Champagne and spring rolls

Fr餩ric Panaﯴis was in town last week to promote the wines of the grand old French champagne house Veuve Clicquot and, incidentally, make everyone who met with him green with envy. In addition to his role as "r鳰onsable communication vignes et vins," the Champagne native is an "agronomic engineer" (a sort of M.S. in farming), a winemaker (he supervised the red wine for Clicquot's 1995 ros马 and a scientific quality-control analyst (he spearheaded a three-year investigation into the causes and prevention of wine spoilage due to faulty corks). A farmer with shit on his boots who also gets to jet around the world throwing parties . . . throw in a Beretta, and it's move over, James Bond.

The party Panaﯴis threw in Seattle at Wild Ginger was a modest one. The purpose was to show how well France's carbonated gift to world happiness goes with the aromatic spices and herbs and garlic—"not too much garlic, please, and forget about vindaloo"—used in the Asian cuisines so popular in Seattle. The evidence offered was the Clicquot brand's main nonvintage "yellow label" product ($43) served with mild, crunchy pork-and-shrimp spring rolls; grilled curry coconut milk-marinated chicken and garlicky turmeric-dusted prawns accompanied by a '95 vintage reserve ($60); and, to set off a robust, almost rusty-toned '95 vintage ros頨$75), a kaleidoscopic transit through the flavor spectrum from basic to ginger to chile and plum and back again. The brand's ultimate top-of-the-line product, the sumptuous, subtle, complex "la Grande Dame" '93 ($130) was not on tap. But it was lunch, so we pretended not to mind.

The experiment was a success; champagne not only stands up well to Thai and Malay seasonings, it helps one appreciate them by clearing and refreshing the tongue and palate between spicy bites. It would perform that service just as well if purchased under a marque commanding less stratospheric price points than the 225-year-old Clicquot firm—which all but created the international market for champagne and the luxury image the beverage enjoys today. But next time you plan a special occasion, think about throwing your business to widow Clicquot. After all, if it weren't for her, we might still be drinking sparkling cider.

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