At the end of January we met friends for a special occasion dinner (our ‘going away party’, as we are soon to relocate to the Bay Area) which was, luckily for us, accompanied by some very nice wines. My predilection for all things Champagne is no secret, and there were two very nice bottles of bubbly to start us off, neither of which I had ever tasted previously.
Salon is a mythic creature, a single wine produced by a single house, and only released in certain years. And while I certainly appreciate a good Blanc de Blancs, I often choose to drink at the fuller, broader end of the Champagne spectrum. However, I was certainly not going to turn down a taste of this beauty given the history of the producer and my naturally inquisitive taste buds. (Also, I had brought the thing!)
Upon first opening, the 1997 Salon did not particularly impress me, I’m sad to say. Even in my burgundy stem, the nose was essentially hidden and the palate, though texturally quite impressive, offered very little besides a faint bread taste and chalk feeling. However, after 30 minutes or so of air (and warmer temperature) the stone fruit, lime, and chalk became more pronounced even as the texture smoothed to a point so far on the horizon most Champagnes don’t even know it exists. It was quite wonderful, and its pedigree was clear.
The second Champagne is near and dear to my heart, even though I had, as of that dinner, never tasted it before in my life. My husband and I visited Champagne in the spring of 2011, and one of our favorite visits was to the house of Charles Heidsieck. We had a lovely tour of the caves, tasted the full lineup of Charles and Piper Heidsieck (both houses, completely separate for decades, have recently merged under the same parent company) and ended up deep in the ancient cellars, faced with a wall of dusty, cobwebbed bottles. Christian, our fantastic, exuberant guide generously offered to pop any bottle we saw in front of us, which is how we came to taste the 1983 Champagne Charlie that glorious spring day (and also how we came to be 30 minutes late to our Michelin-starred lunch reservation, but that is another story entirely). In any case, tasting that wine in that company in that place remains one of the highlights of our wine journey together. And any chance to drink another Charles Heidsieck creation is something we look forward to in a misty-eyed, reverential way.
The 1985 Champagne Charlie was an Oenotheque bottling, meaning it was recently disgorged from those very caves, having rested comfortably on dusty shelves since birth. I was, of course, fully prepared to adore this wine, which may have colored my notes. But wine is to be enjoyed, and while I appreciate the benefit of a fully unbiased approach to wine tasting, this was neither the time nor the place for such lunacy. The 1985 Charlie was simply my kind of awesome – caramel, biscuit, nutmeg, all that good stuff. I didn’t take very complete notes because I was too busy loving the taste and the texture and the memory. I only hope that everyone tastes such a special bottle as this at some point in their lives – preferably while surrounded by happy and generous friends.