Neither the odd clocks as pictured every week in the old Rod Serling television series, Night Gallery; nor Dali’s melted versions of timepieces have anything on the wacky world of adult beverages. Wines and spirits, if you will.

Time is important in wine because it (wine) is always in the past. You can’t talk about a great wine project that will be happening in 2014. Who knows what the hell is going to happen even next week?

Spirits are the same way, or at least the better ones are. Maybe you are fan of old Scotch, or aged bourbon, or the almost unfathomable vintages blended in Cognac. 80 years old? Do you know when that was? The Great Depression was still in full force and we were still more than a decade from World War II. The guys who picked those grapes are probably gone, and likely so are the vines.

Over the years, the styles of adult beverages have changed. Tastes change so those types of wines or spirits that were enjoyed by our grandparents morphed into something that excites today’s consumers. Many of us now seek out heavier liquids with more gravity and viscosity. Oh, and more alcohol and much more fruit.

Where this discussion is heading (and you are probably thinking, “Well, it’s about time”) is that several high-end producers of wonderful libations are right now releasing throw-back wines and spirits from times we thought were in the mists of history.

Moët & Chandon is bringing back that wonderful year, 2002. Champagnes are magical friends. Opening a bottle changes everything, or takes the festivities to the next level. Rejoicing with an almost-10-year-old wine will absolutely send you to new heights.

Champagne, as you all know, can only come from the region named Champagne in northeast France. Sparkling wine from anywhere else, including other areas of France, cannot be legally called Champagne. And not every year in Champagne is not a vintage year. Only in those years when the winegrowers/winemakers and the governing body of the region feel the quality is high and indicative of the best that can be produced in the area is a vintage declared.

Many people are also not aware of two very important facts: 1) Champagne is an excellent accompaniment to most cuisines. When you are stumped as to what to pair with any dish, default to Champagne. You almost can never go wrong. 2) Champagnes have incredible abilities to age. I guess it’s the visual perception of fragility in this wine that makes people think you had better drink it right now. But aged Champagnes are lovely things, to be savored and sipped and appreciated.

Of course, when a Champagne is released by a winery, known as “houses” in France, it is indeed ready to drink. That does not mean it will not age, it just means you have a choice as to whether to tuck it away or remove the cork today. Decisions, decisions.

The Grand Vintage 2002 from Moët & Chandon is really quite special. It is more than half chardonnay, and about 25% each pinot Nnoir and pinot meunier, the only three grapes allowed by law to be used in Champagne. The toasty, yeasty, slightly nutty flavors are full and rich, with secondary notes of grain and malt, adjoining some white peach and citrus flavors. Champagne is a most complicated beverage.

This wine sat in its bottle from early 2003 until it was disgorged (opened to clear the wine of dead yeasts and other organic matter) in late 2009. This wine is not going to be cheap, but it really is a stunning and marvelous Champagne.

Accompanying this release is the Moët & Chandon 2002 Grand Vintage Rosé. Wow! There are elegant cherry and plum flavors blending with strawberries and blackberries to create a delicate but powerful statement. Go ahead, drink this wine and try not to shut your eyes with pleasure and make yummy sounds.

Don’t be embarrassed. Let it all out.

Besides being one of the prettiest wines you will ever see, this is one of the best wines you will ever sip. It’s not cheap, but it is worth the money for every beautiful bubble.


Everything Old Is New...Again

Photo Courtesy of Limoncello, stock.xchng, 2008


Alexandre Gabriel, the dedicated and affable head of Pierre Ferrand Cognac, is about to scratch a very big itch he has had for many years.

Alexandre is a living Cognac historian, and he seeks out great stories that have been lost to the passage of time, which in Cognac-speak is a much slower pace anyway. Back in the 1800’s, cognac was a beverage that was well -incorporated into a relatively new classification of drinks known as cocktails. And back in those days, there was a major American city, one of the largest in our less than 100-year old country, which was considered a cocktail center. You probably know the town well.

Cognac and New Orleans were made for each other. Sophistication, revelry, maybe a bit of ribaldry, and an appreciation for life’s finer pleasures seemed to define both the drink and the city. New Orleans responded to its love of this golden nectar by creating a cocktail which that was called the Sazerac.

Oh yes, the original Sazerac recipe called for cognac and in fact the name of the drink itself came from the cognac distillery, Sazerac de Forge et Fils. The original recipe also called for the inclusion of Absinthe. (A story for another day).

Anyway, when Alexandre Gabriel became intrigued with the blending of cognacs to specifically complement a cocktail, he determined to find the precise raw product and distillation recipe to create a cognac for this use.

The resulting product of his creation is Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula, and as a tribute to the city that played such an important role in the American acceptance of cognac, Alexandre is staging the worldwide introduction of this product this week in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail. How about that?

One of the differences between this Cognac and other sipping styles is that this Cognac’s blend is a bit younger and since it is a “mixer” the fruit is more forward, a bit livelier, with the alcohol a little more prevalent to stand up to the other ingredients, and the hue is a bit darker.

Alexandre and noted cocktail historian, author, and friend of New Orleans, David Wondrich, tasted stocks of three-star cognacs that remain from the 19th century. Extensive notes were made, animated discussions took place, and many batches were tossed aside to get to this point.

Want to try Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac in a 19th century cocktail to keep all matters authentic? Here’s one for you:

The Chanticleer
1 barspoon superfine suga
1barspoon water
2dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 dash Absinthe
2  ounces Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula
Twist of lemon peel

Add sugar to a small tumbler, then add water and stir to dissolve. Add remaining ingredients, and stir with cracked ice until cold. Twist lemon peel over the top and serve.

It’s Tales of the Cocktail week, and while many activities are probably already filled up and registration is closed, head over to to see if there are tasting sessions and seminars that strike your fancy. This is one New Orleans festival not to be missed, and for some folks, not to be fully remembered.

Be careful out there and call a cab!