December 31, 2007

Some of My Favorite New Year's Luxuries


The words to describe wine are extensive, but did you know champagne has a vocabulary all its own?

If you’re one the extraordinary number of people who’ll be popping corks this evening, perhaps you’d like to know some words to describe the champagne you’ll be sipping.  True champagne comes only from a small region of the same name in northeastern France.  And the Champenois producers have developed their own vocabulary for describing their wines.  It consists of four basic words – body, heart, spirit, and soul.


Champagnes with body are powerful, robust, and full-flavored.  They can be young, mature, or even vintage.  These strong, muscular champagnes are noted for their pleasant aromas and intense flavors that remain long on the tongue.  Champagnes with heart are mature, Brut, and often vintage.  They’re described as soft, smooth, gentle, romantic, and serene as rose petals.  Champagnes with spirit are lively, fresh, and zesty.  Either Brut or Blanc de Blanc, these champagnes are often gray-yellow in color, and have delicate bubbles that are quick to form.  Finally, champagnes with soul are described as mature, heavenly, and rarified.  These are the greatest champagnes, often from exceptional years, including full-flavored vintages, and special cuvées.  Their aromas are complex, with scents of delicate spices.  Whichever champagne you’ll be drinking, enjoy, and have a happy, healthy New Year!


Caviar, the roe or egg mass of fish, is a luxury food often associated with holidays and celebrations.  The roe of several species of fish, including salmon, carp, cod, whitefish, herring, and pike can be enjoyed, but  true caviar is the roe of a sturgeon.  The very best roe available comes from female sturgeon caught in the Caspian Sea, which extends from Kazakhstan into Iran.  Sturgeon are massive fish, weighing as much as two thousand pounds. Three species of sturgeon swim in the Caspian Sea (beluga, the largest; osetra, midsize; and sevruga, the smallest.)  The relative sizes of their eggs correspond to the sizes of the parent species.  The quality of those eggs, however, varies with the water temperature and the individual sturgeon’s diet, and no two batches of eggs are exactly alike.
Tvs1671_l_4 Once a fish has been caught and its roe has been extracted, the eggs are passed through a sieve.  Caviar masters then gently massage a small amount of pure powdered salt into the eggs, which acts as a preservative.  Beluga caviar, the most expensive, has a subtle, buttery, creamy flavor.  Smaller than beluga, osetra eggs taste nutty and voluptuous.  And the smallest, sevruga, the least expensive of the luxury eggs, taste sweet and almost fruity.