Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mumm's in your eye

Who here has ever sampled aged Champagne?

Sounds like an OXY(dized) MORON, huh?

Well listen up you Urban Gleaners....
Two years ago, in a neighborhood dumpster, I found some seemingly nice bottles of booze…the kind you put aside for a special occasion.

They'd been forgotten by the original (and presumed dead, judging from the contents of the good in the rubbish tip) owner.

….Evidence that life is indeed too short!

Having dessert first–and perhaps even Champagne for breakfast in ones’ later years wouldn’t be completely off the mark…

I dug around and found some 1970s port, this single Champagne from Reims (no date on it) and a few reds. None had shattered.

All were hot from laying in the summer sun, and had to be sped home to the Taj Mahovel Recovery Room (the crawl space under the house where we hide in the 100-degree days that will become more numerous in the coming decade).

Since then, I enjoyed each from that trove, save one.

Until now I was too scared to try it.
I ‘d never heard of ‘antique’ Champagne, and like your average person, understood that super-young was the only way to have it. Crispy, light, dry with very little fruit discernible.

Turns out that the stuff can age, as long as it's lying on its side (”on the lees”) in a carefully controlled environment, away from light and vibration.
While Champagne makers have an economic interest in selling more wine by convincing us it’s best consumed within the year, much Champagne improves with some [cork] aging.

Jancis Robinson notes that some Champagnes can become significantly more complex with aging on the cork–”if properly stored”.

I imagined the jolt inflicted on the stiff-upper-lipped Mumm’s, hurled over the dumpster’s edge and coming to rest atop sofa-cushions, baling wire, wood chips, shoe boxes, golf clubs, plastic flowers, dishware, shoes and other junk.
That bottle was meant for me, and intended to be enjoyed despite its sketchy background.

For the slimmest of reasons I decided to open it up today: as a budget tribute to the great and ever so humble, complex and intense Sheldon Brown.

Ian (”evolnollidge”) and I did our Sheldon Ride earlier in the afternoon, though we attracted no other ‘Sheldonysians”.
Four year old Kai braved the rude winds in the ten mile Get To The Start Of The Ride portion, and entertained himself in the back seat of dad’s Dutch bike by doing a reasonable imitation of our prattle. I presume he was a trouper in the (headwinds both directions) ten miles home.

I like to think Sheldon would have appreciated the toasty maderized (doesn't mean ruint) notes in the bottle I literally broke into.

A crumbling broken cork meant no dramatic pop; the color was amber with superfine bubbles racing in thin lines up the glass. A candy aroma hovered over the surface and I realized I was going to be amazed with my ‘find’.
So this is “maderization”? Is a Maillard reaction likely to improve what’s left during the years on the cork? Or am I just trying to type words here than might then brand themselves into my mind, since I'm pretending to know what they mean?
I gotta learn how to do links...

For once Charlie didn’t make a face after one tiny sip. I can offer no greater accolade from a non-drinker for whom everything one imbibes and ingests must have a Nutrititve Purpose.

Burnt bread, raisins and even some brandy flavor dwelled in the ruddy liquor.

It was a revelation….complex and rewarding.

Heaven knows the price was right…here’s Mumm’s in your eye, Sheldon!


alice b. toeclips said...

anyone care to tell me how to get this wine which has been 'lying on the lees' for years to turn UPRIGHT?

Troutbum74 said...

ABT- I thorougly enjoyed that post. As a consumer of vintages that others find past their prime it seems you could live by the motto, "With great risk, comes great reward". Thanks for sharing.

Kent Peterson said...

Your bottle is no longer recumbent my dear Ms. Toeclips. I grabbed the image, gave it a 90 degree tweek with a digital wrench and replaced the original with its perpendicular peer.

Icon O. Classt said...

Wow, nice search and rescue (and write-up)! I'd guess that temperature and alcohol content also play a big part in the tasteworthiness of champagne, since they do in aged beer (low temp and high ABV = good).