On Monday, I spent some time talking about Piper-Heidsieck. My thanks to Eric who sent me an image of a beautiful vintage poster of a Piper-Heidsieck bottle. It’s so appropriate considering Mad Men is set in the world of advertising. This print ad is from 1953, displaying the 1949 vintage. The bottle is appears identical to the one Pete opened in Sunday’s episode. If indeed it was a 1949 vintage, I have no doubt it cost our fictional character a fair amount of his fictional 1960s dollars. I bet it tasted pretty darned good though.
One item I’d like to point out about the above ad is that the bubbly is poured into a regular wine glass and not a champagne flute. Now, maybe the good folks at Piper-Heidsieck can shed some light on that choice for me. In fact, the classic tulip shaped champagne flute was in wide use by the 1930s. However, a lot of people were still using the champagne coupe, from the late 1800s. (A myth states the coupe was molded from the breast of Marie Antoinette.) In fact, in 2009, we found the characters of Mad Men enjoying some Veuve Clicquot in coupes.
To end on a note of utter whimsy, you’ll notice there is a miniature circus, including a rather talented giraffe, taking over the ad. Piper-Heidsieck is a Champagne House that’s always been slightly unconventional, even when everything was conventional in the 1940s and ’50s. In 2008 they embraced their inner Lewis Carroll and released an upside-down bottle designed by Viktor & Rolf. If you were feeling exravagant, you might also pick up an upside down ice bucket and flutes.
Screen capture, AMC TV’s Mad Men, 2012
In last night’s Mad Men, I was given a lot of options. I could write about cocktails, about Canadian Club, Jack Daniel’s, Stoli, or even Chivas Regal. But near the end, I was given the perfect opportunity to wax on a bit about my favorite beverage of all … champagne.
Near the 40 minute mark, Pete is announcing the Mohawk Airlines win and deftly putting down Roger, all while opening a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck champagne. I can’t zoom in far enough without going blurry, so I can’t tell you whether it’s a vintage year or not. So let’s start with a quick refresher on champagne itself.
There are a lot of tasty sparkling wines out there, including cava and just good ol’ sparkling wine. It’s not uncommon for these to be made using the age old Champenois process. However, in order to be called “champagne,” it needs to come from the Champagne region of France, no matter how many bubbles are racing to the top.
Champagne is divided into vintage and non-vintage (NV) wine. NV Champagnes are the most common and often include grapes from 3 or more harvests. Every so often, a vintage is so remarkable that the winemaker will declare it a vintage year. Remember that while one House may declare a vintage, another may not. Vintage and NV wines are at the discretion of the winemaker.
Bubbly is made from any one or more of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes. It also comes in several different styles that you’ll see on the label. Blanc de blancs means that the wine was produced from all white grapes. In Champagne, this means the wine is 100% chardonnay. Blanc de noirs means the champagne is produced from pinot noir, pinot meunier, or a blend of the two.
You should also pay attention to the sweetness levels, denoted by French terms on the label. Extra Brut is usually very dry champagne, whereas Brut is dry, but may still be a bit rich on the finish. Extra-Sec and Sec are usually medium dry wines and Demi-Sec is usually the sweetest style you’ll find on the market.
To tie it all back into our episode, let’s talk a little about Piper-Heidsieck. Piper-Heidsieck is in the Reims region of Champagne and has been around since 1785. Now one of the largest Champagne Houses, it started as the house of Heidsieck with Florens-Louis Heidsieck at the helm. Florens-Louis passed away in 1828 and his nephew Christian took over, with help from his cousin, Henri Piper. The House didn’t become a hyphenate until 10 years later, when Christian died. Cousin Henri took this chance to marry the newly widowed wife of Christian (oh yes!) and the house of Piper-Heidsieck was created.
Piper-Heidsieck has had some fun over the years, but in 2009 they really attracted my attention with Le Ritual - a collaboration with Christian Louboutin. Really, shoes and champagne … of course I noticed this.
Le Rituel is a box set containing a glass stiletto, complete with signature red sole, and a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck. The collaboration was in homage to an odd period in the 1880s when there was an strange and decadent high-society “ritual” of drinking from women’s shoes.
We’re back! After more than 500 Mad Men-free days, Season 5 returned last night with a two-hour episode.
There’s so much I could talk about in our 1966 episode: Joan’s baby, Don’s marriage, the missing Betty and Henry, the fact that the wardrobe people didn’t give Peggy a new dress … But I’m here to write about the alcohol our overindulgent friends imbibe.
It’s going to be another frustrating season for me from the alcohol standpoint, unless the writers start adding in more cocktails to the mix. It looks like Mad Men retained the sponsorship of certain companies, therefore on every bar you will see any combination of Wild Turkey (Don and Peggy), Macallan (Pete) and Stoli (Roger), amongst others.
