Category Archives: Henriot

Blanc de Blancs with Champagne Ed

“Champagne Ed” Mc Carthy, author of Champagne for Dummies, presented 17 Blanc de Blancs Champagnes for the Wine Media Guild’s tasting and lunch at Felidia restaurant.

Ed Mc Carthy

Ed Mc Carthy

Ed said that Champagne Blanc de Blancs (white from white) can only be made from the Chardonnay grape. Many Champagne houses believe in the traditional philosophy in Champagne that blending is better and therefore do not make a Blanc de Blancs. About 5% of all Champagne made today is Blanc de Blancs. Even though most Blanc de Blancs are lighter in style than the traditional blended ones, they can age and are best from 8 to 10 years from the vintage date.

Fuller bodied Blanc de Blancs from the Grand Cru villages, such as Krug Clos du Mesnil, Salon and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, can age for 15 to 20 years.


Wine Media Guild Members Tasting Champagne

Champagne has a 300-year history but there was no Blanc de Blancs before 1920. It was Eugene-Aime Salon, founder of the house of Salon, that made his first vintage in 1921. Though popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Blanc de Blancs almost disappeared after Salon’s death in 1943. Taittinger in 1952 came out with the now famous Comtes de Champagne, a Blanc de Blancs, and the vintage appeared in 1957. Blancs de Blancs was here to stay.

The dosage for these lighter in style Blanc de Blancs is usually 5g/liter. It is the lightness and dryness that makes them perfect as an aperitif or with a first course like fish and seafood. Most Blanc de Blancs are more expensive than traditional Champagne because of the high price of the Chardonnay grapes.

Ed said that the great years for vintage Champagne are 1996, 2002 and 2008, which are just coming on the market now.

 The ChampagnesIMG_6617

Marion-Bosser Blanc de Blancs, Extra Brut $55. This is one of the few biodynamic houses in Champagne. The winery is on the right bank of the Great Valley of the Marne, against the peaks of the Montagne de Remis. The vineyards are all Premier Cru. The soil is chalk beleminter from the Mesozic era. The wine spends three years on the lees. The dosage is 5g/l. It is a elegant Champagne with hints of apple and good minerality.IMG_6621

A.R. Lenoble Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru NV $55. Ed said this was one of the few independent and family run houses in Champagne. The 18 hectares of vines are all situated on Grand Cru and Premier Cru lands. The cuvee contains 13% of reserve wine aged in oak barrels for 5 to 8 months. The wine spends 4 years on the lees. This is a Champagne with hints of apple, pear, lemon and a touch of toast. IMG_6619

Ayala Blanc de Blancs 2007 $78. Grapes come from five villages in the Cote des Blancs: Oger, Avize, Cramart, Vertus and Cuis. The estate is 35 hectares in the heart of the Grand Cru of Montagne de Reims. The wine spends 6 years in the lees before release. Ed said that they were now owned by Bollinger but everything is done on the Ayala estate. This is Champagne with hints of citrus, pineapple and white flowers.IMG_6480

Bruno Paillard Réserve privée Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV $65 made from 100% Chardonnay grapes from the Còte des Blancs, all with a 100% classification. Ed said they use a fermentation method established generations ago for Champagne, “Demi Mousse.” When the still wine is decanted for the second fermentation in the bottle, less sugar and yeast is added than for traditional Champagne. This results in a less powerful bottle fermentation, producing a pressure of 4.5 kg instead of the normal 5 or 6. The dosage is 5 grams residual sugar. Ed said that this is perfect for Blanc de Blancs because it enhances the finesse of the Chardonnay and adds freshness and elegance. This is a complex elegant Champagne with an array of aromas and flavors with hints of citrus, white fruit, a touch of brioche, toasted almonds and good minerality. It has a long finish and very pleasant aftertaste.IMG_6618

G.H. Mumm de Cramant NV $66. There are almost 218 hectares of vineyards rated 98%, which are mainly on the eight most renowned Grand Crus: Aÿ, Biuzy, Ambonnay, Verzy, Cramant, and Mailly-Champagne. 25% of the production comes from here, 75% is from independent growers. The grapes are picked between the end of September and mid October; about 100 days after the vines have flowered. As required by champagne appellation rules, picking is by hand. After pressing, the must is stored in vats for two weeks between 18°C and 20°C alcoholic fermentation. Malolactic fermentation always takes place but is not required by the appellation rules. In the cellars the liqueur de triage triggers a second alcoholic fermentation and the bubbles gradually form. As the bubbles form, the pressure inside the bottle increases, reaching as much as 6 bars.

