There’s this lure about Champagne; she seduces us with her fine bubbles, her lineage, her cache, chicness, and sometimes, that je ne sais quoi.
Somm’s adore her…in fact there’s not one wine professional out there who I know that doesn’t love champagne. For me, it was never the first thing I would reach for when I had company, or to serve for that special occasion. In my diploma days, where I shone through the fortified section, I struggled with the sparkling. Cava, Franciocorta, Champagne and other sparklers were my nemesis and finding those special nuances to tell one apart from the other usually escaped me. Or distinguishing what grapes make up the majority of the blend! Ugh! Although I passed the sparkling section, I never got to the point where I loved champagne, and didn’t I need a reason to serve it, or have it. As time passed, I realized that you never need a reason to serve, taste or drink champagne!
As of late, I’ve been spoiled because distributors are bringing out the bubbles to try to sell to us retailers, so I’ve been tasting a lot. And over time, I’ve come to be actually call out what the major grapes are! Meunier brings fruitiness to the blend, chardonnay will have that chalky, citrus, granite note, and pinot noir gives structure and body. Hmm…what’s happening here? 🙂 And I’ve discovered, that I prefer blanc de noir rather than blanc de blanc! I like the structured champagnes with the added fruitiness, with only a bit of that chalky limestone!
Then there’s my friend and our daily customer to ‘The Church of Hicks’ who loves champagne and also is more than happy to share with me a bottle (or two) with me! In fact, it was his 70th birthday, where I had the Krug Grand Cuvee. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing stuff…but I’m rather fond of grower champagne.
In the past, the small growers or families would supply their grapes to the big Champagne Houses like Bollinger, Roederer, Veuve Clicquot, Pol Roger…just to name a few. Now, we are seeing more of the growers making their own bubbles and doing a mighty fine job of it!
Champagne Lombard is in the heart of Epernay, and this family only uses the finest grapes in their cuvees. The extra brut is super dry with only 4 g/L of residual sugar, and the blend is 40% chardonnay, 40% meunier and 20% pinot noir, all from their premier cru sites. Amazing champagne with notes of lemon curd, brioche, crimini mushroom, toasted nuts – those beautiful notes that make champagne champagne! Alas, this was the last bottle and there is no more available in the province to order!
Champagne Ployez-Jacquemart is three generations of winemaking starting with husband and wife team Marcel Ployez and Yvonne Jacquemart in 1930. They work with the three main grapes of champagne in their premier and grand cru vineyards. The Extra Brut Passion has only 3 g/L RS with 44% pinot noir, 38% chardonnay and 18% meunier – another Blanc de Noir. Dryer than the Lombard, but more fruit up front with green apple and lemon-lime, biscuit and even hints of red berries! Fine, persistent bubble with a flavourful finish! Great price too at $68.95 on the shelf!
Champagne Collet started its life as a cooperative called Cogevi. In 1930, we see the wines taking on the name of the director of the company, Raoul Collet and the company making a major move to Ay, one of the villages at the heart of Champagne. Today, the modern technology combined with the historical significance of the Cogevi brand, has earned it great respect amongst champagne houses. It is still a cooperative, but their flagship brand is Champagne Collet. In 2021, they will celebrate their 100th anniversary! I had the opportunity to try both the brut, and the Vintage 2008! Meunier vs Chardonnay definitely at play here! Again, the brut was more fruit forward with 50% Meunier, 15-20% chardonnay and 15-20% pinot noir. Lots of toasted brioche with lemon lime. The vintage brut really kicked it up several notches with my nose and palate detecting more chardonnay. All that mineral chalkyness with smoke, flint and brioche coming through the 66% chardonnay, with beautiful structure coming through, and the 34% pinot noir adding toasted nuts and further complexity to the blend. The brut is $61.95 and the Vintage 2008 around $100/bottle. My dilemma will be which wine to order!
Some very famous people had some great things to say about champagne!
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right!” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Champagne is one of the elegant extras in life” – Charles Dickens
“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s champagne!” – Sir Winston Churchill
And of course…
“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.” –Lily Bollinger, former manager of the Bollinger Champagne house
I bet now your next bottle of champagne will be extra special! Santé!