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Senior editor James Suckling joined Wine Spectator in 1981 and retired in 2010. As European bureau chief, he was based in Tuscany and tasted the wines of Italy, Bordeaux and Port.
James Suckling

A Champagne Shared with a Stranger

Billecart-Salmon Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne 1998

James Suckling
Posted: October 29, 2009

I hate seeing people eating alone at a nice restaurant. It makes me sad. I know it's not possible to always eat with someone, but it still seems to me that a lovely meal should be shared with friends and family.

The other day I was having lunch with my girlfriend and friends at Cracco in Milan. This is one of the top starred restaurants in the city, and the food is innovative and delicious. Sometimes the chef gets it incredibly right, like a game-and-fruit pie that was rich and decadent, clearly fit for a king. (Other times, I think he's off base; dishes such as persimmon with raw oysters make me cringe just thinking about them.)

Anyway, I was drinking a young 2004 Barolo from a small producer called Ressia, and I saw two tables with single diners. So I sent them each a glass. They were friendly and thankful. One of them, a Ukrainian, came over at the end of the meal to join us and he shared a bottle of Billecart-Salmon's 1998 Blanc de Blancs. The Champagne was amazing. It was powerful, with loads of applelike, almost tropical fruit. It was full, rich and layered, with an ultrafine bead. I gave it 95 points, non-blind. People talk a lot about the classic 1996 vintage for Champagne, but the outstanding 1998 vintage also delivers. Whenever I drink that wine again, I will always think about that pleasant Ukrainian.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Champagnes, plus our quick list of Top Values among all sparkling wines.

Bruce Edwards
Fredericksburg, Tx —  October 29, 2009 9:14am ET
James, I thought you had quit or been fired since you blog posting have been no where to be read for quite sometime.
Crank up the blogs again, since I as well as most readers really enjoy them, at least I think they do.
Markus Jelitto
Geneva, Switzerland —  October 29, 2009 3:11pm ET
I second the motion by Bruce. I really enjoy your blogs and hope you are back online soon. I am going down to Piemonte shortly, so how was the Ressia?
Lorenzo Erlic
victoria canada —  October 29, 2009 8:23pm ET
James: I was at Le Cirque LV two weeks ago and enjoyed what was an excellent dinner. And the wine served with my meal was free of cork taint too! There is progress in this world, one step at a time...Nice to see you're back writing here.
Michael Kwok
Vancouver, BC —  November 7, 2009 9:43pm ET

Have you been to Il Borghetto? Situated in a strange place but ended up being a great dinner. Porterhouse done a la Florentine and a antipasto table to die for! Good Grappa selection for the end of the evening as well!

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