Part 2: Tasting Notes
This dearth of wine notes from Bond and his author is unsettling. I share their enthusiasm for Taittinger but I can't flaunt it with some Bondian references to achieve credibility. Is it the grating “language” of wine tasting that discouraged them? In my explorations of oenology, I have encountered the enthusiast who becomes unhinged in the presence of wine—the individual who hoards wine in his basement, the connoisseur who can babble for hours about the terroir in the Côtes du Roussillon, the self-proclaimed sommelier who refers to a cabernet sauvignon as having “soft legs that move slowly down the glass” or “flavors of smoky rose petals with hints of sweet oak and mild black pepper.” This is, clearly, the antics of an unsound mind, and I sometimes wonder if wine tasting events should be held exclusively in psychiatric wards. Nevertheless, the phenomenon is quite contagious. I find myself (and I blush to admit) joining the great choir of madmen roaming wineries, contemplating whether the merlots of the Right Bank of Bordeaux have less tannin than those of the Left Bank. Bond himself, during his drive in northern France near the beginning of the novel, drifts into wine language as he plans his resignation letter to M, mulling over the false lead in Palermo concerning the whereabouts of arch-enemy Blofeld. He's caught up in the nerdliness of oenology and mentally admonishes himself for letting his guard down:
This animal took the shape of one “Blauenfelder,” a perfectly respectable German citizen engaged in viniculture—specifically, the grafting of Moselle grapes on to the Sicilian strains to enhance the sugar content of the latter which, for your passing information, [Steady on, old chap! Better redraft all this!] are inclined to sourness. (17)
No one likes a wine pedant, Bond seems to realize. Indeed, all you need to do is take any event—be it a wedding reception or a neighborhood garage sale—and plop a wine pedant into the mix, and you'll see everyone running for the nearest exit. Yet if it is difficult for us to gauge Bond's fondness for Taittinger (because of his silence on the matter), how will we grasp his impressions?
From his actions: consider how he drinks a quarter of the Taittinger rather quickly. The champagne must be smooth for his palate—a softness of fruit, typically the composition that defines the Taittinger's gentle, creamy essence. Or as I explain in my tasting notes for the 1998 vintage on that sunny afternoon at Domain Carneros:
Light yellow in texture. The first impression on the palate is of solid freshness, consisting of a dominant lemony-citrus fruit flavor and a splendid overtone of vanilla and almonds, leading to a wonderful balanced finish.
A few more sips reveal other characteristics:
Round and lacking the heavy yeasty spirit of Dom Perignon. The 1998 is clean, crisp, and delightful going down, a gentle effervescent finish.
And on and on it goes, each sip progressing to exquisite delight. Knowing that I might never taste any better champagne, I inhaled the lemon-scented bouquet and swallowed this elegance from Taittinger. I looked at the bottle and imagined Bond in his room, seated “at his window” as he “sipped his Taittinger” (22), relishing its long smooth finish. In that quiet room, Bond finds a moment of refuge from the darkness in his life, and the grandeur of the champagne more than adequately delights and comforts him.
Continue... Part 3: À la Recherche d'un Temps Passé