Spending a lot of time travelling for work means that I often spend prolonged periods of time away from my family. However, when the opportunity arose to take my partner Ragni and daughter Stella along with me, not one of us hesitated. The destination? New York! It was to be shopping for the girls and a weekend-long champagne extravaganza for me.
After arriving in the bustling metropolis, I was put to work as soon as my plane landed, leaving me no time to recover from jetlag. I was worried about staying awake and not yawning during the first tasting event, which consisted of a seated tasting of twenty grower champagnes. Wherever you are in the world, these events often leave much room for improvement in terms of organisation, but the New York team sincerely impressed me. We spent an enjoyable evening babbling about champagne.
The next night we enjoyed a splendid gathering at a Michelin starred restaurant, where the theme was the legendary 1996 vintage. As if that wasn’t enough, we then headed to the three-star Le Bernardin, which you may well have seen in several American films. Against this wonderful backdrop, we went through twenty-or-so mature champagnes with the U.S. fine wines collectors’ elite. There, our aim was to show anyone still in doubt that champagne is the world’s premier wine for long cellaring.
The next day, having left my family to sample yet more of New York’s cultural offerings, I set off on my own pilgrimage, which took in Ground Zero and the Statue of Liberty before a long walk through Chinatown, Little Italy and Greenwich. My final destination was one of my favourite bars, the atmospheric Soprano’s place Cipriani, which serves world class pasta.
One further New York highlight was my meeting with Swedish superchef Mattias Larsson and dining with him at Thomas Keller’s Per Se, while seated at a window table overlooking the magical Columbus Circle. I then whiled away the afternoon playing football in Central Park, surrounded by blossoming cherry trees – and all the while being filmed doing it, of course!
In the evening, we were invited to the home of the world’s leading champagne collector, who treated us to a veritable abundance of classic champagnes and, our other mutual passion, mature red burgundies. After this fabulous dinner, we felt like continuing our festive night in New York, so we all squeezed into a couple of limousines and weaved our way through the streets to a shady spot in the port area near Brooklyn Bridge. In no time at all, we found ourselves in attendance at a concert by the famous, and rather interestingly named, DJ Dead Mouse, who hid under his hat for several hours on stage without looking at his enthusiastic audience.
Our host had managed to procure us a VIP booth, where we got through three magnums which stood defiantly at the bottom of the wine list. I must admit I have never had so much difficulty drinking such great champagnes. Indeed, something must be wrong when you find it hard to drink more than two mouthfuls of a magnum of 1971 Salon – right?
Exhausted but many experiences richer, we headed home having bitten off a little more of the Big Apple than we could chew.
A selection of the champagnes:
NV Krug ‘Grande Cuvée’
1961 Ruinart ‘Dom Ruinart’
1966 Pommery ‘Millésime’
1964 Pommery ‘Millésime’
1962 Pommery ‘Millésime’
1961 Pommery ‘Millésime’
1959 Pommery ‘Millésime’
1953 Philipponnat ‘Blanc de Blancs’
1952 Heidsieck ‘Millésime’
1949 Charles Heidsieck ‘Millésime’
1959 Gosset ‘Grande Millésime’
1949 Alfred Gratien ‘Millésime’
1929 Lanson ‘Millésime’
1929 Pommery ‘Millésime’
1928 Jacquesson ‘Millésime’
1926 Pommery ‘Millésime’
1955 Pommery ‘Millésime’
1955 Heidsieck ‘Millésime’
1955 Charles Heidsieck ‘Millésime’
1955 Louis Roederer ‘Millésime’
1955 Bollinger ‘Millésime’
1955 Philipponnat ‘Clos des Goisses’
1955 Moët & Chandon ‘Millésime’
1981 Bollinger ‘Vieilles Vignes Françaises’
1980 Bollinger ‘Vieilles Vignes Françaises’
1979 Bollinger ‘Vieilles Vignes Françaises’
1962 Louis Roederer ‘Millésime’
1953 Louis Roederer ‘Millésime’
1952 Louis Roederer ‘Millésime’
1959 Louis Roederer ‘Millésime’
1947 Louis Roederer ‘Millésime’
1975 Deutz ‘Blanc de Noirs d’Aÿ’ magnum
1976 Tarin ‘Clos du Mesnil’
1963 Tarin’ Clos du Mesnil’
1966 Krug ‘Blanc de Blancs’
1962 Charles Heidsieck ‘Millésime’
1962 Piper ‘Pink Rosé’
1962 Dom Pérignon ‘Cuvée Dom Pérignon Rosé’
1962 Krug ‘Millésime’
1962 Louis Roederer ‘Cristal’
1911 Moët& Chandon ‘Millésime’
1921 Pol Roger ‘Millésime’
1932 Salon ‘Cuvée S de Salon’
1942 Pommery ‘Millésime’
196? Krug ‘Private Cuvée’
1952 Dom Pérignon ‘Cuvée Dom Pérignon’ magnum
1959 Louis Roederer ‘Millésime’ magnum
1990 Dom Pérignon ‘Cuvée Dom Pérignon Rosé’magnum
1985 Dom Pérignon ‘Cuvée Dom Pérignon Rosé’magnum
1981 Krug ‘Millésime’ magnum
1988 Krug ‘Millésime’ magnum
1982 Krug ‘Millésime’ magnum
1971 Salon ‘Cuvée S de Salon’ magnum
1975 Taittinger ‘Comtes de Champagne Rosé’ magnum
1973 Louis Roederer ‘Cristal’ magnum
1975 Pol Roger ‘Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill’ magnum