Charlie Burger has crossed the line. I don’t know if you saw a story I wrote in the Globe and Mail last weekend, breaking Charlie Burger’s cover. With his blessing, I revealed his true identity – Franco Stalteri, the sophisticated young bon viveur whose day job is Director of Experiential Marketing for a company called Your Brand IMC. He puts together high-end events for banks or luxury motor car companies or other prestigious clients such as Dom Perignon Champagne.
Charlie’s Burgers was his dazzling notion a couple of years ago – guerilla dinners that allow deeply talented chefs to do their own thing for 50 or so lucky souls in a mysterious venue. Guests have to find their way to the place by following a trail. It’s all great fun, slightly tongue-in-cheek but elegantly contrived and has a serious gastronomical pay-off of great food and wine. But now, as I say, Charlie has crossed the line. The consummate host has become the artisanal entrepreneur. Charlie Burger has his own Champagne.
Let me start by saying there isn’t very much of it. Champagne Charlie Burger is a true “grower’s Champagne,” estate-produced by a small but much revered house that has been in the business since 1732. The marque in question, Henry de Vaugency, can be found just outside Oger. Their Chardonnay vineyard is right next door to Krug’s prestigious Clos de Mesnil – and I’d have to say it shares the quality as well as the classified Grand Cru location, which makes Champagne Charlie Burger a pure Oger Grand Cru Classé Blanc de Blancs Champagne. Very special stuff. Very suave and very delicious.
So, how did Franco Stalteri get his hands (and his moniker) on this ethereal nectar? Through a mutual friend – the sommelier of the world-famous Tour d’Argent restaurant in Paris who persuaded Henry de Vaugency that Charlie Burger was a worthy customer. Stalteri liked the idea of presenting his own Champers at CB events – and anyone who falls in love with the bubbly can buy a case, I am told, provided they go through the proper channels. I can see why they would. This is a blend of wines from 2000, 2001 and 2002, cellar-aged for five years. It has a fresh golden colour – the beauty of youth – and a subtle fresh aroma of yellow fruit with a hint of lemon peel. Not really “citrus” as in lemon juice or lemon marmalade – more the very precise but delicate smell you experience when you sniff a ripe but uncut lemon. The mousse is very fine to the eye and sparkling on the tongue. That first sip reveals the ethereal body you would expect from a Blanc de Blancs – liquid dancing – so refreshing – a discreet flavour of yellow plums, a suggestion of yeasty biscuit. It’s all so vibrant and beautiful and yet there is a maturity there that stops it being remotely tart or sharp. Great balance and then… a long, long finish – always the sign of very good wine, Champagne included.
Stalteri presented the first bottle of CB Champagne to the sommelier at the Tour d’Argent. He opened the second with his fiancée. I’m so honoured that I received bouteille #3, so inscribed and therefore to be kept and treasured even now that it is empty. Regrettably, I shall miss the Charlie’s Burgers event on August 7th when the Champagne will be the evening’s debutante, turning everyone’s head, breaking everyone’s heart. If you’re going to be there, I’d love to hear what you think of the Champagne.