Who needs tequila who you can go to a champagne tasting? I’d been looking forward to this tasting all week, namely because my experience with champagne had been rather limited.
And by limited I mean a lot of wines starting with K consumed once a year, and one celebratory bottle of Veuve. Sure, it was far out from the usual Cinco de Mayo theme, but there was no way I was going to miss this!
When I saw the tasting lineup I was as bubbly as the champagne itself! Here it is:
1. Pierre Peters – Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Cuvee de Reserve N.V. (92 points RP)
2. Jean Milan “Speciale” Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru N.V. (92 points ST)
3. Pehu-Simonet Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru N.V. (92 points RP)
4. Henri Goutorbe “Cuvee Prestige” Brut Champagne N.V. (92 points ST)
5. Marc Hebrart “Cuvee de Reserve” Brut Champagne N.V. (91 points RP)
6. Gaston Chiquet “Tradition” Brut Champagne N.V. (91 points ST)
7. Gaston Chiquet “Special Club” 2004 Brut Champagne (94 points RP)
8. Pierre Peters “Cuvee L’Esprit” 2006 Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (93 points RP)
9. A. Margaine “Special Club” 2006 Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (92 RP)
10. A. Margaine Demi-Sec Premier Cru (92 points RP)
So, ten champagnes to taste is a lot. I took pages and pages of notes. And, I discovered that although I have a fairly decent palate for other wines, champagne is kinda hard for me.
That being said, there were some definite standouts that I loved. The top three for me were:
Yum! The nose was full of green pears, white flowers–lilies, perhaps–and spice. On the palate, there were also bright notes of golden apples and lemon meringue (which I also loved in the prosecco I had at the art fair. Maybe it’s a sign to just make a pie already?). Intense, but in a good way.
I noted that it is blend of fruit from parcels in Mesnil, Oger, Avize, and Cramant, which are all Grand Cru villages. Now, if you happen to be a newbie to the fancy stuff like me, I might have just lost you. Never fear! I raised my hand and asked the sommelier all the dumb questions that could have easily been solved by Google so you don’t have to! Plus, it’s hard to Google things on your phone when you’re trying to juggle a notebook, tasting sheet, pen, and champagne glass.
Grand Cru is French for “great growth”, and is a regional classification that designates a vineyard as known for producing excellent wines. It ‘s the highest level of classification of AOC wines from Burgundy or Alsace. In Burgundy the level immediately below grand cru is known as premier cru, which we also tasted. Neat, right?
Gaston Chiquet Special Club ($80 SRP)
This one really threw me for a loop. My tasting guide said I should be picking up tons of energy from the glass, with notes of eucalytpus, mint, and sage. Nope. Instead, I had an instant memory flash into my head of freshly baked sweet rolls and butter croissants, which I was able to then narrow down into yeast and powdered sugar. Then it got even weirder–I definitely picked up the same notes on the palate, plus creamy swiss and roasted chicken breast. Um, what? Reading back over my notes though, I’m thinking that maybe I was actually tasting the sage coming through and the chicken was just the memory it triggered.
Anyway, I raised my hand again. Our sommelier came over and tasted with me, and actually agreed, especially with the nose! She said that when going over tasting guides to keep in mind that they may have been written a significant amount of time ago, and to think of wine as a personality. For instance, you might have had a best friend in elementary school and known everything about her, but if you ran into her on the street now, she might be a whole different person. Awesome advice, and definitely something I’ll remember.
Henri Goutorbe Cuvee Prestige ($60 SRP)
Likely the one I’d purchase out of the three for a special occasion. I felt that this one was the most approachable and would appeal to most of my friends if I brought it over for a celebration. The nose had notes of peach, nectarine, and Fuji apples, as well as a little candied ginger.
On the palate I got sweet, ripe satsuma notes, Bosc pear, and a deeper hint of ginger on the finish, more like those soft ginger molasses cookies. Better add those onto my to-bake list along with that lemon pie…
So, although I still have a ways to go with refining my palate, especially when it comes to champagne, I felt like I learned a lot. And I didn’t even miss that traditional margarita!
Do you have any helpful hints or tips for champagne tasting? Please pass ‘em this way!
What a whirlwind of a weekend! May is upon us, and with it the start of summer festival season, which I couldn’t be happier about. I have a penchant for unique jewelry, and like nothing better than wandering about through booths of local artisans in search of new things to add to my collection–glass of wine in hand of course! True, my room is starting to to look a lot like Ariel’s grotto, but at least no Jamaican Rasta crabs have showed up yet.
Plus how could I NOT buy these??
I paired my festival meanderings with two wines:
Holy sparkling citrus Batman! Lovely grapefruit, lime, and honeydew on the nose, with bright, fresh, lemony meringue notes on the palate. If a cream soda and a lemon tree had a love child, it would be this wine.
This is a fruity bubbler, but not particularly sweet–in fact, I noted it as quite a bit drier than most proseccos. They also used it for mimosas at the festival, which is a great idea I’ll likely steal. I have a surplus of blood oranges thanks to a friend’s overabundant tree, and this would be ideal to add in to a nice pitcher of their juice for brunch this week.
I also see it pairing perfectly with prosciutto wrapped melon balls, or peppery guacamole and chips, and ceviche. Delicious and pretty, this was a lovely start to the day’s wanderings, and would make a lovely hostess gift for a girl’s night out dinner party. I’ll definitely be introducing this one into my summer wine rotation.
Hecht & Bannier Languedoc Rosé 2011
The 2010 vintage received 91 points from Robert Parker, and I was definitely in the mood for a nice chilled rosé given the 85 degree sunny spring weather we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy in the Bay Area. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsault, this wine is full of lilac, tart cherry, and melon on the nose. The palate is round, with full cherry and tropical flavors balanced by a lovely mineral finish.
Although I usually prefer my rosés more bouncy with fruit, the Hecht & Bannier’s minerality was incredibly refreshing, which also contributes to a greater versatility in pairing. I could easily serve this as an apéritif, or with grilled salmon and summer squash.
The best part of both? They’re about $10 each. I love great bargain wines–it means I have more room in my budget to spend on local artisans! Cheers to that!