There is little doubt that nothing beats spending an entire evening in the company of 11 champagnes. So last Thursday was another red letter day for me in my champagne tasting forays. The Ritz-Carlton hosted an evening of fine food by chef Anupam Banerjee, co-hosted and curated by Rajiv Singhal, ambassador for champagne in India, who in my mind, must have one of the best jobs in the world.
The table was small — just 10 guests — and the menu was intricate. The array of Champagnes resting in their silver chillers filled with ice, were mouthwatering. Blanc de blanc, blanc de noir, special cuvée, non-vintage, vintage, rosé, demi-sec and more. Much more. The long elegant table with its champagne flutes lined up spoke of a special wine evening to come. It was. “We do wine dinners regularly,” said Nilesh Singh, Ritz-Carlton’s EAM, F&B, “But we have never done a dinner with 11 styles of champagne before. It’s unique.”
Ritz-Carlton has a whopping 32 Champagnes occupying pride of place on their well-crafted wine list. The range starts at Rs.8,500 (GH Mumm NV) to a new to-be entrant, the Krug Special Cuvée
Clos d‘ Ambonnay, which will be approximately `3.5lakh all inclusive. (The 1995 vintage sells at Harrods for 3,000 GBP).
Ritz-Carlton beverage manager Manu Manikandan, who along
with chef Anupam got an ovation at the end of the evening, is the man behind the hotel’s wine menu, and he believes that each of those 32 Champagnes deserves its place. “The first page of the wine menu—the Champagnes—illustrates how carefully engineered the entire list is,” he says. The hotel has a négotiant in France who advises them. And if you thought 32 Champagnes were plenty, let me tell you they plan to increase that to 50 shortly.
“Champagne is the wine that people are ready to spend on,” he adds, describing how a special customer had requested a bottle of Krug Clos d‘Ambonnay for a special occasion, which they couldn’t source in time. Manikandan saved the day with a rare Balthazar (a 12-litre bottle) of Pol Roger instead, complete with commentary on its royal warrant, and the customer was thrilled. “You must know your Champagnes thoroughly,” he says. “The makers aren’t selling to us, they are selling through us. We must transmit that passion to the drinker.”
Champagne is one of those rare items of luxury which allows its makers to price it for its perceived elegance. It is aspirational, surely, but more than that, it’s a creation that gives joy and excitement:
the sensation of touching those stars that the ‘father’ of Champagne Dom Pérignon famously referred
to. (“Come quickly, I am tasting stars!”). That’s why the world’s love for Champagne will never dim. And why the market for Champagne grows, rarely seeing a flat, fizzless year, says Singhal.
“Champagne makes people happy,” says Manikandan. And I for one will toast to that.
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