Valentine’s Day this year coincided with Pizza-and-Movie Night, which we would not forgo, of course, and besides, we learned long ago never, ever to dine out on Valentine’s, because restaurants are over-crowded and rushed and never at their best. 23157.jpg Still, we had to have some champagne to celebrate, so I hightailed it to our neighborhood retail store and bought a bottle of the A.R. Lenoble Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut 1996. Only the best for LL and me!

Blanc des Blancs means that the champagne is made only from chardonnay grapes; most champagnes are a blend of chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinot noir. Grand Cru means that the grapes came only from the highest rated vineyards in the region. Vintage 1996 in Champagne is usually described as “extraordinary” and “superb.”

The A.R. Lenoble Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut 1996 is a highly individual wine. The color is a radiant medium gold with a faint green tinge; the froth of tiny bubbles swirls tempest-like up the glass to break at the surface. The bouquet offers guava and quince with a hint of pineapple backed by roasted hazelnuts, almond skin and fresh biscuits. Twelve years have added substance to this champagne without rendering it heavy or ponderous; think of it as dignity and gravitas buoyed by a sense of fleetness and delicacy. Acidity is citrus-clean and apple-bright, paving the way for a scintillating limestone element. The finish brings in buttered toast, roasted pears and cloves. This champagne should continue to deepen and darken its spicy, toasty hues through 2012 to 2015 or ’16. Excellent. I paid $68; prices around the country range from about $55 to $75, a bargain for the quality and considering that it’s champagne..

Opici Import Co., Glen Rock, N.J.