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When you drive through wine maker Dom Perignon's vineyards in France, you learn to savour champagne

My New Year wish for you? May you have your cake and eat it too. May it bubble with the finest, may it sparkle with the best and fizz with fulfilment! And how would I like to toast you? With the finest of course! With the most hallowed, "the wine of kings and the king of wines." One, which was created by the apostle of wine - Pierre Perignon! And though he lived more than three centuries ago, I felt I met him last month in France. I felt his presence in the silence and beauty of the Hautvillers abbey where he lived. You'll agree with me that all magnificent things begin in sacred places and it is in the centuries-old abbey that the monk Dom Perignon created the legend of champagne. The church has always been associated with vineyards and this Benedictine abbey was no exception. As I walked, the leaves crunched in the stillness of the crisp, cool afternoon, the large trees embroidered the sunshine onto the grass below and the thick stonewalls looked on. From this hillside, vineyards rolled away into the distance. It is in this abbey that the wine maker, administrator and wine grower Dom Perignon vowed to "make the best wine in the world". Thanks to his discipline and skill, Dom Perignon was the first to master the production of white wine from red grapes and to trap its bubbles! We know it as champagne. Only sparkling wines made in the Northern France are officially allowed to be called champagne. With the wind in my hair and the supple sunshine on my face, I drive through the Dom Perignon vineyards growing the white chardonnay and the red Pinot Noir grapes. The chalky soil is visible. "The chardonnay grape ensures the vivacity of the initial notes, while the Pinot Noir, the length of the finish," explains Sophie Piquet as she drives me in her black convertible Peugeot. Of course I've heard all about how only the best years are declared vintage and the insistence on quality is total. But I actually get a taste of it at a spectacular champagne dinner at the stately private chateau amid vineyards. Every detail on the elegant round table is perfect as the candles shimmer and chef Pascal Tingaud conjures up a perfect three-course dinner paired with three vintage creations of Dom Perignon. My charming host Aarnaud de Mareuil guides me to experience champagne with my four senses. "The first sense of course is the sight and you admire the size of the bubbles and smaller they are, the better it is." He quickly adds, "You don't speak about big or small bubbles because its rude, you speak about the elegancy of champagne, which is served in your glass." Then you nose it (that's the reason you never fill the glass to the brim, but leave space for the aroma.) Then comes the taste. He then smilingly adds, "there is a fourth sense too. That is why some of our colleagues in the wine business are very jealous of the Champagne because we are able to offer you a fourth pleasure." He holds the glass to his ears and says, "of course, the music." He requests me to do the same. "Ah! the symphony of elegant bubbles of champagne." Dial 22462710 or mail us at Good Food Line, Metro Plus, The Hindu, Kasturi Buildings, 859/860, Anna Salai, Chennai - 600002 or e-mail to gfl@rashmiudaysingh.com

RASHMI UDAY SINGH

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