18 May 2011

merguez with de gaulle: drappier's "charles de gaulle" champagne

Truth be told, I'd intended to save the birthday bottle of 2006 Drappier Champagne "Charles de Gaulle" my friends A and C gave me in the midst of a drunken literary reading for some future occasion, when A and C would again be present, and all of us somewhat more sober. But recently another friend, R, invited me round for dinner at her offices, which overlook the Centre Pompidou, and since my sister and her boyfriend J4 were in town, and the latter had just fixed a wonderful heap of Lebanese cuisine to bring, it seemed a irresistible occasion to crack open said Champagne, even if in doing so I may have set the stage for a future moment of mild Champagne-less awkwardness in the presence of A and C.*

I look forward to one day having the luxury of not thinking about any of this, of just buying the stuff by the caseload and misplacing it behind my Aston Martin in my eight-car garage. As it is, Champagne of any sort, even a medium-plus bottling like the "Charles de Gaulle," is something I have to kind of play chess with. (I'm routinely happier with a variety of less expensive, equally engaging sparkling wines, but the actual public gesture of Champagne is irreplaceable.)

Finally, as so often happens in spite of my insane planning, the Champagne itself - 80%-20% Pinot Noir / Chardonnay, deep, somewhat unctuous and briny - took a backseat to the happy circumstances: a view across Paris, some fine company, and J4's killer brochettes de merguez with harissa yogurt.

He also whipped together a Lebanese salad called fattoush, composed of sliced carrots, radishes, tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, scallions, red onion, leaf lettuce, mint, and fried pita, in a preserved lemon / sumac dressing.

Drappier's "Charles de Gaulle" cuvée was launched in 1990 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Appeal of 18th June. The backstory goes that De Gaulle became a client of Drappier in the 1960's and selected an exra-dry, Pinot Noir dominant cuvée as his personal bottling. Judging by the slightly dour bottle we shared, I'd guess Drappier have remained relatively faithful to whatever the original might have been, since it's not an especially personable or market-friendly style of Champagne. This bottle of cuvée "Charles de Gaulle," surprisingly, even seemed to lack a certain finesse of bubble structure that I'd considered to be a hallmark of the rest of the Drappier range.

It's the image that counts, anyway. However questionable the honor might be of having one's image used to push a high profile luxury product.

Incidentally, the real de Gaulle's visit to Lebanon in 1941 signified the end of Vichy government control of the region, and was among the events that led to Lebanese independance. Shortly after the general's visit, a delegate of de Gaulle's reluctantly and somewhat prematurely declared said independance. France subsequently responded to the newly elected governments' formal nullification of the French Mandate by arresting the President, the Prime minister, and other officials involved, only to release them three weeks' later in the face of widespread protest and international pressure.

I didn't mention any of this while I was pouring, obviously.

* Seems unlikely. A and C opened a cocktail bar in the Marais recently and are accordingly so busy that I never see them, and besides they are the sort of affectless genuinely good folk who wouldn't give a hoot about this sort of thing. Anyway, guys, if you're reading this, champers is on me, next b-day.

Related Links:

Drinking Drappier's "Brut Zero Sans Souffre" in the street with friends
10ème caviste Julhès Paris' 2010 Salon du Champagne
10ème cavsite Julhès Paris' 2010 "Monstres Sacres du Champagne" Tasting

A laughably dry video review of the 2004 "Charles de Gaulle" by Belgian sommelier / "Champagne Ambassador" Kris Van de Sompel @ ChampagneDirect. (I honestly have no idea why it was made, if not for the purpose of understated comedy. The man has absolutely nothing to say about the wine, which he evidently does not find very impressive - and yet he has produced a video.)

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