It’s the time of the season, not when love runs high (though that is certainly possible), but when a celebratory drink or two is in order. We have something of an extreme this week, between a bubble and a port. The bubble is a real French champagne, which, as most aficionados know, is already something of a redundancy. Real champagne can only and always come from the Champagne region of France. It is a marvelous place to visit, if you ever have the chance, and to see those marvelous caves where the magic happens. The Lanson Black Label brut, currently reduced in price to $60, is a prime example: tiny bubbles, yeasty, baked bread notes, plenty of racy acidity and generous citrus fruit notes. Your special dinner party of four will be off to a fast start, and you might even tease folks into letting you watch glimpses of the Curb Your Enthusiasm marathon sure to intrude.
After dinner, with at least three different cheeses, some nice warm bread, and perhaps even some chocolate fondue (70 per cent cocoa, please), the Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve port, $20, is both a great introduction to port wine, but also a high-value reminder of what charms port has to offer. It comes from the same vineyards as the vintage ports from the Graham House, but at this price, you could drink it all through the holiday calendar. It is full-bodied, with rich black fruit on the palate, and fragrant blackberry aromas, pretty much ideal with those cheeses, and if everyone goes home soon enough, you can even have it while you watch the Columbo episode you PVR’d a few nights ago, the one with Leonard Nimoy as the villain.