For years the winemakers of Champagne tried their very best to rid their wines of the bubbles. It in fact at times became a matter of life or death, as cellars would suddenly explode violently due to the spontaneous fermentation. Here’s to the proof that sometimes the best things in life are born out of mistakes and thank you to the monk Dom Pierre Pérignon for allowing us to taste the stars.
“Hardly did it appear, than from my mouth it passed into my heart.” The Abbé de Challieu, 1715, upon first tasting Champagne
My eyes were closed and the bubbles remained tingling on my lips, pulsating at the same rhythm as the bubbles that were dancing through my veins. The hall had filled with the bold, beautiful strains of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Musik… Everything was just perfect. The music. The setting. The company. And above all that champagne. It was like tasting what love should taste like. Depth without complication. Clarity without overexposure. A touch of mystery, layers of emotion but above all overwhelming joy. That’s what good champagne does to you. It makes you fall in love. Most of the time it’s that school girl giddy, giggly kind of love. The bubbles go to your head and your cheeks are as flushed as a glass of rosé. But this time was different. That kind of love you know will last throughout the ages. That will stand the test of time. That gets more and more meaningful. At that moment I looked over at my husband and sighed. I was utterly grateful. If anything could describe what I felt collectively for him and our child combined with all the love in the world I had to give to my family, my friends, to everyone and everything right down to my two dogs, it was all in that glass.
The Dom Pérignon P2 1996 vintage was an example of pure perfection that is proof that God exists. As famed wine critic James Suckling had put it “I was looking out a window and the window was perfectly clean and then… there was a rainbow.” What could be more Divine than a rainbow? As I was contemplating this moment akin to Agape my thoughts were interrupted by my mother’s jovial voice. “What did he say?” she leaned over to me. “He said he saw a rainbow? Oh well I see rainbows everyday!” Then she burst into laughter just as she simultaneously and joyfully burst my little esoteric bubble and brought me happily back down to earth laughing along with her. This is the beauty of Champagne, no matter how amazing and life changing it can be its purpose is to bring joy. No one ever said to drown their sorrows in champagne. It does not commiserate, on the contrary it uplifts.
“A single glass of Champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced; the imagination is stirred, the wits become more nimble.” Winston Churchill
That’s it Mr. Churchill. So poignantly put. Exhilarating. It’s those wondrously blasted bubbles. It’s in those delicate bubbles that we bathed in during the very first event hosted by the legendary house of Dom Pérignon. A small group of very lucky people were treated to a true feast of the senses. The dramatic senate hall of the National Museum housed two long banquet tables verdant with stunning flower pieces and candelabras. The crystal clear perfect voice of Lea Salonga that opened the evening was a spectacular sign of things to come. The ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra accompanied her and us as we feasted on beautifully paired dishes prepared by The Peninsula Manila. It was an event worthy of Epicurus and Brillat-Savarin all together. Like those of the old movies that I love to watch, a timeless moment that could have been from fifty to a hundred to a thousand years ago. I swear I wanted to get up and waltz down the hall. My husband wisely stopped me. Bless his soul!
“A woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster salad and Champagne, the only true feminine and becoming viands.” Lord Byron, September 25, 1812
As outdated and sexist he may sound, Lord Byron had his reasons – lobster and champagne go incredibly well. The pairing that started the evening set the bar very high. Succulent, lush and sensual poached lobster with cauliflower mousse and deliciously tinny oscietra caviar paired with a Dom Pérignon 2004. It was brilliant. So was the P2 1996 with the heady morel mushrooms as well as when the King of Wines met the King of Cheese and the Dom Pérignon P2 Rosé 1998 was paired with the amazing brie and truffle. There was one particular pairing however was rather outstanding. You see in most wine dinners, much like matchmaking, there is often one of the couple that stands out more, one that slightly more charming and alluring. Then once in awhile you meet that more than perfect match. Soulmates. Destiny. As if the whole universe had conspired to bring them together. When the two elements come together, they actually BOTH become more than better. The seared tuna tataki with the ponzu foam and the Dom Pérignon Rosé 2003 was just that. That yuzu tang and unexpected bit of fresh cilantro brought out all the wonderful floral notes in the champagne. As the French say for love at first sight – that coup de foudre – being struck by lightning.
Champagne should not be drunk, it should be tasted. One should not swallow it greedily. One should taste it slowly in narrow glasses, in well-spaced, thoughtful sips.” Colette, French author, (1873 – 1954)
We tried. I promise we tried. We tried our very best to be as civilized as our setting and occasion. We tried to sip and savor and contemplate. But after a certain point how could we just remain there? The champagne was delightfully cold, my companions were gorgeously warm and all that fizz had gone to our heads. We laughed loudly. We exchanged stories. We allowed ourselves to incarnate the bubbles that were in our glasses. And as much of a Francophile I am on this delicate issue I feel the American Mark Twain has the ultimate last say “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”