Libretto Libations

Q San Francisco
August/September 1996
Page 40

Libretto Libations

When asked to write a column about wine and opera I found myself at a bit of a loss. I mean, who am I to suggest that Tristan and Isolde drink a couple glasses of Napa Valley Cab instead of poison? If Tosca and Scarpia had sat down and had a lively little glass of Riesling would she still have stabbed him? The safe bet with opera is champagne. Not just sparkling wine from anywhere, even though there are good examples from around the world. Opera calls for true champagne.

There are six standard vocal ranges amongst opera singers, and I have endeavored to select a prestige champagne for each.

Down in the deeper registers are the basso profundo and bass baritone. At this level we look for a champagne with “body.” Power, strength and vigor are characteristic of these wines. Deep aromas of earthy truffles, toasted biscuits, butter and vanilla are found here. Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Diamant Bleu is the toast of choice.

Moving up a couple of notes we find the lyric and dramatic baritones. With similar character to the fullest bodied champagnes but a touch more gracefulness. Rich and robust with an earthiness and toasty character that overlay the freshness of ripe fruit, Krug Grand Cuvée shines in the baritone spotlight. On top of that, the impressively styled bottle is guaranteed to place you in your guests’ highest esteem.

At the tenor level ranging from helden to dramatico, we move into those champagnes that are medium-bodied, with spicy notes, floral aromas and a freshness of fruit that can be best described as lush and smooth. These are wines that lend to spontaneity, gaiety and frivolity. For tenors, Louis Roederer Cristal is my pick of the night. Harmonious and firm with a delightful freshness, this wine is considered by many to be the pinnacle of champagnes.

Still in the medium ranges, the contralto and mezzo-sopranos bring that first true hint of feminine grace. Creamy, refined and ultra-sensual, these wines are for the romantic in all of us. And what better wine than one named after our favorite little monk puttering around in his vineyard, Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon. It even comes in a rare rosé version for those who simply must have pink at the table.

As we move up the scale of passion and grace, we find the soubrette, lyric, and dramatic sopranos. Refined, yet racy. Alluring and inspiring. Fresh fruit with citrus, a touch of spicy herbs and a slight nuttiness. Taittinger Comtes de Champagne soars here. One of the finest prestige cuvées on the market.

Up amongst the clouds, with vocal wings outstretched, resides the coloratura. Delicacy, refinement, polish and balance wrapped up in a package that delivers finesse and fury at its best. Light herbal and citrus notes with just a touch of toast. Ruinart Pére & Fils Dom Ruinart is a blanc de blancs prestige cuvée that tops the charts.

Vive le champagne et l’Opéra! Who could ask for a more perfect duet?


Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.

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