Valentine’s Day is looming and in the spirit of romance and adoration of the feminine I always turn to Champagne. It is the perfect and essential part of any romantic evening, and to me, is the essence of woman in a glass. Pink? Actually, I don’t do pink. Not because I am not in touch with my feminine side (I have read Cosmopolitan) and feel that the colour reflects the rosy cheeks, full lips or beating heart of the woman into who’s eyes I am staring on this day of romance. No, I just don’t really like it as much as the pure, straw coloured nectar, so why over do things?
Champagne is special, there is no denying it. A once weak and probably flabby wine is transformed through a heady, complex, time consuming, and in some cases, personal process of production – including the remouillage (the bottle turning, in some houses, by hand) and dégorgement (the removing of the dead lees from the neck) and all the tricks that make it special - into a sparkling golden drink that lends biscuits and cream, almonds, lemons (sometimes grapefruit) and pith, and floral notes to the palate. No wonder that our hero monk Dom Perignon thought the drink with the stars in was a miracle, it really is.
There is something delightfully youthful and feminine about a glass of non-vintage that has the frivolous sparkle, the light lemon zing and the creamy yeastiness. Bubbles tickle the tongue and lift spirits in a way that other wines cannot reach (apologies to Carlsberg). There is a carefree lack of formality that comes with the NV. The pop of the cork (that is meant to sound like a lady sighing in anticipation) and the whoosh of the froth as it races to the rim of the glass, the fun before the taste. Sparkles reflect bejewelled necks; the tickle on the tongue that brings a smile to the face and crinkles to the nose. Young love, hungry need or flirtation, all the anticipation of what might be, all reflected in a glass. This is what the NV is all about.
At the same time, the vintage brings with it a whole new dimension. A lighter sparkle in the glass, a stronger scent of biscuits and nuts from longer development, a more mellow flavour, all give the impression of a more mature woman, sensual and experienced, but with a glint in her eye. Less is definitely more with a vintage (proving there is still so much life in the old girl yet!) No whoosh and no need for giggles. This is serious lovers stuff, where senses, smells and tastes are heightened. Nuances with every glance, every word on the lips, every taste in the mouth. Whereas the NV is the ‘bling’, the party girl, this is the seductress. No need to impress, no anticipation of what might be but a knowledge of what will be, or already is.
Non vintage or vintage love? Diamonds? Stars? Sparkles? Either way, chuck out the chocolates, hold back the flowers, just bring out the Queen of drinks and relax. Happy Valentine’s Day.