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To celebrate another hundred wines down, this time, whizzing by the 200-bottle mark, I went with an old standby, uncorking Champagne to sample. Looking back, the last hundred have been interesting, I have tasted lots of Bordeaux, Meritage blends, South American wines and had one amazing stint with Gigondas all in the last few months. My eye remains trained on the bigger prize of completing the five hundred-bottle mission with plenty of time to spare, even as I applaud my current efforts, constantly thinking of how I can up the ante with special wines as I near the finish line. That’s the future though; let’s take a closer look at this Champagne (#200).

My first time tasting a wine from the Rosenthal portfolio—a notable importer from the East Coast—and I was eager to open it, selecting Premier Cru à Vertus Champagne from Guy Larmandier. After purchasing the bottle on a whim, really the imported-by-tattoo sold the bottle since there was no information posted about the producer—there was a reasonable expectation of a good outcome. I went home and searched the web to see if I had done well. To my surprise (not really that surprising), the bottle had a favorable professional review from Josh Raynolds.

I chilled the bottle of fizz, and tried to press on with my hackneyed (everything seems that way when something special is approaching) routine before the bottle was cooled to around fifty degrees. Cold to the touch but not too cold that the bouquet would be closed.

When I poured the Champagne into the flute, I paid attention to the coloring, the straw, almost celery soda (Celray from Dr. Brown’s) like tinge to the wine with fine, persistent bubbles was enough to make me pause and appreciate the beverage without tasting it. I sniffed it aggressively, detecting a moderate perfume of pippin apple, lemon rind and a little nuttiness. Charming but nothing special. I took the flute to my lips and took in a mouthful, swooshing the liquid around like a spin cycle until there was an overwhelming froth forcing me to swallow. I tasted it again and discovered a dry, crisp wine with sharp acidity and a tart finish that lingered intriguingly.

The more I tasted the Premier Cru the more I enjoyed it, like spinning a record that grows on you with each successive listen, the sparkler was getting better with each sip. The wine’s body and acidity combined impressively on the palate. I started craving some fried chicken. For fewer than fifty dollars I had hit a home run and capped three hundred wines before the end of summer; my work is still cut out for me as I creep closer to the finish line before the year’s end.

Going forward I look to incorporate a few more Neil Rosenthal wines into the mix because the Larmandier showed finesse for a reasonable price and made me wonder what other good fortune might befall me from the gems in his portfolio. Two hundred left. What’s next?

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