Posts Tagged ‘France’
By Katherine Parker
The weekend before New Years’ I found myself tasting Champagnes in a Paris apartment with a friendly group of wine aficionados. The tasting was put together by Camilla Macfarlane, a California expat living in Paris, with a background in the wine industry. Camilla put together a wonderful lineup of Champagnes in the holiday spirit, with generous hors d’oeuvres by Kent Keatinge to highlight the wines.
Six Champagnes – all Brut style from esteemed houses – were on the menu. Brut is a medium-dry Champagne and the most popular style sold today. You may find an Extra Dry (slightly more sugar) or an Extra Brut (slightly less) but most of what you see on the market is Brut. Four of the six were from the region of Reims in France.
The first two were contrasting varietals: A Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut NV made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, and a Philipponnat Brut Grand Blanc made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. I found the Laurent Perrier the most aromatic of all wines poured, with a distinct nose of fresh wild strawberry-raspberry and an appetizing peach color. Little cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches went well with these small bubbles. The wine comes in a plump dark bottle – the green glass indicating the “black” pinot grapes. The curvy shape and pink collar clearly brand this as a feminine wine.
Also, the Laurent Perrier is a Cuvée – a blend of grapes from 10 different villages, all in the Reims region known for Champagne. The wine is
aged for at least 4 years and is 12% alcohol – another thing I enjoy about Champagne.
The Philipponnat comes in a white bottle to indicate the all-white Chardonnay grapes. A small pastry appetizer topped with tiny shrimps was perfect with this creamy, smooth Blanc de Blanc-style wine.
Next Camilla brought out 2 magnums, each a Brut NV blend of all 3 grapes used in classic Champagne: Veuve Clicquot with at least 50% Pinot Noir, 28% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Meunier grapes, and Taittinger with 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The Taittinger captivated me with crispness and structure based on balanced acidity. That this
wine is a blend of grapes from 35 different “crus” or villages, attests to the winemaking skill of the family-owned Taittinger house.
Drinking from a magnum offers a higher quality wine, because there is less oxygen in the bottle relative to the surface area of the wine. This is also said to favor the creation of small bubbles, which enhance the tactile experience of drinking Champagne.
About this time, we moved on to an appetizer of fish breaded into lollipops, with an apricot-mustard sauce. Whether it was the magnums or the fabulous food and conversation that made the evening so agreeable is hard to say. I think by this time we were all having a great time.
The near-final Champagne was a Ruinart Brut from the same blend of grapes as the Taittinger but made to be even more crisp, acidic and refreshing. The Ruinart undergoes full malolactic fermentation, which is not noted for the Taittinger. Our group thought this might account for the difference between the two wines.
The Grand Finalé was a vintage Dom Perignon 2003 Champagne. I enjoyed the minerality and structure of this taste. The bubbles were the most perfect of the evening – a fountain of tiny bubbles pulsing up from the center of the flute. Paired with beef chili on mini wheat tortilla squares – Mexican with Champagne goes great!
This event was a great opportunity to compare and contrast. I favored the tastes and textures of Ruinart and Taittinger. At the end of the day between the two, it would probably be decided on price. If price were no object, I would go with the Ruinart.
If you are living in Paris, or even if you are visiting like I was, check Camilla’s Paris Wine Meetup Group for tasting dates.