Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Betrayed, or, The Jeroboam's Story

Hyphen and all, Billecart-Salmon stokes white whale obsession in champagne hunters. At least that's the view from my perch, where I tangle with frustrated BS-seekers weekly. So I was excited to snag a 375ml of nonvintage brut reserve on Monday and see if the liquid inside is really worth threats of physical violence.

Well. Let's admit that it was hardly the first bottle opened that night, and I drank it from a technically inappropriate glass. Throw in the speculation that Champagne generally tastes worse in smaller bottles and maybe I wasn't coming at it from the best angle. Or maybe I'm just making excuses. The disappointment threatened by the scrunched-up nose was verified by the second and third austere sips. The wine was grapefruity, thin, and abrasive, and the mousse disappeared quickly (perhaps the glass's fault).

So there I sat, out $24 and too tipsy to pay attention to The Last King of Scotland, suckered again by a veblen good. In fairness, BS is of a style that I typically don't prefer--the Champagnes I enjoy most taste like raw wads of bread dough studded with ripe green apple slices. But some others, notably Henriot, do the super-crisp, borderline briny thing with palpably better results. They taste as though the sharp citrus flavors and electric acidity were totally intended by the maitre de chai, whereas in Billecart-Salmon they seem unfortunately accidental.

Having only had it once (under less than ideal circumstances to boot), I'm not going to assert that this champagne should be dumped down the piss-pot followed by those who adore it. And, I did pick up some interesting amaretto and malted milkball aromas on continued nosings. AND, there's always the niggling possibility that it was a skunked bottle. In the end though, I can't escape the feeling that I was betrayed by a fizzy drink--putting me in the same seasick boat as the poor chumps who got hypodermics in their Pepsi. And only I am escaped alone to tell thee.

Other recent notables:
  • Domaine de Baumard Quarts de Chaume 2004 - Light lemon color. Floral and apricot aromas introduce a not-too-syrupy sweet wine. Youthful (for something that can last decades) acidity is probably masking some of the botrytised goodness right now.
  • Belle Pente Pinot Noir 2006 - Very light color. Lots of rhubarby fruit plays nicely against sharp acid and gamey earthiness.
  • Tiara Carmenere 2006 - Soft, easy-drinking Chilean red honestly presents an overlooked varietal with typical dark fruit surrounded by innuendos of green pepper and chocolate.
  • Vina Aquitania Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 - A seriously undervalued Chilean Cab that's much better-balanced than the menthol explosion on the nose suggests. Curiously, it's joined by some tobacco notes on the finish, but this is much classier than a pack of Newps.
  • Kim Crawford Pinot Gris 2005 - A true Pinot Gris (i.e. not Grigio) with a peachy nose leading into round, waxy flavors and pronounced floral stuff on the back palate.
  • Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc "Taylor's Pass" 2007 - Very mellow for a Marlborough SB with atypical orange peel aromas and round, creamy apricot/cinnamon flavors coupled with surprisingly low acidity. The distinctiveness of this lush New Zealand white is worth the price of admission.
  • Castello Tricerchi Brunello di Montalcino 2003 - Approachable now, with lots of vanilla and superdark cherry making the massive body manageable. Who cares what they put in it, it's delicious.

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