Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Jacquesson Avize 1996: a Valentine's Day treat

Yesterday was Valentine's Day and a good excuse to open a decent bottle. We'd had a busy day and Nathan had some DIY to do when he got back from work. However, once the chores were done I rustled up a simple supper of smoked salmon, new potatoes and a delicately dressed salad – perfect for some special fizz.

I adore great Champagne and happily avoid overpriced and disappointing Grandes Marques in favour of smaller houses and individual growers. At our wedding we served Gimonnet Premier Cru Cuis bought directly from them and I'll never forget driving towards the Côte des Blancs and seeing the dramatic ridge that boasts so many great Champagne vineyards. I hadn't realised how similar it was to the Côte de Nuits in Burgundy – another thrilling sight for a wine lover. I'll also never forget how the Champagne flowed at our wedding and how we even had several bottles left over (bliss). I'd negotiated corkage per head (rather than per bottle) with our wedding venue, Middle Temple, so there was no need to hold back.

Our Valentine's bottle was also from the Côte des Blancs, but from the Grand Cru village of Avize. I'd been given this bottle as a 40th birthday present by my friend Martine Bounet who works for Fields Morris & Verdin, the importers of Jacquesson. Following her recommendations, I laid it down for a while before deciding to pop the cork yesterday. It had a deep golden yellow colour and an opulent nose of toasted brioche and caramelised tropical fruit as well and complex savoury notes. On the palate there were layers and layers of flavour, but all bone dry (extra-brut), despite the rich concentration. The finish went on and on, tangy, saline and mouthwatering. An amazing, substantial wine that stood up magnificently to the food – a superb match for the smoked salmon, cutting refreshingly through the oily richness. It may well have benefited from longer cellaring (given 1996's unusual combination of high acidity and ripe fruit), but it tasted beautifully harmonious last night. Next up will be a bottle of Krug 1988 – a wedding present that's been maturing nicely in our wine storage cabinet. Maybe for Nathan's 50th next year? We'll see...

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