Burgundy's Lucky Nines
Drinking in the highs and lows from Brooklyn Dive Bars to Vintage Veuve
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The week, which started with Monday’s Burgundy extravaganza lunch, ended on another high wine note with a vintage Veuve Clicquot Champagne on Friday dinner at the newest hot venue, the Mondrian Soho’s Imperial Number Nine restaurant, under the toque of celebrity chef Sam Talbot. The high-ceilinged restaurant is splendid, an ornate modern palace with oversized crystal chandeliers and a center sculpture displaying a massive still life of tumbling crystal objects (vases, candelabras).
I dined with Veuve Clicquot winemaker, Cyril Brun. We started with the newly released 2002 vintage, which had a lovely creamy texture and was silky with notes of honey and almonds. It was long lasting and very zesty on the finish. Looking over the menu and noticing oysters, Cyril warned, “Never oysters with Champagne. You don’t add salt to salt.” (Despite his wine pairing advice, we ordered the oysters anyway.)
Our Champagne-soaked dinner culminated with two marvelous cuvees, La Grand Dame 1998 and Veuve Clicquot 93. Of the La Grande Dame, Cyril said, “1998 was an impressive year. It’s ripe with high acidity.” And then he explained to me his process in making it: “I don’t see myself as the grand creator. With this cuvee I feel we inherited the style from Madame Clicquot. My main ambition is to be the guardian of the temple. I use the same eight villages of cru that went into her original blend for La Grande Dame. She had the right instincts.” The Grande Dame had wonderful caramel notes and Cyril felt it could age 20 years more. It would become even more toasty and truffle-y in time.
Cyril explained that it is in the Veuve Clicquot yellow label, which comes out every year, that he has discretion in the blend. The NV Champagne is comprised of 400 different wines and a 10-person tasting panel (all oenologists) sample all the wines and decide on the final blend. Though the recipe is similar from one vintage year to another, they must adjust the proportions. Cyril has the final word.
The Veuve Clicquot 93 (disgorged at the end of 99) and also had wonderful caramel and mineral notes that developed from resting 18 years on the lees. Feeling the effects of all that vintage Champagne, we engaged in some personal talk and I was charmed when Cyril related a story about his son, Leon, who is two-and-a-half. When friends ask little Leon what his father does for a living, the boy replies, “My father makes something to drink. And when people drink it, everyone says, ‘Wow it’s so good.’ ” Indeed Leon’s daddy makes something just remarkable to drink.