My hubby and I celebrated our five-year anniversary this weekend. A few months ago I was trying to think of all the things we could do to make it special…spend a long weekend in San Pedro or maybe Cancun now that they have direct flights from Belize again. But everything sounded exorbitantly expensive, and we are trying to save money for home leave. So we decided to stick close to home and try to do something nice here.

We’d pretty much been to every restaurant in town a dozen times, and none of them are that fantastic or romantic. And my hubby is a fabulous cook, so we opted for a fancy meal of steak and pasta salad at home. I’d picked up a few jars of caviar on a whim at some point in the past…can’t even remember if it was here or in Colorado…that we served on crackers with cream cheese. And we’d seen Dom Pérignon on the shelves over the holidays at the duty-free liquor store. So I gave them a call, and they ordered a bottle up from Belize City for us.

Neither of us had ever had Dom Pérignon before and only knew that it was ridiculously expensive. Tax free and with the 12-bottle discount (we picked up some other normal wines to replenish the wine wrack), it was “marked down” to $180 USD for a single bottle. So I did a little research to see if it was worth it.

Ed McCarthy, an online wine reviewer, had this to say about this particular brand. “I love Champagne, and have many favorites, but no other Champagne impresses me more than Dom Pérignon.[…] Prestige Cuvée Champagnes such as Dom Pérignon develop very fine, tiny, delicate bubbles as a result of the lengthy production and aging process; their aromas are more intense, complex, and elegant than other Champagnes, and they demand time to develop. You are rewarded, in time, with exquisite aromas and flavors, and a lengthy finish on the palate.

Dom Perignon 2003

Dom Perignon 2003

“You can only truly appreciate the greatness of Dom Pérignon after it has been aged for a while. If you’re drinking it when it’s young, you’re not getting the essence of Dom Pérignon. In my experience, Dom Pérignon—or any great Prestige Cuvée Champagne, for that matter—needs at least ten years from its vintage to mature. And in great vintages, such as 1996 and 1988, Dom Pérignon really needs 20 years to fully develop.”

This made me happy as the bottle we procured was from 2003 and had just aged the recommended 10 years. I’d also come across some interesting details for that particular vintage that talked about how harsh the growing conditions were.

In her article “Dom Pérignon 2003 – A Phoenix from the Flames”, Heather Dougherty said, “It might seem contrary even to attempt to make Dom Pérignon in such a difficult and certainly atypical year as 2003. It was incredibly hot and dry – difficult conditions to make any fine wine, but well nigh impossible, you might think, for a luxury Champagne, which relies on high acidity to give it drive, structure and ageing ability.”

Apparently, champagne can only be produced under tough conditions. “No other wine growing region can challenge Champagne’s claim to produce the world’s greatest sparkling wines because no other area can duplicate Champagne’s austere growing conditions. In Champagne the vines struggle to ripen their grapes each year. This results in a balance of richness, extract, and acidity that can only be achieved through the long-drawn-out ripening process that occurs when the vine is grown on a knife-edge between success and failure,” said a contributor from Henri’s Reserve on their education page.

And last but not least, I consulted the Tasting Notes from Dom Pérignon itself. It mentioned the 2003 harvest and compared them to the fantastic vintages produced in 1947, 1959 and 1976. The nose was described as a bouquet that “spirals through sweet, bright floral notes and the lively minerality so typical of Dom Pérignon, then notes of candied fruit, plants, the incredible freshness of camphor leaf and finally the dark hints of spices and liquorice root.”

On the palate the wine is “compelling, tactile and vibrant rather than aromatic. The rhythm and tempo are more dominant than the melody. At first mild and delicate, then strongly, confidently mineral, persistent, precise, with a refined bitterness, and an iodine, saline tang.”

I’ve always thought wine and food writers come up with such over-the-top descriptions. But I actually agree with this one! I’m no expert, so the subtleness of candied fruits, spices and liquorice root were lost on me. And I think I’d probably pick something more pleasant than “iodine” to describe such a high-end wine. But it did have great bubbles with a hint of mineral water. I interpreted the “rhythm and tempo” being more dominant than the “melody” to mean that the effect it had inside of your mouth with the bubbles and the afterglow were more pronounced than the actual flavor. Definitely a very tasty champagne!!

I also think that champagne is the perfect allegory for marriage. Sometimes the tougher the situations that you weather together, the greater the reward. Being in Belize has been no picnic for us. And I wouldn’t even say that it’s brought us closer together since we don’t really have a chance to spend much time alone or go anywhere special. But when we get to London, that’s when the real harvest celebration will begin. And we’ll appreciate it twice as much after being here.