Sunday, January 10, 2016

Champagne Myth

Many years ago I opened a half bottle of old Champagne. The cork had shrunk and was brown. The fizz had nearly disappeared. The wine was yellow. But the taste was sumptuous.
This gave me the idea that even ordinary Champagne of modest provenance would improve if given age.
So now we buy Champagne when it is cheap and lay it down for a couple of years or more before drinking it.
Before the last Christmas, and after, bottles of the stuff have been on offer for only a little more than the now ubiquitous Prosecco.
It has been a good year to buy, presumably because those who make Champagne have over-produced and need room in their cellars for the new harvest. Or is the public coming around to realise that Champagne is disproportionately expensive for what it is, despite the care and attention that its production needs?
We have been conducting an experiment with that famous French beverage.
Now it so happens that at smart “dos”, Champagne is offered as a sign of opulence and generosity. So we accept it gratefully and gracefully. And it does have a certain celebratory connotation attached to it. But would we choose it for preference if other wines are offered at the same time?
Several times recently we have entertained friends for drinks. Before the arrival of those guests we have opened a bottle of Champagne and offered the choice of it or either red or white wine.
Except for me tasting the Champagne when opened, only one of our guests  chose it (and then only one glass) in preference to either red or white wine. I was amazed, amazed and delighted that for days afterwards we were enjoying the aftermath of those parties by drinking Champagne cocktails as an apertif.
An opened bottle of Champagne keeps its sparkle in the refrigerator for a day or two or more with a stopper of some sort resting in the neck.
For the cocktail, put ice in a large wine glass with a measure of Cognac and three shakes of Angostura bitters (some add a little sweetener). The Champagne is then poured on top, a light stir, and that’s it – delicious. Of course you can do the same using sparkling wine instead of Champagne. And I have become aware that using just brandy is no substitute for Cognac.
The strength of this famous cocktail depends on the amount of Cognac used. Ours start as a strong version and get diluted as sparkling wine is added.