Archive for July, 2005

Champagne

Monday, July 4th, 2005

I won’t bore you with the mundane details of our trip to Champagne. However, it was wonderful to tour not only production facilities and talk to various winemkaers, but we were also exposed to several different vineyards and current viticulture practices either in use, or under investigation. The following list is not exhaustive, but I only wrote notes for a few of the wines, as I had opportunity. Almost half of the wine we tried were accompanied with food; fish, pork, duck, all in cream based sauces paired beautifully with the bubbly. (The scores below is out of 10 and was an arbitrary rating I gave based on my own impressions, and the impressions of a few students with whom I was tasting).

Moet & Chandon: Due to their shear size, and my alacrity for small wineries, I was bound to be biased against their wines. However, I was impressed not only with the wines, but the viticulturist and enologist who hosted us.
Brut Imperial (6) - Typical Champagne. Aromatically just ok, slightly yeasty, slightly oxidized with just hints of citrus fruits. The mounth however was quite fresh starting and finishing with lemon. Good length with a crisp tart finish.
Brut Imperial Rose (7) - Fresh red berries (strawberries?) some anise, lots of Pinot character. In the mouth, this wine was quite viscous and weighty, especially in the mid-palate with slightly less acid than the Brut Imperial. The flavors lingered for a while. Yummy.
Nectar Imperial (8) - I found this wine very interesting. At first I thought it might be oxidized, but then realized it was more like caramelized nuts, honey, glazed fruits, or even like a warm croissant. Throughout other tastings in Champagne I feel like I began to learn that the ‘oxidized (aldehydic, rotten apples)’ character that some think is typical of Champagne is probably closely linked to the toasted, glazed fruit, honey aroma. It just seemed the line between the two was thin, and that some producers were dancing on the edge of being one or the other. This wine was like that, but ultimately I thought the flavors were more interesting, with a lot of richness and complexity. In the mouth, the flavors were as described for the nose but add a little cirtus with a good crisp, fresh middle and finish. This is a demi-sec and might be just a little too sweet, but in the end this was the most remarkable of the 3 Moet and Chandon wines.

Duval Leroy, Fleur de Champagne 1997 (7.5): Very nice overall. Croissant, toasted nuts, with hints of lemon. In the mouth it was quite fresh, crisp, with citrus flavors lingering at the end. I know a ‘97 is not that old for Champagne, but I was still impressed with the fresh fruit of this wine of almost 8 years. This wine was paired with Mousseline de Poissons, a la Creme de Saumon (read lots of butter and cream with Salmon). An excellent pairing.

Christian Busin, Brut Tradition (6) - 100% Pinot noir. This wine scored almost all its points in the mouth. Great weight, viscous, creamy, with a lengthy and tart finish. But the nose was just ok, slightly oxidized. It did pair well with the Magret de Canard Sauce au poivre vert (again read juicy fatty duck with a butter, cream based sauce…with more cream).

An interesting aspect of travelling to Champagne with young, inquisitive German wine students is that helpful discussion was generated by the direct questions of Germans who are used to an entirely different style of sparkling wine (’sekt’ for them). Sekt is often made from Riesling, very fruity and floral, or they say, ‘reductive.’ Whereas Champagne is oft characterised as an ‘oxidative’ style, more toasted, creamy, and slightly aldehydic. I like both at times but I gathered from the limited translation that some of the French may regard Sekt as too intense, too singular in its character, lacking finesse and subtlety. In contrast, the Germans might say Champagne is too oxidized, old, and subdued. In the end though, several of the Champagnes we had were enjoyed by all as more and more the discovery was made that oxidative (glazed fruits, honey, toasted nuts) is different than oxidized (aldehydes). At least I think. Opinions?