Ed said that in this wine there was less pressure so the bubbles were not as forceful. It was one of the first Blanc de Blancs Champagnes introduced in1930. It is fresh, crisp, dry, light bodied with nice fruit aromas and flavors and a touch of white peach.IMG_6616

 Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV $68. Chardonnay is the very soul of the winery with grapes coming mainly from the Cote des Blancs, and Montagne de Reims terroirs. In the cool of the underground chalk tunnels, the wine slowly matures in the bottle. In 1768 Ruinart acquired former Gallo-Roman chalk quarries (the Crayères), hollowed out under the city of Reims to a depth of 38 meters. The site extends over three levels with eight kilometers of galleries. There is a constant temperature of 11°C with no vibrations and a perfect humidity level. This is a Champagne with nice citrus aromas and flavors with hints of apple and apricot.IMG_6635

Henriot Blanc de Blancs NV $55. This is one of Ed’s favorite houses and one he feels does not get the attention it deserves. It is a blend of grapes from the Cote de Blancs and the villages of Mesnil, sur Oger, Avize, Chouilly and others. The assembly consists of 30% reserve wine, the percentage can change depending on the vintage. This is wine with hints of orange blossom, honey, apricot and a touch of brioche.IMG_6626

Deutz Blanc de Blancs 2007 $70. Ed said that even though the 2007 was drinking very nicely, the 2008 a better vintage, was going to be released at the same price. The firm is based in Ay, one of the 17 top-rated Grand Cru villages of Champagne. 75% of the grapes come from Grand and Premier Cru vineyards. The estate is spread over five villages. Each blend is in the same elegant signature bottle, in which it was aged on its lees for a minimum of three years. This is another of Ed’s favorites and also one that he feels is underrated. This is a Champagne that has a certain creaminess with hits of citrus fruit, white peach and a long finish.

Next time, the “bigger’ Blanc de Blancs,




Filed under Ayala, Blanc de Blancs Champagne, Bruno Paillard, Champagne, Deutz Blanc de Blances, G.H.Mumm de Cramant, Henriot, Marion-Briant Champagne, Perrier-Jouet, Ruinart Blanc de Blances

Champagne Ed McCarthy at the Wine Media Guild

Champagne Ed McCarthy at the Wine Media Guild

“Champagne is the most glorious beverage on the planet-at least it is for me,” is the opening line in Ed’s book Champagne for Dummies. Ed was the speaker at the Wine Media Guild’s annual holiday Champagne tasting and lunch. The only thing Ed likes better than talking about Champagne is drinking it. Ed arranged for the members of the WMG and their guests to taste and then drink with lunch an impressive array of Prestige Cuvee Champagne.

The Whole Salmon

The Wine Media Guild tasting and lunch always takes place at Felidia Restaurant in NYC. All three courses at lunch featured salmon including ravioli and the main course, a 26-pound salmon, which was quite a sight when it was brought into the dining room.

Ed explained that a Prestige Cuvée is the best Champagne produced by the Champagne house. These wines are made from the best and most expensive grapes from the best vineyards, usually from all Grand Cru or a blend of Grand Cru and Premier Cru villages. They are aged longer in the producer’s cellar than their other Champagnes.

14 Prestige Champagnes were included in the tasting and lunch:

Ayala 2002 La Perle d’ Ayala Nature  Made from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir from Grand Gru and Premiere Cru vineyards. 2002 was a great year for Champagne. Ed said that it was the best year since 1996 and these were the two best vintages in the last 20 years. In 2002, the beginning of the year was a little difficult because of a lot of rain particularly in July. Indian Summer started on September 7th, which allowed for an exceptional maturity for the grapes. The harvest was average in volume, but the quality of the fruit was excellent, allowing for this wine to be made without dosage. The wine is aged for at least 5 years in the cellar and is aged under real cork, rare in Champagne today. Elegant small bubbles, light style with hints of white fruit and citrus, dry with good acidity.$145

