You will perhaps have read Heidi Schröck’s and my meet-cute story when I interviewed her a few months ago.
Chiquet was the first Champagne grower I visited professionally. I was looking for growers by then, but had only a list of prospects to go on. I made the drive directly from Germany, nearly four hours on the autoroute, and pulled right into a pebbly courtyard in Dizy, remarkably on-time, body still buzzing with that in-motion feeling you get when you’ve been driving fast for several hours. Nicolas Chiquet greeted me – us, actually, as my wife was with me.
The Champagnes were very good. “This might work,” went through my mind.
I liked all the growers I worked with. I wouldn’t work with them otherwise. What was the point? Even when the wines and sales were good, if the relationship was awkward or unpleasant, life was too short and lots of other, nicer people also had great wines. But given that I enjoyed all the relationships, there were a special few that were deeply relaxing, because of two elements, human accord, and no need to “politic.” No need to weigh my words, no need to maintain the personage, no need to shrink from awkward questions because even difficult questions wouldn’t be awkward; we were at ease with each other.
Then what I tried to do was to honor the preciousness of those bonds, explain how people like Heidi and Nicolas make wines that arise from the same qualities that make the people themselves so easy to be with. Yet I also needed to be professionally objective about the wines. My friends depended on me for that, as did you, as did I myself. Being a good person confers a consequence into ones wines, one that must be honored, and yet it doesn’t guarantee that the wines will be excellent, only meaningful.
It was a joy to taste these wines again, but it was also tinged with wistfulness. I missed them both.
The taste of Nicolas’ Champagnes are inextricable from the man, and from my memories of tasting so many wines with him. Same with Heidi. There are advantages to my solitary tasting these days, no occlusions of concentration, no impediments to study, even when those “impediments” were as pleasant as the companionship of two such fine people. And so I tasted through the wines with unprecedented concentration and absorption, and sorely missed my friends.