Saturday, 3 January 2015

Into the New Year in style

Holiday season was a blast. There was too much everything and accordingly I had too much of it all. But managed to avoid the marzipan trap until the days after Christmas when I passed time destroying what was left of the chocolate boxes at work. And our agreement on a gift-free and hassle-free Christmas was not made any worse by the fact that one of the gifts was a new lense I'd been dreaming of for months.

And what made the final days of 2014 even more spectacular was a gift I was presented with in the last days of Hanukkah: a bottle of Dom Perignon 2004. The Boy Next Door had ventured to the shop to pick up a bottle of "nice Pinot Noir" to cheer me up after a crap day but somehow managed to walk out clutching something completely different. A lesson learnt? There are ways of shutting me up. "2004 was a very good year" were the only words I managed to utter as I stared at the gift box in utter disbelief.

Though 2014 saw us go through more Champagne (and good ones, too!) than any year before that, getting to sample something that's had over a decade to mature is a very rare treat indeed.

First time was that Piper Heidsieck 2002, thinking of which still makes me purr. This individual, too, had at least a good 15 years worth of evolution ahead of it if stored correctly. Our restraint lasted a whopping 22 days.

We decided to ring in the year 2015 at home. Just the two of us. And Dom. And a candle-lit supper to pair the bottle with. You know, just to give me something to neurotically fret about. Will they match? Will the kangaroo meat have time to chill properly to make good carpaccio? Oh, the things one needs to concern herself with in these bleak days of austerity...

We had fish ceviche, which I've fallen in love all over gain, this time served in mini crustades...

And prawns marinated in ginger, lime, garlic and chilli, quickly grilled and served with avocado and coriander mousse (more or less this recipe)...

and figs with Bufala mozzarella and prosciutto...

and kangaroo carpaccio, rolled in crushed rosemary, pink peppercorns, salt and pepper, quickly seared and then frozen and shaved. You know, just a little something to nibble...

As we finally cracked the bottle open I was nibbling on my lower lip though. The expectations ran expectedly high. Coloured like pale straw the Champagne surprised with bright, fruity aromas that promised a good acidity, but the taste was another surprise. Consisting only of Pinot Noir (52) and Chardonnay (48%) the Champagne was very dry, as was to be expected (sugar content 6 g/ l), but in a very pleasant way.

Overall impression was delicate, balanced and oh, so elegant. Its energetic tiny bubbles caressed the palate like... well, you know it already: like a team of unicorns galloping in rainbow- coloured clouds. Several sources characterized the Champagne as vibrant, but even we, equipped with the verbal capacity that we are, were not prepared for an experience this exuberant, vivacious and complex.

In the end we just stared at the flutes on the table in silence. We had no words. A fantastic fizz.

Even in my dizziness and giddiness I resorted to traditional terms: minerality, brioche-like toastiness, gentle peppery spiciness, sure. Somehow simultaneously light and easy, but in its classiness nothing short of big and impressive. Gentle, yet confidently strong. Champagne seemed to keep evolving throughout each glass and each sip had another surprising dimension in store. Long, rich finish even produces notes of certain yeastiness, but again in a very pleasant way.

The Boy Next Door, horror to all sommeliers out there has so far during our excursions into enology managed to pick up on "the sound of a dark, varnished cello", "full sails" and "distinctive hints of Baltic Sea". Sure enough he continued on his chosen, prosaic path. "An aristocratic lady, dressed in dark purple". "Caravelle pipe tobacco". "In its sovereignty reminiscent of the encounter of Japanese black ships  (kurofune)".  For me it's nearly impossible to determine the winner in the tough race for the #1 slot in my ranking between this and that Piper Heidsieck but for The Boy Next Door this is the hands down winner. 

Aristocratic this is, there's no doubt about it. And a thoroughbred while at it; this was born into the world of aristocracy, with the elegance and poise distilled into its DNA in the course of centuries dripping from its fingertips. Not a D-list reality-TV-wannabe-celebrity famous for posing in lads' mags wearing nothing but a skimpy bikini who somehow managed to marry into the Royal Family. 

And that sense of aristocracy with its delightfully uplifting qualities is apparently contagious too: a little while later I overheard him admiring the glass of Champagne in his hand pondering we should "buy more of this now and store it for future occasions". I didn't have the heart to point to the direction of a metal frame Ikea storage unit the dusty bottom shelf of which currently acts as our wine cellar. Or remind him of the fact that we probably couldn't afford this bottle either...

But that's the magic of a really good Champagne. It lifts ones spirits out of the mundane everyday life, sprinkles the world with gold dust that promises tomorrow to be a lot brighter, too and instills in one a giddy conviction that everything's going to be fine after all.

And the food? Sure, it worked, too. Grilled white fish or shellfish are the ideal companions. It's crisp, citric notes balanced out the fatty richness of the avocado mousse and with fish ceviche (go easy on the chilli though!) this was heaven.

But the absolute best matches for this? A special someone, candles, Django Reinhardt's music that transforms the surroundings into a tiny Parisian restaurant balancing on the cobble-stone pavement, basking in the moonlight... and love. And  a tiara of course. Then again, tiara goes with everything. 

Yeah, 2004 was a very good yer indeed. But you know what? I have a feeling 2015 is going to be even better. Cin cin!




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