Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
Among various mundane considerations, such as being Tuesday, today also happens to be Winston Churchill Day. Admittedly, W. C. Day isn’t exactly the most well-known commemorative day. It’s definitely way below Earth Day, for instance, which is coming up on the April 22. But I do like to think that it’s got more legs - as it were - than National Dance Like a Chicken Day (May 14). One can only hope.
Regardless, April 9 marks the day that Churchill was made an honorary U.S. citizen. There have been only seven, ever, and only two of those managed to still be alive when they received the honor - our man Winston, and Mother Teresa. Churchill definitely wins over Mother T. when it comes to loving wine. He was particularly known for his fondness for Champagne, hence the famous quote, “Remember, gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” He also loved good Bordeaux and port.
Unfortunately, the best Champagnes, Bordeaux and ports cost a pretty penny these days. But one can still drink with Churchillian verve on less expensive efforts. So, let's honor the fellow who so memorably said, “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills,” and somewhat less memorably, though perhaps with more practical application, “Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room.”
NV Pol Roger Reserve Brut “White Foil” ($46) - This was Churchill’s favorite Champagne house (which the Pol Roger folks well knew; they named their top cuvée after him). Graceful with a toasty, creamy character, it comes from one of the few major Champagne houses that’s still family-owned.
People tend to think of Bordeaux as the realm of super-high-priced wines from the region’s grand châteaus. In fact, it’s a vast wine-producing area with thousands of producers, and there are extraordinary values to be found if you stay away from the Haut-Brions and Lafite-Rothschilds of the region. A few impressive examples from recent tastings (note that both the 2009 and 2010 vintages are terrific in Bordeaux): the sleek, black cherry-inflected 2009 Château Greysac ($24); the floral 2009 Château Puygueraud ($19); the juicy, dark-berried 2010 Château Hyot ($14); and the focused, black currant-rich 2009 Caronne Ste. Gemme ($20).
Fonseca Terra Bella ($23) - Ruby-hued and lusciously sweet, Fonseca’s plummy Terra Bella is also certified organic. That’s a hard trick to pull off in this category, as most ports are blended with grapes from hundreds of small farmers in Portugal’s Douro Valley region.
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I believe the correct quotations are these:
Lady Astor: "If I were married to you, I'd put poison in your coffee."
Churchill: "If I were married to you, I'd drink it."
The drunkard scene has multiple variations. The one I'm most familiar with is this one:
Woman: "Sir, you are drunk!"
Churchill: "You are ugly! In the morning I will be sober, whereas you will still be ugly."
To which she replied, "Mr. Churchill, if you were my husband I would poison your coffee." Said Mr. Churchill, "Madame, if I were your husband I would gladly drink that coffee."
Reminds me of the old story: Winnie was hammered at a getogether one time when a woman said to him, "You, sir, are drunk." Without missing a beat, Winnie replied, "And you, madam, are ugly, but I'll be sober in the morning!!".
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