What I really want to talk about … and what completely captured me in this episode, is Megan’s surprise party for Don. The artistic direction behind the entire party sequence just blew me away – from the cocktails and the clothing to the music and then entire set and blocking. You see, one of my all-time favorite artists is Shag. All I could think of when I watched the party scene was that it was a Shag painting brought to life.
Don’s loft alone was simply stunning. Pure 1960s Manhattan goodness … the perfect lifestyle for the 40-year old ad executive/part-time dad and his 26-yr-old secretary turned wife.
Megan, at 26, wants to party. She simply cannot comprehend how Don, at 40, has no interest. She also doesn’t seem to get that her little rendition of Zou Bisou Bisou was just slightly inappropriate, enticing every man (except Don) in the room and slightly horrifying the women. (As an aside, I truly loved her dress.)
Per usual in this show, we can’t see what type of wine our girls (in this case, Jane) might be drinking. We know it’s red. I was happy to see it’s in a decanter though (see the above “bar” photo). I want to believe that Don has a nice cellar somewhere in that Shagadelic loft and that perhaps it’s an older bottle that Megan pulled and appropriately decanted to open up the vintage.
The cocktails at the party were endless. I saw a Manhattan (Trudy), Roger’s vodka martini, a sidecar, and of course, a lot of bourbon on the rocks. I also glimpsed some red wine and beer, although I couldn’t read the label.
What I found fascinating is that while there was a live band, there wasn’t a bartender. Yet everyone there was adept at making cocktails. Pete easily tossed together a Manhattan and someone made Ken’s wife a sidecar without a problem. Today we have amazing people who are “mixologists,” making us cocktails. But with the exception of when I get to hang out at Julie’s place, I know of very few people who can actually toss together a sidecar, a manhattan, or even a simple martini without grabbing a recipe. The everyday art of making and consuming cocktails has been lost in exchange for two-ingredient mixers.
Next week we should get to see more of Betty, and perhaps further along a little bit of Peggy’s story. I’m holding out hope for the return of Faye, the brilliant analyst from last season who was so cruelly dumped by Don. We’ve got Roger’s baby to content with and Lane’s weird new obsession with a woman he’s never met. As far as this blog goes, I’ve already started researching the history of the martini. Season 5 is shaping up to be quite interesting!
Welcome to Wine-Girl’s Annual Wine Festival Survival Guide. Every year I poll a large group of wine bloggers and find out if there are any outstanding tips, which I add to my own. This year, I’ve added new tips based on my experience pouring wines for the last two years. I’m sad to say that I’m missing the Wine Festival for the first time in years. It makes me sad, but it snuck up on me and I’m currently in San Francisco. I’m leaving Festival reporting to the capable hands of Kevin, Cresta, and Angela.
Please realize that these tips are geared for people who are heading to the Festival to try new wines, learn new things, and not get generally hammered. If insanely drunk is your goal, well … get a cab and/or a hotel.
So in no particular order, here are my tips for surviving a festival with hundreds of wines and even more people:
If you haven’t purchased your wine festival tickets yet, head on over to Winefestival.com. The Cincinnati Wine Festival is one of the best in the nation and draws high-end distributors and winemakers. You shouldn’t miss it.
Additionally, the Wine Festival organizers have put the wine tasting floor plan online for you to download. It’s a bit hard to find on their site, but you can download it through this link.
Dilly Cafe is having its own series of events starting this Saturday, where you can meet 3 winemakers in 9 days. For more information, visit their web site or call 513.561.5233.
Saturday, March 3, Free tasting with McNab Ridge Winery and Owner/Winemaker Rich Parducci
1:00 to 4:00 pm, $10 per person
No reservation needed
Thursday, March 8, 6:30 pm
Winery dinner with Austria’s Höpler Winery and Owner/Winemaker Christof Höpler
$40 per person, all inclusive
Sunday, March 11, 11 am
Winemaker’s Brunch with Graziano Family of Wines and Owner/Winemaker Gregory Graziano$50 per person, all inclusive
Not all of the Wine Festival sponsored winery dinners are sold out just yet, and this year five of the dinners are featuring Vintner Select, which is a local and excellent wine distributor. In attendance at each of the dinners to talk about the highlighted wines will be a special guest from the winery or specific wine portfolio (Spain or Italy), as well as a Vintner Select representative. All of the dinners start at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at different restaurants around the city. Ticket prices range from $125 to $150 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations for each dinner are required. For more information on the menus and to make reservations, click here.
March 8 Winery Dinners and corresponding wine speakers include:
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