Saturday, January 18, 2014

2002 L'Ermitage by Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley

Toast and almonds, or perhaps darkly, richly toasted almonds, and an assertive, almost take-no-prisoners acidity. Bubbles perhaps not as completely frothy and delicate as we'd like? (We remember that angelic Besserat de Bellefon, from the mists of our prehistory.) Still, so very good. 

With this L'Ermitage -- not to be confused with famed and expensive Hermitage, the syrah-based red wines of the northern Rhône -- one might begin to understand why connoisseurs like to pair sparkling wines with very fresh, light dishes like oysters. (I've never had the pleasure myself, but for the first time I actually thought of it.) The bubbles in the wine do seem to act like little brushes in the mouth, as Natalie Maclean puts it in her new video, scrubbing the taste buds and preparing them for the next bite of food, which is great for one's perception of the food. But a fine sparkling wine's delicate scents of toast, biscuits, and almonds can be lost next to plates heaped with flavor themselves. Possibly our ancestors were mistaken in serving champagne with the roast? What about champagne with Reuben sandwich -- remember those? Corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread, all grilled in butter? Oh wait. One mustn't blame one's ancestors for a mistake like that. 

And I could not grasp what was meant, as I scooted about the web and among physical wine books in the kitchen investigating it, by the word "palindromic" as applied to the wine. This L'Ermitage is said to be the "palindromic vintage." Then after a slight lapse of time, the light broke. Our 2002 L'Ermitage is the palindromic vintage because 2002 reads the same backwards and forwards. That's all. Does this mean the last palindromic vintage of anything was in 1991, and the next anywhere will be in 2112? I'm not sure. But it does sometimes seem wine people overthink matters.

Regardless, you'll enjoy Natalie's video tasting of champagne with potato chips. As an old-movie lover, however, I must point out that someone has been there before her. Marilyn Monroe tried the same combination in The Seven Year Itch, while the very married Tom Ewell hovered over her playing Rachmaninoff on the hi-fi and nobly restraining himself. She pronounced it "real crazy."

2002 L'Ermitage Roederer Estate, retail, about $35.

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