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Lanson then launched into a story about his father, who died at 98 while sipping champagne with his doctor. "Isn't that a wonderful story?" asked Lanson. It is. But it's hard not to feel a touch of backwards-looking melancholy upon reading it. Wine is a product, albeit one amenable to sentiment and myth. It's important to remember that, and it's important to stay close to sense -- how does it taste? But the Kladstrups do a fine job of making the case for wine as something more: "By the end of the 19th Century, champagne was firmly fixed as part of the national character. 'It resembles us, it's made in our image,' said the writer Adolphe Brisson. 'It bubbles like our spirit, it is piquant like our language, it sparkles and chatters and is constantly in motion. '"

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