As Champagne Day on 23rd October is dangerously near, it seems appropriate to strike a reminder that there once was a world in which people met civilly, where corks popped and there was chat, cheer, and incredibly good champagne.
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Witnessing a contemporary incarnation of the Bullingdon Club set the agenda for British politics, the handling of COVID-19 and the forthcoming Brexit travesty, the window of opportunity to get away seemed like one worth jumping through.
Here in Liguria, Italy, concerns about COVID are very real and people are taking precautions very seriously, absent hysteria or confusion about what is real news and what is not. Apparently, the politics in Italy have their own flavours of outrage but at least we do not currently understand the language and are so in our own bubble.
After some rest and the usual hours spent staring into the computer screen, we were very happy to be invited to a small birthday party organised within the same villa by the owner.
The small gathering was assembled in the drawing-room surrounded by some lively paintings, sculpture, and intermittently masked faces, with a backdrop of the sun setting over the coastline that reaches from Italy, past Menton and into France.
Canard-Duchêne Cuvée Léonie Brut, NV (Magnum)
The masks slowly came down and the Canard-Duchêne Léonie, NV in Magnum was served. This is beguiling champagne with rich pleasure-inducing power. Complex aromas of pear and a touch of tropical fruit, something floral and perhaps biscotti, meld into a seductive taste experience. There’s a perfect balance of structured acidity, ripeness, long length. A fantastic choice of champagne to serve to arriving guests. The memory still lingers.
Pol Roger Brut Reserve 75Cl
The second champagne we were served was Pol Roger Brut Reserve, classic champagne that can hold its own in any company. A classic blend of equal proportions for the three grapes, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, combine to produce a smashingly fresh sparkler with layers of mango, pear, vanilla and sweet pastries, set against a backbone of pristine party-grade acidity. So enjoyable and very versatile. I enjoyed this with a warm croissant filled with cured ham. Decadent and delicious.
Henry de Valbert, Cuvée Tradition, Brut NV, 75Cl
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The third champagne of the evening was from Henry de Valbert, Cuvée Tradition, Brut NV, a simpler wine compared to its predecessors. Aromas of green apples, some citrus notes and fine acidity. A fine tapered offering as the evening swerved and ebbed towards the red wines.
Wine of the night?
The Cuvée Léonie certainly made its mark with me. This is really a memorable sparkler made with 25% reserve wines and aged for 3 years in the cellar. In magnum, the flavours integrate more fully while ageing more slowly. There have been numerous tastings in recent years where the same Cuvée is offered first in 75Cl bottle and then again from a 150Cl bottle. The difference is strikingly evident.
Whatever your plans for this Friday are, do try to weave some decent Champagne into the proceedings, toast the past, celebrate the now, and hold tight for the future!
*Special thanks to our hosts, Filippo and Elisa.
An aperitif by the coliseum
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Artichoke pasta and very fine Pigato
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