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June 26, 2010
750 mL is, well, just completely damn honored to share some space on one of the most pointed--popular--blogs out there: New York's The Awl, run by three Gawker veterans (magnates? magnets?) CS, AB, and DC. They were gracious enough to publish (and help edit) my newest post, "How to Face Down the Wine List and Win." A thrill in its own right, but made only better when I saw what an incredible community of readers they've got there--so don't miss the comments section.
June 25, 2010
06 Movia, Sauvignon
"The intent of the meal is a slow event." We broke bread to that (well, head cheese). Some 50 of us gathered over two long tables, bottles of wine in tow. I'd literally towed mine, pedaling a Rube Goldberg setup of gear and chain across town, past an oddly situated UPS facility, and finally swinging through a winding country road, wine sloshing like rapids in the rear basket. Whatever it took, we were all going to get here. This farm dinner, this apotheosis of porcine proportions--a whole hog roast by one of our favorite chefs, here at one our favorite farms, the dank smell of humidity, goats, and rennet whisking across fennel fronds, redcurrants, and the saline drip of what was once my favorite shirt. Yes, this would be a slow event, just like Leslie said. Time enough to share in great food, meet others, and--as always--drink great wine. My bottles of some esoteric sparkling pinot and gelber muskateller came out. Others had brought delicious rose, shockingly good Australian whites, Bandol that somehow seemed refreshing in 90-degree heat. And, through all this--a memorable night in the least--I could think only of the futon I sat on last night. The bloat of Chinese food in my distended belly. A much quainter evening, all in all, capped with the denouement of this bottle of Movia. I could say it was majestic, moving, or metaphysical in situ. But where we were seated, who we were with, what we were or had eaten meant nothing to this wine. In a living room, on a farm. When I remember the night, I like to imagine us together at a teak, or maybe pounded copper, table, some innocuous plate of tapas or antipasti in front. But I don't need to. Because whenever this coy, nuanced--at the risk of sounding even more pretentious: "historically informed"--bottle is opened, you're no longer tied to your surroundings. The wine is where you are--as local and true as any gathering of old friends. You're never introduced to Movia. There is no awkward handshake, no learning curve. And if you're sitting there with a bottle right now, you know what it is. It's elemental in some way. You can't break down Mo. There is no tasting note. Sure, we can discuss the balance of acid and umami. Whether that musky aroma is really flint, lemon, or a stark, jarring reminder of being asked to wash the chalkboards for the last three months of kindergarten because your overachieving ass graduated early and there is no place to put a five-year-old kid on a Wednesday in the middle of a particularly frigid winter. We can discuss those things. Better if we don't. When I sat there on the farm, drinking bottle after bottle of delicious wine, eating course after course of thoughtfully raised and prepared food, I'd lost all my inhibitions. For a moment, I thought I should've brought that Movia I'd had the night before. Every glass I poured reminded me of it anyway. It's all I was really tasting. It would have wowed them. But I quickly woke to realize that's precisely the opposite of what wines like this want to do. They don't want to wow you. They don't want you to wow others. Somehow, they stay with you, revealing themselves not when you drink them, but far more viscerally when you are without, almost whispering, you will miss me when I'm gone. You taste them, you share your own little memories (when was the last time I'd thought about homeroom and Mrs. Cook?), and you go on with your day. Comforted, maybe, by the fact that, no matter where you are and what you become, everything you've done really happened. It's mattered. You will remember your days and remember them fondly. It really does get this good. And it's a secret you never have to share.
June 11, 2010
NV Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Champagne Reims Brut
This is the review that won't matter. That won't come up in Google searches, won't be linked to from any major websites, except maybe blogs on Mark Twain. Because there are lies, damn lies, and mass-produced Champagne. And the numbers--some 10 million cases, 90 billion milliliters, or 760 million glasses a year--show that no half-truth is more persuasive than the power of Veuve Clicquot, the mystique of the Madame Widow Grande Dame. More timely, perhaps, that's 24 million gallons of this crude, gurgling liquid a year--or about as much as what BP just produced in the Gulf of Mexico. So, go on, be persuaded. But let me try to convince you otherwise, just this one time. I know, I know it's one of the first Champagnes you tried and then you went to fancy cocktail parties and still it was there. You had mimosas on the Riviera with it. You toasted your niece's wedding with it. The dockmaster christened your first yacht with a bottle, a ribbon, and some novelty scissors. And then just the other night you watched MTV Cribs and it was there, too, being brought up from the basement by an actual servant. All this wasn't just for show--it actually validated your thinking. Not "thinking" really, but your understanding. Well, no, not that. Your pedigree, your upbringing--your auspices. And I guess that's why--really to all our loss--Champagne is such a celebratory wine instead of the daily, I-love-myself and it's-Happy-Hour wine it really is. Because with wines like Veuve Clicquot's standard brut, you need a reason to open it. To expose yourself to flavors as faintly memorable as the people around you. The in-laws you only see on Easter. The hip Division Head who thinks everyone in the organization is of equal value before going to his summer home in the Andes. They taste this steely, like the aluminum wrapper of a lemon-poppyseed cupcake on your molars. As sweet and flabby as the girl who broke up with you the second week of summer camp. As bitter and zesty as quinine, as the gin tonics you guzzle at the cash bar, plunging your tongue past the ice, thinking who the hell are all these people. And though noticeably better, with enough heady, bold mushroom and raspberry aroma to, for just a moment, make you think the French were really on to something, you can drink the basic Veuve and see exactly where so many cheap sparkling producers get their influence. The Andre, the Cristalino, the Martini & Rossi. They all come from this. And they suck ass because I think the people who work there must get Veuve Clicquot at their holiday parties, on their yearly bonuses. Maybe it's the first result on Google. Here's the good stuff, boys! Guzzle up. Throw a fucking strawberry in there while you're at it. Well go ahead. Throw a strawberry in there. Make a fucking white sangria with some punch. Bitch, top off your bellini. But quit lying to me. Serve this, but quit telling me it's good. Quit telling me it goes with everything, including sushi. Quit putting it in a four-ply tri-fold cardboard box with a free etched Champagne flute. And, while you're at it, quit calling it Champagne. But keep calling it brute.
© 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi