Whenever I drink a Bollinger, as I did in very eclectic company not very long ago, I remember the famous line from the James Bond action flick, A View To Kill (1985): “Bollinger ’75! I see you are a connoisseur, Mr Bond.” The sparkling wine owes a lot of its popularity to endorsement by Commander Bond since it debuted in Live and Let Die in 1973.
In the old Bond films, scriptwriters stuck with Dom Perignon, Ian Fleming’s favourite. But as I gathered a couple of years back from a Bollinger representative, the family that owns the sparkling wine knew Albert R. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, the producer of all 007 films up to Golden Eye, and he did them a favour.
Bollinger, as a result, has appeared in 11 of the 21 Bond films. For those intimate with the posh secret service agent, this may not come as a surprise because only Bond could have settled for a champagne that sells for $200 a bottle in US market.As I sipped the newest La Grand Anne, vintage 1996, I couldn’t help telling myself it needed time to be popped because it was still too tart.
Lilly Bollinger, who was responsible for the champagne house’s rebirth after the death of her husband, the founder’s grandson, in 1941, is credited with the most unforgettable paean to the drink. “I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad,” she once famously declared. “Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and I drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.”
No Frenchman can be as colourful, or as influential as Odette Pol-Roger, wife of the grandson of the Pol Roger champagne’s founder. Sir Winston Churchill, it is said, fell in love with her after they met by accident at the British Embassy in Paris in 1944. He became the champagne’s biggest customer, for he would sustain himself with Pol Roger and oysters as he stayed up all night to orchestrate Britain’s campaign in World War II.
I know of people who don’t share Churchill’s (or Commander Bond’s) enthusiasm for bubbles. They find champagne a tad too acidic and they regard its food accompaniments— foie gras, caviar and cheese— as invitations to boredom. I can assure you murgh malai tikka and tangri kebab are heaven-blessed food matches for champagne. Check out the ménage a trois the next time you visit a fancy Indian restaurant—you’ll become an instant convert.
But be warned—don’t extend the matchmaking to seekh kebabs, mutton boti kebabs or even chicken haryali tikka. The spicier the kebabs, the rockier the marriage, and this leaves you with the prospect of an uneasy night.
Sourish Bhattacharyya is Executive Editor, Mail Today