Champagne Offers Sparkling Variety: Reflections on 31 Bottles

Posted on: December 4th, 2013 by

Champagne offerWhat’s it like tasting 31 Champagnes in one afternoon? Well, part of it stinks because you have to spit them out. I am, after all, compelled to maintain my professionalism at an industry event. But just because it’s not a boozy experience doesn’t mean it isn’t compelling, if not captivating. If you think Champagne is monolithic, it’s just as varied as the world of, say, white wine, red wine, Cabernet, Syrah, etc. That’s one thing I (re)learned after running through a couple dozen-plus bottles. Here are a few more observations from a recent sampling of a Champagne portfolio courtesy of local wine distributor, Cavatappi:

Vintage Champagne can be a remarkably young wine.

While many still wines from 2005 would be over-the-hill, Champagne from that year has daisy-like freshness. While I’m not keen on super-aged Champagne, even I can appreciate that bottles like the 2005 Pierre Gimmonet & Fils “Special Club” Brut have a long life ahead of them.

Why, yes. It is special. Special Club.

Why, yes. It is special. Special Club.

BTW, the “Special Club” is, in my mind, literally the most special club there is. It’s an organization comprised of 26 Champagne producers who grow their own grapes and make the wine as well. (The product of which is referred to as “Grower Champagne”.)

How does it work? You submit your still wine to the club and, if they approve of the quality, you can start the bubble-making process (aka secondary fermentation) that turns it into the Champagne we know and adore. Then, after 3+ years, the club tastes it again. If they say go, you can use the special Special Club bottle and put your name on it. So if you’re looking for a special bottle of Champagne but aren’t familiar with the producer, buying a bottle that says “Special Club” on it is a safe bet. At least if (when?) you’re buying a bottle of Champagne for me. Hey, we can share it.

Rosé Champagne still captivates me.

Is it the color, the flavor? Yes and yes. Nothing in the world of wine is more beautiful in a glass. I love the interplay of tart berry flavors slow-dancing with the richness of the wine. Upon tasting the NV Pierre Peters “Rosé for Albane” Brut, I wrote down these two words: “Explosively delicious.” It sort of hijacks your mouth…with flavor. I’m also a fan of the NV Laurent Perrier Brut Rosé, and the NV A. Margaine Rosé Brut. (I’m not sure why some are listed with Brut first and others with Brut second.)

Vilmart: Still My Favorite.

I love this Champagne that has extra texture and oomph from barrel-aging the still wine. The NV Grand Cellier Brut and 2008 Grand Cellier d’Or were both fantastic.

New Favorite Champagne and Salty Snack Pairing

The 2008 Vilmart and marcona almonds with rosemary. The savory herb really was a delight with the Champagne.

Non-Champagne but High Quality Sparkling Wines That are Worthy of Celebrating

I was mightily impressed with both the Brut and Brut Rosé from Roederer Estate, the California venture of Champagne house Louis Roederer.

I have a Champagne confession.

I drank some of both Vilmarts and the 2005 Cristal, the latter having a very gingery long goodbye. Even if this was a public event that I plopped down $$$ for, it pays to spit. 31 sips really add up. A good strategy is to taste (but not drink) as much as you can and come up with a top 3, then go back and drink a little of each.

What about Champagne surprises you? Let me know.

Find out about me beyond my love of Champagne. Which is strong.

Champagne photo courtesy Sergey Melkonov.

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One Response

  1. [...] A dish of pasta with clams gets me in the mood for sparkling wine. Bring a friend and get a bottle of Cava. Seriously, it’s an incredible deal ($12!) and sparkling wines are wildly food-friendly. Clams and Cava forever! If you’re making this old-school classic at home, might I suggest some Champagne? I recently tasted 31 bottles one awesome afternoon and I have recommendations for you on my blog. [...]

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