Romance reigns in class for geeks


Welcome to class, gentlemen. I'm glad to see you all have reported as Relationship Court has ordered. This is Remedial Romance for Wine Geeks.

Ladies, feel free to audit.

Now, guys, we have a holiday coming this month that has certain romantic overtones. Do any of you remember what it is?

No, Bruno, not Presidents Day.

That's right, it's Valentine's Day, Kenneth. Very good.

Now class, it is customary at this holiday to sit down with your beloved over a nice dinner and exchange romantic thoughts. Some people even use this as an occasion to take the relationship to the next level, if you know what I mean.

Can any of you think of something to go along with the dinner that would enhance the romantic atmosphere of the evening?

No, Bruno, football season's over.

Yes, David, wine can indeed help set the mood. Very good. Can we be a little more specific though?

A big mama zinfandel? David, how is a big mama zinfandel going to help this romantic scenario?

It's what you like? Class, what's wrong with this picture?

OK, Rule No. 1 of wine and romance: It's not about what you like; it's about what she likes. Got that?

Now can anybody suggest a type of wine that has some romantic associations?

Champagne - excellent, Kenneth. Let's take this a little further. What kind of champagne, class?

Why do you suggest Cook's, Bruno?

Cheap and gets you drunk fast? Obviously the voice of experience, Bruno, but we're not trying to save money here, class. We're trying to send a romantic message.

True French champagne? Right on point, David. France still produces the best sparkling wine, and serving a real champagne tells her she's worth the very best.

Now is there any particular champagne that has a particular advantage over the others?

Bollinger? Close, Kenneth. An excellent producer, and if she's familiar with it, she'll know you like her well enough to spend $150 or so on her. But it's a bit, shall we say, masculine. James Bond drinks Bollinger. It might be a more romantic gesture if she bought it for you.

Could you think of something more appropriate? Nobody? Norman, would you unwrap this, read the label and pass the bottle around?

That's right, the 1995 Perrier-Jouet Champagne Brut, which costs $110. Can anyone think of why this might be particularly appealing?

Attaway, Bruno. Yes, there are pretty flowers on the label. But it's more than that, class. It's one of the most famous wine labels in the world, hand-painted onto a bottle of delicate, elegant champagne.

The key here, class, is that it's too pretty to throw away. Trust me, she'll keep the bottle, and every time she sees it she'll think of you.

That brings us to rule No. 2: Impressions count.

Class, here's your choice. On the one hand you have this wonderful but little-known champagne from Egly-Ouriet; it costs you $75 and the Wine Pontificator just gave it a fabulous score. On the other you have a Taittinger Rose, $125, with about the same rating.

Which do you serve to your sweetheart?

Class, Thomas says the Egly-Ouriet is a better value for the quality and that it'll be a new and educational experience. Richard says the Taittinger because it's a name she'll recognize, that it will make her feel special and that Egly-Ouriet sounds like the noise a French cat makes when coughing up a hairball. Richard, you're ready to graduate.

Now, class, look at that flower label again. Is there a word you don't understand?

That's right, brut. Can anybody explain what that means?

Very good, Kenneth. It does mean dry. Can anyone explain why that might be a problem?

Come on, think back to Rule 1. The young lady standing in the back. Cynthia, right?

You hear that, guys? Sometimes your sweetheart will have a sweet tooth. This young lady loves the idea of being treated with champagne but doesn't like very dry wines.

Yes, Kenneth, most of the best champagnes are dry. But I don't think dumping her is the best solution.

There are some champagnes that are mildly sweet that would appeal to this lovely young lady but that won't offend your refined palate. On the other hand, some of them are downright awful, so you have to be careful.

That brings us to the tasting segment of our class. We'll be sampling some of these sweeter champagnes.

We'll start with Moet & Chandon's White Star. It's $38 a bottle. It's a very popular champagne, a top seller. Can anyone here explain why?

No, neither can I. Bruno, I agree that it's short and undistinguished, but I'd prefer you not pour it on the potted plants.

Let's move on to the G.H. Mumm Carte Classique Extra Dry. It's about $38 a bottle. Questions?

David wants to know if this is really champagne. Class, I'm wondering the same thing. It seems heavy, and the sugar seems to overpower the fine points. No romance here.

Let's try again. Piper-Heidsieck Extra Dry. This costs $36. Oh, yes, this is much better. I see you smiling, Kenneth. What do you like about it?

Right. It's not too sweet. There's just enough sugar to take the edge off it, but it's still dry enough to serve at dinner. Yes, it has the same yeasty, toasty flavors you get with brut champagne. You can taste more of the peach and pear fruit, though, can't you?

Next we have Moet & Chandon's Nectar Imperial for $41. David, you have your hand up?

Yes, this is the same firm that made the White Star, but the result is much different, isn't it?

Class, this wine demonstrates that sweeter does not mean less sophisticated. I see from the smiles that you like this much better than the White Star.

What flavors do you get? Owen? Yes, peach and honey. Travis? Melon and marzipan. Very good. I think this wine is a keeper. You disagree, Kenneth? A little too sweet? Well, you can't please everyone.

Let's move onto our special treat for tonight. This is the Veuve-Clicquot Ponsardin Demi-Sec. It's $45. A votre sante!

Well, I see Cynthia is smiling, as well she should. This isn't as sweet as the previous wine, but it has just as much fruit and more refinement, doesn't it? You get the flavors of peach, honey, nuts and fresh-baked bread?

What's that, Kenneth? You like this wine even though it's sweeter than you usually prefer? You think it has the crisp finish of a drier wine? Very perceptive.

That brings us to Rule No. 3: Seek common ground. Find the wine that appeals to both of you. It could become a symbol of your romance for years to come.

Well, there's the bell. Would somebody please wake Bruno?

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