Let me preface this story by saying that Beverly recently married Marc, a wonderful Southern gentleman who has brought my sister much happiness. Before Marc, there was another beau. I’ll just call him Bob.
Bob was something of a wine snob. Had an impressive cellar, for sure. But, truth be known, he was extremely cheap when it came to sharing his cache. So, it came as a complete surprise when a bottle of 1998 Cuvée R. Lalou Champagne was delivered to Beverly and Marc as a wedding gift from Bob.
Now, this bottle was a Prestige Cuvée Champagne from G.H. Mumm that was much ballyhooed when it was released in 2008. You know about those Prestige Cuvées…those super-expensive Champagnes made in small quantities that are supposed to represent the finest achievement of the Champagne House. The suggested retail back then was $160.
We know that frugal Bob didn’t pay that. Don’t get me wrong, we all love a good wine bargain. But how did we know that Bob paid less? He left the price tag on the bottle – which is SO Bob! $121.99. Still…a nice gift.
Marc is a very secure man. But, for reasons known only to him, he didn’t want that bottle of Champagne hanging around their house for long. So, to that end, Beverly and Marc brought the Cuvée R. Lalou to our house for cocktails on Sunday. (“Pour it for Barbara…She’ll drink anything.”) As they were driving over, Beverly related some of the published reviews of the Champagne to Marc. Glowing, glowing, glowing.
The only silver lining for Marc was one reviewer’s comment to the effect of “drink it now in 2008 because it’s going to go downhill quickly.” Aha! Surely, that was Bob’s revenge. The old boyfriend knew the bubbly was bad but sent it in the guise of a thoughtful gesture.
With that as the back story, we eased the cork out of the R. Lalou and poured it into our flutes. As we watched the bubbles dance up the glasses and prepared to take our first sips, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I should say something critical about the wine…just for Marc’s sake. But then, if I was going to be overwhelmed by the Champagne’s exquisite taste, I really shouldn’t lie. Then again, maybe the wine would truly be past its prime, in which case I could legitimately badmouth the benefactor.
We all took a sip and looked at each other expectantly. I needn’t have worried about what to say. The simple truth solved any possible issue. The Champagne tasted just as I suspect the winemaker intended. It was intense, still fresh, and with plenty of fruit.
Okay, so it had not fallen on hard times, but did I like it? The short answer is it really wasn’t my cup of tea. As with many fine French Champagnes, it was made in a style that is heavy on the smoke and yeast. Millions of people think that’s an asset. To my Americanized palate, the taste is musty. Not something I appreciate. So, I could honestly tell Marc I’d rather drink the $7 bottle of Cristalino cava he brought as a backup.
In the end, the Prestige Cuvée was never going to seriously jeopardize this new marriage. But, all the same, I’m glad the empty bottle is ready for recycling.