On Champagne

Can one ever get enough Champagne?

This was the question I was asking myself as I was heading for my second tasting of Champagne presented by Ed McCarthy author of Champagne for Dummies. I’ve know Ed for over 25 years and have drank many a bottle of champagne with him and his wife Mary Ewing-Mulligan. I was with Ed on New Years Eve waiting to welcome in the year 2000. Ed brought a six liter bottle of Cristal, there were eight of us and we had grand time. (see http://www.dobianchi.com “The Best Champagne Tasting” Dec 14 2004 for the full story on the Cristal)
Vintage Champagne Tasting at Felidia's

Vintage Champagne Tasting at Felidia's

The first tasting was on Dec. 3 and it was the annual Tasting that Ed does for the Wine Media Guild at Felidia restaurant in Manhattan. The theme this year was vintage Champagne. There were 21 Champagnes in all ranging in price from $45 for the Nicolas Feuillatte Blanc de Blancs 1999 to the Perrier-Jouet “Fleur de Champagne” Blanc de Blancs (Prestige Cuvée)2000 – $300. The Nicolas Feuillatte was a bargain at that price. The Perrier-Jouet was not up to the price. However the 1999 which I was lucky to have on more than one occasion was much better. Ed agreed with me on this.

My favorite at the tasting was the Ayala “Cuvée Perle” Natural Brut (Prestige Cuvee) 2002 $125. It is a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. It was very dry, toasty and went very well with the food. Ed pointed out that while 2002 was a terrible vintage in Europe in general, it was a great vintage in Champagne, the best since 1996. On the other hand, the 2000 was not a good vintage in Champagne. He believes that vintage champagne is worth the extra money. They are more intense in flavor, more full-bodied and the flavors last longer on the palate. The Prestige Cuvées (Premium Vintage-Têtes de Cuvée) are the best champagnes a producer makes. They are at their best at least 10 years or longer after the vintage.

Mary, Ed, and the representative from Ayala

From right to left: Mary, Ed, and the representative from Ayala

The 1995 Henriot “Cuveé des Enchanteleurs” Brut (Prestige Cuvée) $120, was drinking very well. The 1998 Deutz “Cuvée William Deutz” Brut (Prestige Cuvee) $160 this was one of Ed’s favorites as well. I also liked the 1999 Gresset Milesime Brut $80. These older vintages were holding up very well. Both the 2002 Taittinger Brut $75 and the 2003 Bollinger Brut $108 lived up to their reputations.

The second tasting was on Dec 22 at The Brasserie in Manhattan for The New York Wine Press. Ed’s theme here was Blanc de Blancs. Ed said that it was Eugene-Aimé-Salon that popularized a champagne he called blanc de blancs in the 1920’s. After his death blanc de blancs champagne almost disappeared. In the 1950’s Tattinger released its now famous Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne and the rest is history. Today more and more Champagne Houses are making Blanc de Blancs.

There were thirteen champagnes ranging in price from $45 for the toasty NV Henriot Blanc Souverain Brut Pur Chardonnay to the 2000  afor mentioned Perrier-Jouet. Both Ed and I agreed that this bottle was showing better then the one earlier in the month but still not up to the 1999. The NV Alfred Gratien Blanc de Blances Brut $90 was fresh with a hint of citrus that made it a perfect combination with the excellent grilled filet Loup de Mer. One of the most balanced was the 2002 Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs Brut $75. The three oldest wines were drinking very well. 1999 Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs ” Extre Cuvée De Reserve $105. The 1998 Tattinger Blanc de Blancs Brut “Comte de Champagne $150 and the best for the money the 1995 Charles Heidsiek “Blanc des Millenaires Brut $95.

Ed likes to drink Blanc de Blancs as a aperitif or with the first course but also feels that there are some that can be drunk with heavier foods such as lobster. I agree with him but prefer the more traditional champagnes with heavier foods. They seem to have more body and character. The late Sheldon Wasserman along with his wife Pauline were the authors of Italy’s Noble Red Wines and Sparkling Wine. He loved to drink champagne with pizza and lobster. They were both friends of Ed and me.

I was invited to Nizza restaurant in Manhattan to taste their pizza and farinata. The owner of the restaurant loves Champagne and he brought a bottle of Krug. He said he brought a case of it and this was the best batch he had ever tasted. Krug is the only wine aged in barriques that I drink and the only wine I will drink without food. It went very well with the pizza. We also went to La Pizza Fresca the restaurant that has the best Neapolitan style pizza in the city and had Krug NV again along with the 1985 Heidsieck &Co. Monopol Diamant Bleu. The two wines I like the best with pizza are champagne and barolo.

Christmas Day I went to a friend’s house for dinner and they opened up a magnum of Perrier-Jouet Yellow label NV. It was very toasty and went well with the puff pastry stuffed with foig gras.

I hope that 2009 brings more great Champagne tastings.


Filed under Champagne

2 responses to “On Champagne

  1. Dear Charles, are you sure Ayala’s “Cuvée Perle” uses Merlot ? 🙂

    All the best in the New Year!

    • charlesscicolone

      Ciao, Andrzej
      Buon Anno
      I must have been drinking too much Champagne,the text has been corrected.

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