Alfred Gratien NV “Cuvée Paradis” Produced from 65% Chardonnay, 18% Pinot Noir and 17%Pinot Meunier. This is a small house and their wines are very difficult to find in this country. The wine is fermented in 228 liter oak barrels for 6 months and spends 6 years in bottle. This is a non-vintage prestige cuvée and Ed found it to be elegant and more sophisticated and classier than some of the very good, but heavier Vintage Brutes. It has aromas and flavors of white fruit, honey and nuts. Ed described it as elegant and having intensely concentrated and complex flavors with hints of white fruit, toast and gingerbread, and a long aftertaste. $130

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2000 Blanc de Blancs The grapes are pressed immediately in presses located in the vineyards. The first pressing, known as cuvee is followed by two more pressings known as the first and second “tailles”. Only the juice from the “cuvee” goes into this wine. Temperature controlled fermentation takes place and about 5% of the wine is matured for a few months in 225 litter new oak casks. Prior to disgorgement the wine is aged for 9 or 10 years. Ed said that this was a good but not a great year for champagne but the wine was showing very well and it is their flagship Champagne. He described it as being full and rich.  It was toasty with hints of white fruit, good acidity and a long lingering finish. $130

Perrier-Jouet “Fleur de Champagne” 2002 50% Made from Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier in the popular “Flower Bottle”. The wine needs some more age before it can really be appreciated.$160

Piper- Heidsieck “Rare” 2002  Made from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay from twelve 100% rated Grand Cru Villages. This needs at least 15 years from the vintage date to develop fully. It was interesting because I found aromas and flavors of spice and ginger with citrus fruit and good acidity. $175

Roederer “Cristal” 2004  55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay. Ed said that it is made with grapes from their own vineyards, almost all of which are Grand Cru. The best champagne Ed had last year was the 1988 Crystal. It seems that most of the Prestige Cuvee champagnes need at least 15 years from the vintage date to be ready to drink especially those from the 2002 vintage. This was a big,rich champagne and I have to agree with Ed that it is too young. $195

G.H. Mumm “Cuvée René LaLou” 1998   The wine is 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir.  This wine was ready to drink and I did not think it will improve with age. $155

Gosset  “Célébris” 1998  Made from 64% Chardonnay 35% Pinot Noir. They avoid malolatic fermentation and always perform riddling and disgorging of prestige cuvees and large formats by hand.  Ed described it as a delicately flavored champagne, with intense tiny bubbles and wonderful floral aromas with vanilla and lime flavors and a great aftertaste $155

Laurent-Perrier “Grand Siecle” NV    Made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. I believe Ed said it was from three different vintages. This was one of my favorites and the best buy at $115

Deutz “Cuvée William Deutz” 1999 62% Pinot Noir 30% Chardonnay and 8% Pinot Meunier This wine is drinking very well right now. It was one of Ed’s favorite wines at the tasting and I have to agree. $175

Pol Roger “Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill”1999  $195 Made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30 % Chardonnay from their Grand Cru vineyards. Ed felt it still needs 4 or 5 more years to be ready. He described it as being rich, firm and austere but also with finesse and complexity. This was another of his favorite wines and I have to agree. $195

Bruno Paillard Nec-Plus-Ultra (N. P. U.) 1995 Made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. It is only made in great vintages and the grapes come from 5 Grand Cru villages. Ed said they only use the first pressing. The wine is fermented in small oak barrels and then rests in these barrels for 9 months. The wine remains on the lees for at least ten years. On the back label there is the disgorgement date so you know when the wine left the winery. The dosage is reduced to a minimum. The wine had flavors and aromas of ginger, honey orange blossom and a hint of brioche on the palate. This was the most expensive wine at the tasting.


Charles Heidsieck “Blanc des Millénaires 1995 $ Blanc de Blancs.  Ed said that it was an excellent champagne with surprising weight and power for a Blanc de Blancs $185

Henriot “Cuvée des Enchanteleurs 1995  Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from six of the most prestigious Grand Cru vineyards.  Ed said it was excellent and one of his favorites. It was my favorite Champagne of the tasting. It is rich with citrus aromas and flavors and hints of wild peach, hazelnut and a touch of honey. It is aromatic with a great finish and aftertaste. $ 145

Last year Ed was the speaker for a tasting and lunch for a group called the NY Wine Press. I attended as a guest. I must like this wine because it was my favorite at that tasting also.


Filed under Ayala, Bruno Paillard, Champagne, Henriot, William Deutz