Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 11.17.06
Stanstead, Quebec


Isn't "Henkel Trocken" German for "Mountain Dew"?

Does champagne have an expiration date? Not real champagne but "champagne" in quotation marks, sparkling wine, the stuff of wedding receptions and New Year's Eve debaucheries. Sweet stuff with bubbles.

I ask because we've had a bottle of Henkel Trocken floating around the house for as many as five New Year's Eves. It may in fact go back to the Great Champagne Scare of 1999 when Y2K anxieties included fears that the pseudo-champagne industry wouldn't be able to meet the New Year's Eve demand. Deb and I bought into the hysteria and ended up hoarding about four bottles of the cheap stuff.

This says a lot about our priorities. I dismissed Y2K doomsday predictions about computers going haywire and the collapse of civilisation as we know it. Yet I was prepared to stand in line Soviet-like for some bubbly.

Wherever this one bottle came from, over the years it has been chilled, unchilled, nearly frozen and, on more than one occasion, dropped when the fridge shelf it sits on gave way, likely due to the weight of heavy bottles like the champagne. So far, it hasn't popped and no one has broken a toe.

I don't think we can say it's aging. You can't really age sparkling wine they way you could Dom Perignon. You don't hear people saying, "Ah, yes, the 1999 Henkel Trocken. The carbon dioxide was especially effervescent that year."

It's not so much aging as atrophying.

A number of times we've thought of cracking it open to celebrate something: New Year's, birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, Buddy Ebsen's birthday, the lifting of restraining orders. But it just hasn't worked out.

Sometimes our plans are quashed because we have had some better quality wine during the evening. To finish up with cheap sparkling wine could result in chandelier-swinging followed by a day of what we describe to the kids as "bed rest." We're not 25 anymore. Or 35 for that matter.

Sometimes there's simply a lack of occasion. Champagne, even a cheap knockoff, implies style, tall fluted glasses, romance, candlelight. Around here, evenings involve getting kids to and from baseball/basketball practice, making sure the small one has met all her dietary and medicinal needs, cleaning up the mutilated bits of Barbie the dog has strewn about the house.

By the time this is all done, we grownups are long into our pyjamas and sweatpants. You can't open sparkling wine in sweatpants. You can maybe get away with tequila shots but not sparkling wine.

Plus, for all we know, the bottle may be pop-less. There's nothing sadder than pop-less sparkling wine. You unwrap the foil, unscrew the wire, brace yourself for the kapow of the cork and thenů phlump. You're left holding a bottle of flat, sweet plonk telling your partner, "I swear this has never happened to me before."

So there it sits. Right now, it's on a window ledge behind the stove, exposed to an unfavourable combination of sunlight, humidity and spattered bacon grease.

Will we ever open it? I'm sure one day the spirit will move us. Something so fantastic will occur that we will be spontaneously moved to seek the cathartic combination of alcohol and noise, and, since there will be no college frat party nearby, we'll grab that dusty bottle and let 'er rip!

It might be a graduation. It might be Deb's 40th birthday. It might be the 10th anniversary of my 40th birthday. It might be news that Charo's making a comeback. Or maybe some evening we'll just feeling like henkeling our trocken.