28 Feb 2013

Blind test

Do you consider bathing in donkey's milk decadent? Then how about watering flowers with champagne?

Typically, I do not indulge in such debauchery. But on a recent Saturday night, on occasion of a bubbly blind tasting amongst friends, precious champagne was indeed horribly wasted.

It was the second time that I was invited to join my friends for this fun event in a snowy corner of the United States. With none of us being an oenophile, we all bring one or several bottles of sparkling wine, from any choice of origin and price range, which are swiftly put in velvet bags and hidden away by our host.

Once we're all settled in with our little grading sheets in the ready, the first plopp of the night is not far off, and soon we're all eyeing, smelling, slurping and swallowing bubbles, wondering from which of the wrapped bottles they may have come. As we work our way through the seven varieties at hand, the differences become noticable. This one is much more pale than the others, there is hardly any perlage (hey, I can throw the odd wine snob word, right?) in that one, and #4 has an intriguingly complex set of aromas. What may be seen as a somewhat standardized drink suddenly seems wonderfully nuanced.

Openly commenting on the samples is frowned upon, but the expressions on the testers' faces speak volumes, the ohs and eews being potent clues. But would somebody dare invoking that flower vase in the middle of the table, which doubles as a spitting bucket? The spirits are high, and with one cork after the other popping, they are only getting higher.

At the end of the leisurely sampling, our grading cards are collected and swiftly run through a highly sophisticated weighting algorithm (okay, so it's just a spreadsheet) to come up with the fizzy flight's winner. And this is were the embarrassment starts.

Unsurprisingly, the bottom of the list sees the $3.99 André Ro, a genuinely horrible concoction. The Cava doesn't do so well either, and even the specialty non dosé champers from the liquor store only gets mediocre marks. At the top of the podium, last year's winner is able to defend its title: The shockingly palatable, and even more affordable, $9.99 Barefoot Bubbly from California. It is closely followed by Cosco's Kirkland store brand champagne, an excellent buy at $20, and my personal favorite, on which I bestowed not just the highest marks, but also the comment "airline grade".

This, of course, is the very same product that another taster, who shall remain anonymous, deemed worthy of watering the flowers. In comparison, even christening boats with it seems less profligate. But the old monk probably wouldn't care either way. A la vôtre, Dom Pérignon!

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3 Feb 2013


"Saturday night, I feel the air is getting hot... like you baby!" Do you recognize this line? Does it recall a simplistic beat and some silly moves? Well, then you're like me. Old like me, that is.

For this song recently played on the radio, and without paying much attention I started to sing along. Until I suddenly froze - where the heck did I know this horrid song from anyways? What followed was a shocking, and somewhat painful, trip down memory lane.

This particular Europop masterpiece, "Saturday Night" by Danish starlet Whigfield, entered my record collection as part of a compilation called Bravo Hits Best of '94, which was released on November 8th of said year. Other artists featured on this Double CD (remember?) include DJ Bobo, Rednex, Take That, and a future movie star then going by the name of Marky Mark. It was clearly a worthwhile investment of my pocket money. 

In my defense, it must be said that Best of '94 was the only edition of this still going series that ever made it into my stereo set. The reason presumably is that the tracks included brought back exceptionally emotional memories of the 6th grade wingdings we celebrated in basements, garages and air raid shelters (all the way 'till mum came in at midnight to turn the lights on).

Yet to this date, a large part of my music collection (in mp3 format, these days) still gravitates toward the eighties and nineties, as per the neat sorting functionality on my new smartphone. And most of the represented artists, from Bon Jovi to Madonna and from Bruce Springsteen to Texas, have retained much of their respectability. Two of them, Bryan Adams and Roxette, even performed on stage in Montréal just last year.

I realize now that they all, and my taste in music along with them, rapidly approach that section titled "Oldies". Even my colleagues pick up on it: On a recent night out, I was completely unaware of the hits by Nickelback, Arcade Fire or Katy Perry (I linked them for your reference), but had no problems singing along once the DJ started playing INXS and the Pet Shop Boys. "Toi, là, t'es vraiment full les quatre-vingts, toé!" my co-worker jeered.

It's true. I hear current chart toppers all the time, but I don't really listen to them the way I did in those teenage years. I have been musically inoculated two decades ago, and if that means listening to "all-time hits" web radio, then so be it. I am what I am.

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