For 16 years, we have hosted an annual champagne/sparkling wine tasting. It started very simply – a few friends asked me if I would procure some champagne and put together a blind tasting with prices ranging from high to low, and have the group split the cost.
Over the years the party has evolved, the locations have changed, the food has improved dramatically (I started this as bachelor, and added my wife to the experience about four years in), but there are a few die-hard fans of this festive evening that have been with us nearly since the beginning. There have been years when we even tried to take a hiatus, but those same faithful few cajoled us into pushing on through. The party is nearly always held in November, and for many friends it heralds the start of the holiday party season.
One thing that has always remained the same is the end of evening voting. People take copious notes throughout the tasting, and by show of hands, the guests vote for their best and worst of the night and then we unveil the picks. We hand out a guide to all of the wines from the evening, including vintages and costs, and from there, our guests can procure their favorites – or be glad that they were able to partake in wines that they might not otherwise purchase on their own.
That’s one of the things I particularly like about the evening – most of the time when people enjoy champagne, it’s for a special occasion and it’s easy to believe that every bottle you drink is the best bottle you’ve had. But taste them side by side, and the subtleties start to come out – by the fourth and fifth wines in a line-up of 10-12, people have definite opinions. As we go, we discuss the characteristcs of masculine vs. feminine champagnes, and it’s fascinating to watch as people begin to claim their favorites.
Of course, my favorite part of the evening is watching my wife pick the same champagnes that I like – we’ve done this long enough now that she can pick Krug blind out of a line-up nearly every time it’s included. That makes a husband proud – and happy to stock his cellar with more!