Wine taster’s string adjectives to describe the aromas as some women accessorise catwalk creations.
As a wine taster, I excel in this obscure use of the English language, yet always aim to offer something new, modern and enlightening in the art of tasting the vine.
People are often amazed by the adjectives I use in tasting notes. Some may wonder what I have been smoking. Describing a wine’s structure as having finesse, elegance and balance doesn’t explain how the flavours develop in layers on the palate. By describing a wine as having “nuances of summer pudding, hints of cocoa, nuances of mocha and mushrooms with a rich velvet texture on the finish” lets the reader virtually taste the vintage. Going on to monitor how the wine changes once it opens up and how the acid and tannins coat your mouth, provides added insight into the complexity of the bottle.
Recounting this greater depth in flavour is like relating the difference between classical or pop music, or composition of the sensual Impressionists compared to the shocking Expressionist movement. While music and art capture an impression in time, food and wine offer immediate physical gratification. Of all the arts, wine is the only one that continues altering its taste profile in the bottle.
How best to convey the grandeur, sophistication and sumptuous splendour of Veuve Clicqout? By selecting a vibrant yellow for the label colour at a time when most others were grey, Madame Veuve Clicquot ensured its instant recognition on film or in print anywhere in the world.
Veuve Clicquot’s cellars are set away from the homestead with tunnels of maturing bottles forming a matrix beneath the earth’s surface. Scars of the war that reduced the town to ruins, with the sole exception of the magnificent Rheims Cathedral, still pockmark their characteristic chalk walls.
The double volume hall and sweeping chalk staircase with wrought-iron bars and a wooden rail in the gracious mansion leads to a host of sumptuous bedrooms, each the size of a French flat, overlooking the white-pebbled entrance courtyard. Antique tables, a statement fireplace and armchairs upholstered in the equivalent of French Colefax and Fowler floral prints, complement the large bed with its crisp linen. Paneled double doors lead into a large bathroom complete with ball and claw bath, marble basin and floor-toceiling windows. Here the celebratory yellow finds its way onto the body cream, shampoo and soap. I wondered if the hosts ever smelt perfume on visitors, as I was sure that all the women guests, like myself, wallowed in this delicious aroma, while men splashed on Christian Dior’s Eau Savage prior to dinner.
How to convey the richness and diversity of the Veuve Clicquot Brut Carte Jaune (Non vintage), the Vintage Réserve 1998, the Rosé Réserve 1998 or La Grande Dame 1996? These Champagnes convey more than the description of elegance, finesse and the depth of flavour that changes with time in the bottle. They all share a clearly defined, utterly cut glass pedigree. Refinement in the colour adopts subtle shades of gold, while the weight anchors more firmly on the palate. The aromas change from fresh apples to brioche with hints of honey, while the intriguing austerity of youth develops around creamy textures, silkier bubbles and a velvety impression.
Experiencing these liquid sensations on the palate with perfectly tuned cuisine, tailored service and passionate wine lovers in the Veuve Clicquot dining room with its exquisite paintings and long silk drapes that stream from high ceilings takes wine tasting to celestial levels.
I curse the fact that I always arrive in beautiful places after the allotted dinner time, having to scramble into clothes hidden in an oversized suitcase and leave the room looking as though the KGB have rifled though it.
In gracious places like this, I yearn to stay up all night to absorb the depth of their beauty. Surely this is what winemakers do with wine? The difference is in knowing just when these wines have reached their peak, but of course this would depend on the mood, taste and appreciation of the benefactor.
Perhaps it matters less whether the aromas are of apples or artichokes and more that the taster is as alive as the wine. This is the beauty of life. I have learned that I have to live in the moment, retaining memories like taste profiles. You could say I have discovered a newfound Veuve for life!