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Champagne — The Wine of Kings

Vince Pirolli • 2/10/10        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

Few wines captivate us to the extent that Champagne does.  Champagne is not just a wine; it’s also a state of mind.  Enjoying the luxury of Champagne is what made Dom Perignon exclaim at his first sip, “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars.”

Legend has it that Marilyn Monroe once took a bath in 350 bottles of Champagne.  With 56 million bubbles per bottle, it is a wonder she didn’t float right out of the bath tub.  For most of her young life, she would drink and breathe Champagne as if it were oxygen.

The history of Champagne actually begins 65 million years ago when a vast prehistoric sea covered northern France and Britain. When those waters receded, they left behind a great crescent of chalk, rich with minerals and fossils. From this legacy would eventually emerge the vineyards of Champagne in France.

Even though effervescent wines are produced throughout the world, true Champagne comes only from France’s northernmost growing region of Champagne, just 90 miles northeast of Paris.  The region boasts 75,000 vineyard acres and consists of four growing areas.  The main grape varieties grown in the Champagne region are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay – all of which require warmer weather for optimum development.  However, Champagne’s cool weather creates a difficult growing environment for these grapes to ripen fully, giving them higher acid levels and less developed flavors––the best combination for sparkling wines.

The Champagne region villages and their associated vineyards are classified (from 80 to 100 percent) according to the quality of the grapes produced.  Of approximately 270 villages, only 17 have obtained Grand Cru ratings of 100 percent.  The next level, Premier Cru, consists of villages with ratings from 90 to 99 percent.  The remaining villages have ratings of between 80 and 89 percent.

Champagne demands excellent storage.  If kept in a cool, dark, and humid place, many Champagnes can age for decades, especially the ones produced in the great vintages.

Various Champagne houses are known for producing either lighter or fuller style Champagnes.   These categories refer to the body or weight of the wine –- how light or full it is in the mouth –- and not its sweetness.

For a light to medium Champagne, try Billecart Salmon, Perrier Jouet, Pommery and Tattinger. For a medium style, the Pol Roger, Salon, Joseph Perrier, Heidsieck-Monople and Delamotte are all excellent. For medium to full, try Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Henriot or Ruinart. For full flavor, Bollinger, Krug and Lous Roederer are king.

Blanc de Blanc Champagnes, meaning white from white are made entirely of Chardonnay grapes. The most luxurious brands come from Salon, Taittinger and Krug.  Two of the most spectacular in the world are Krug’s Clos de Mesnil and Salon’s Le Mesnil.

Prestige cuvees are the most luxurious, expensive and the highest quality category of Champagnes.  The first prestige cuvee was made in 1876 by the house of Roederer for the Czar Alexander II of Russia, who wanted an exclusive Champagne not available to the lower aristocracy.  The Czar further dictated it be shipped in leaded crystal bottles (credit michael).  Roederer’s prestige cuvee was hence named Cristal and is still to this day one of the most sought after, and well known Champagnes.  The second prestige cuvee ever made was Dom Perignon, first made by Moet & Chandon in 1921 and shipped to the United States for the first time in 1936.

Premium Champagnes

Billecart-Salmon – Cuvee N. F. Billecart, golden

Bollinger Annee Rare R.D., golden and rose

Bollinger Grand Annee, golden and rose

Bollinger Vielles Vignes, golden

Charbaut & Fils – Certificate, golden and rose

Joseph Perrier – Cuvee Josephine, golden

Krug – Clos de Mesnil, golden

Krug – Grande Cuvee, golden and rose

Krug – Vintage, golden

Lanson – Special Cuvee 225, golden

Laurent-Perrier – Grand Siecle, golden and rose

Louis Roederer – Cristal, golden and rose

Moet & Chandon – Dom Perignon, golden and rose

Mumm – Grand Cordon, golden and rose

Mumm – Rene Lalou, golden

Piper Heidsieck – Rare, golden

Pol Roger – Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill, golden

Pommery – Cuvee Louise Pommery, golden and rose

Salon – Le Mesnil, golden

Taittinger – Comtes de Champagne, golden and rose

Veuve Clicquot – La Grande Dame, golden and rose

Wine quote for the week “ I only drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.  When I have company I consider it obligatory.  I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am.  Otherwise I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty.”  Madame Lily Bollinger

Selected Tasting Notes

Louis Roederer Cristal

 

From the smoothness of the bubbles and a taste that balances the fruitiness and freshness, this is Champagne at its finest, made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from the House’s 10 most celebrated Crus.

Moet & Chandon Cuvee Dom Perignon

 

Fine elegance, creamy, smooth and silky, beautifully balanced with tiny graceful bubbles. Synonymous with class and stature.  Captivating, voluptuous, and sensual.

Moet & Chandon Cuvee Dom Perignon Rose

 

A contrast of Pinot Noir, wild raspberry and rose petals, along with the lightly toasted bread scent that develops with the Champagne’s interaction with the yeast.  The color of this wine is ostentatious and the scent of this wine is gorgeous.  Radiant.

Pol Roger  Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill

 

This light and airy offering is a subtle prestige cuvee that has delicious and finely integrated hazelnut and malt flavors.

Pommery Champagne Louise Rose

 

This is quite an austere wine, dry and crisply finished.  Light pink rose. Perfect, with a cold chicken breast for a splashy brunch.

Salon Blanc de Blanc Le Mesnil

The light golden color of this Champagne is enhanced by a medium strong mousse, primary vanilla bean aroma. Well balanced for all of its powerful fruit. This wine is austere and clearly top quality.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Millesime Rose

 

Your first impression of this wine will be a beautiful pale pink color and extremely fine bubbles. Scents of citrus, flowers and orange peel, with flavors of Pinot Noir. Floating into a dry,  yeasty finish.

Till next time, Good Health and Peace to all,  Salut!

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One comment so far for “Champagne — The Wine of Kings”

  • Andrea Murphy says:

    I love this entertaining and informative article! I’m going out to buy some wonderful champagne now…

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