R James Mullen says celebrate the New Year in style with a bona fide bottle of bubbly
If you are going to celebrate this festive season—and why wouldn’t you—do it right, says wine buff R James Mullen. Push the boat out and raise a toast with a bottle of vintage champagne
ot an extra 10,000 to 15,000 baht in your pocket and looking to reward yourself for successfully navigating the vagaries of another year? Try putting a positive spin on the New Year with a touch of luxury in the form of a toast with a glass of vintage champagne. That bead of fine bubbles and enervating complexity will surely set the tone for a season of success.
Vintage champagne is wine made from grapes of exceptional quality picked and blended in the same year. The wine is then aged a minimum of three years before being sold, with some houses (wineries) holding the wine as long as seven or eight years before release. This extra ageing, coupled with limited production, adds to prices that are often four times that of their non-vintage counterparts. Non-vintage champagne which constitutes about 85 per cent of some 320 million bottles produced annually is a blend of grapes from two or three different years to facilitate a consistent style from each house. Ageing is limited to 18 months for most non-vintages before reaching the market.
Price and availability definitely limit the occasions on which vintage champagne is opened but critics agree that subtle hints of apple and yeast enhanced by natural effervescence make it compatible with a multitude of foods, not to mention special events. Best known among dozens of internationally distributed vintage brands is Dom Perignon from the house of MoetHennessey owned by Louis Vuitton. Along with Taittinger Comtes De Champagne, Krug Vintage, Roederer Cristal and Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque, among a few others, these are vintage wines in the prestige category, owing to additional bottle ageing beyond the required three years.
To savour the moment of any of these vintage wines chill for at least an hour before opening and have an ice bucket on hand to maintain the temperature throughout your celebration. As always use caution when opening by holding a towel over the cork as you remove the wire enclosure. Hold the cork while turning the bottle slowly until the pressure hisses from the bottle without popping out and losing not only effervescence but also likely a glass of pleasure in the foam.
Finally, maximum enjoyment of the subtle bouquet of the wine is difficult to perceive if the traditional slender flutes are used. Instead try a standard 350ml tulip-shape wine glass, which all of the top champagne winemakers use, and enjoy the full extent of your special treat to yourself. Santé!
AIM FOR THE FIZZ A bottle of vintage champagne is the best way to add sparkle to a special celebration