After Hours of Bordeaux, There's Nothing Like Champagne

by Chuck Hayward

After Hours of Bordeaux, There's Nothing Like Champagne

Post by Alex Shaw | April 5th, 2011

The Driveway to Chateau Prieure-Lichine Seemed So Long

The team split up for our second night in Bordeaux—a few folks stayed back at the hotel to get work done, one group went to Chateau Kirwan for dinner, while we set out for Chateau Prieure-Lichine in Margaux for the evening.  Following an afternoon of tasting 75+ wines, with no lunch, on about 3.5 hours of sleep, we were understandably dragging.  Settling into the living room, the evening was led by Prieure-Lichine’s Commercial Director Lise Latrille, who immediately started us off with the new vintage of Prieure-Lichine.

The Table Is Set—With Bollinger

While the wine was wonderful and elegant in a way that the great cabernets from Margaux are, we were fading and in no shape to truly appreciate it. I could see people fidgeting in an attempt to stay focused and knew this was going to be a long evening.  And then came the Bollinger!  When your palate is fried from hours and hours of tasting barrel samples of tannic reds, there is simply nothing in the world that can compare to a glass of champagne.  It’s hard to overstate this. Lunches often start with a glass of bubbly (as mornings are filled with tasting multiple wines), and marathon tastings are often interrupted by a glass of champagne, which reinvigorates the palate and helps assess the wines that follow more accurately.  Lest we forget the sheer joy of Champagne…  It’s medicine for the palate and brings joy to the soul.

In less than 48 hours, we had already been served Krug, Bollinger and Roederer. On this particular evening, the crispness and acidity of the bubbles brought us back to life, and the room noticeably lifted.  Conversation became less of a struggle, and once the hors d'oeuvres were passed around, the fog was gone.  Champagne…is there anything it can’t do?

 Perfection on a Plate

Another amazing meal followed, highlighted by a steak cooked to absolute perfection over a fire built from cut vines.  We were treated to multiple vintages of Prieure-Lichine, 2000 Clinet (oh man, what a treat!) and a stunning 2005 Climens Sauternes with dessert.  With 10 of us seated around a beautiful table in the downstairs of the chateau, we touched on virtually every topic you’re not supposed to—politics, French vs. American, Bordeaux pricing, wine industry problems—with enough tawdry language and inappropriate comments from both us and our hosts to easily fill several hours of dining.

As we retired to the living room once again to conclude the evening with cognac and aged rum (rum in Bordeaux? why not…), it was hard to imagine that a few hours earlier we felt exhausted and wondering how we’d make it through the evening. Without the champagne, we might not have!

Geoff & Alex: Still Smiling, Still Standing