Handle The Proof: Champagne
|Armand de Brignac Brut Gold|
Really, the great vintage Champagnes are almost too subtle for beginners. Armand de Brignac's Brut Gold, for example, releases mineral aromas with a light scent of dried flowers. Its taste also contains mineral traces. But the rush of fruit and toasted bread strikes more noticeably--and lingers for a considerable time. The Oenotheque '93 from Dom Perignon offers a bouquet resembling dried flowers--clover in particular--and minerals, too, along with an constant background like field of cut hay. On the palate there's more of a cider-like experience backed by hints of citrus, vanilla and wet rocks.
If you know the taste of wet rocks, that is.
Both are extraordinarily light and natural. There's none of the heavy sweetness associated with cheap sparklers (and none of the potential headache). The texture comes across as almost silky. And both will cost you several hundred bucks.
For $200 or $400 a bottle, you get wines to contemplate, as well as enjoy. Expect boldness and you will be disappointed. The flavors don't come to you. Instead, they force you to notice, to pick them out. When you do, a sense of timelessness hits you.
But that's it. The brilliance of wine crafted by a couple of people working a small plot of vineyard with great care--sometimes, as with the Armand de Brignac, land dedicated to grapes since the 1700s--is in that moment. It lasts as long as the bottle, and then the sensation departs.
If you can spare a nice wad of cash for that, do so. For these wines are perfect. If not, stick with Gruet (or something similar). You'll be just as happy.
The margin between great and decent, in this case, is both massive and quite small indeed.