Chandon who introduced Champagne to the world. So what better way to toast a special occasion or holiday but with a flute of Grand Vintage Moët & Chandon? Moët & Chandon has been producing Champagne since 1743, but their very first "Grand Vintage" did not make an appearance until 1842, and this delectable wine is only produced in the best of the best years with 2004 being just the 70th Grand Vintage that this venerable Champagne Maison

has produced.

As you hold the Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2004 Brut to your nose, the bouquet of white peach, pear, and spicy honeysuckle will envelop you. This 2004 Grand Vintage Champagne has soft, creamy mouth-feel and a clean zesty finish that has mineral overtones. This Champagne was the perfect complement to the large chunks of lobster and the smoked gouda that makes up the Lobster Mac-n-Cheese from The Grill at O'Bricks in downtown Bradenton.

When Champagne is listed as NV, it is a non-vintage wine -- meaning that it was produced by blending grapes from different vintages. Usually, non-vintage wines taste very similar each year. However, Vintage Champagnes are produced from a single year and contain flavors that are unique to the weather conditions that took place in that growing season.

The Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Rosé 2004 is copper pink in color with flavors of black currant that is intertwined with a nice tannic structure, yet it contains hints of mocha on the finish. Try this Rosé with a smoked salmon carpaccio topped with extra virgin olive oil, freshly diced onion and capers.

Whether you are drinking Champagne with your family at Christmas dinner or making a toast to a special occasion or that last tick of the clock in 2013 remember that those bubbles in Champagne have truly magical powers that makes events such as these memorable.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines.

He can be reached at jimrawe@gmail.com.

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