Tue 1 Jan 2008
A restful day, yet festive in its own right. For 20 years or so, I have prepared on this day, in keeping with Southern tradition, a pot of blackeyed peas with hog jowl and turnip greens. I used to serve this to a large New Year’s Day party but curtailed that strenuous activity a few years ago. Wanting to do something different this year, I made blackeyed pea masala, with plenty of ginger, jalapeno, tumeric and cumin BUT with the hog jowl and greens. It’s pretty tasty, but of course no longer vegetarian.
Though its name looks a bit like a punch-line from an old joke — “Not tonight, honey, I have a migraine” — there’s nothing jokey about the non-vintage A. Margaine Premier Cru Brut. From a small house that makes only about 5,000 cases annually, this mildly flushed gold, bloomingly effervescent blend of 90 percent chardonnay and 10 percent pinot noir — it’s almost a blanc de blancs — offers a wonderful bouquet of focaccia, almond skin and apple skin, roasted lemon with a hint of grapefruit and heaps of limestone. Weight and substance are amazing, yet like all great wines, this displays that heartening paradox of tissues of delicacies — in this case lace-like, glacial acid and skeins of smoky citrus — wrapped in density that’s almost viscous. At the same time, the champagne is so dry, so elegant that it feels as if you’re drinking liquid limestone. Whoa! Absolutely an Excellent rating here. Prices, again, vary widely but settle in mainly at between $42 and $50.
What merits the “Premier Cru” designation on this champagne is the fact that the grapes derive from some of the 38 officially named Premier Cru communes in the Champagne region. There are only 17 “Grand Cru” communes, so a product named “Grand Cru” is rare indeed. There are 301 “cru” communes in the region. Perhaps someday a reorganization of the system will award these designations to separate vineyards rather than entire villages, but such a move would require a monumental overhaul at every physical, psychological and marketing level. Don’t hold your breath.
The A. Magraine Premier Cru Brut is a Terry Theise Estate Selection imported by Michael Skurnick Wines, Syosset, N.Y.