Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Champagne tasting

I am usually very busy around Christmas but luckily this year, I was able to attend our friend Arnaud's annual Champagne tasting. And this year, Arnaud had a special treat for us: he had invited Gary Westby, the K&L Wine Merchants Champagne specialist, to talk about a selection of seven different Champagnes, all coming from small producers that make wine mostly from their own land.

For this special tasting, Arnaud had also prepared some tasty hors d'oeuvres, canapes and petits fours.

We started the tasting with the Champagne Deutz Brut Classic. Deutz is a small Champagne house recently bought by Roederer and the Brut Classic is their entry level wine. With an aromatic nose of Granny Smith apples and a crisp, firm, and toasty palate, it was a Champagne of character and an excellent aperitif.

It was followed by the Champagne Franck Bonville Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs. This Champagne is made of Chardonnay grapes coming from the winery's own vineyard in Avize, one of the Champagne Grands Crus. It was crisp with clean mineral flavors, notes of green apple, and had a dry, zesty finish. With its high acidity and minerality, this Champagne should go well with oysters or shellfish.

Our third Champagne was another Blanc de Blancs, this time from the Lancelot-Pienne Champagne house. The domaine is located in the village of Cramant, one of the best terroirs in the Côtes de Blancs. Made of 100% old vine Chardonnay. the 1996 Champagne Lancelot Pienne Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvée Marie Lancelot was flowery, full and soft with an elegant finish, and absolutely delicious with the salmon mousse. This was one of the group's favorite.

Our next wine was the Champagne Ariston Brut Carte Blanche, a classic Champagne blend made of 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier. The Ariston house makes Champagne exclusively from its own estate vineyard in Brouillet, a tiny village in the far northwest corner of Champagne. This is a unique terroir: the vineyard is located on steep sunny slopes that give the vines a better chance to ripen, and the soil is rich in shellfish fossils, which provide mineral flavors to the wine. This was a very food-friendly wine and with its aromatic nose, and rich, mouth-filling palate, this was one of my favorite.

The next Champagne was another Grand Cru. The Champagne Michel Arnould Brut Réserve Grand Cru Verzenay comes from Verzenay, the farthest north of all of the Grand Crus. Verzenay is an amazing, north-facing location where the Pinot ripens thanks to a mysterious warm air current — that's what some of the locals say. A blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, the wine had an aromatic nose of honey, pear, apple and blackcurrant bud. On the palate, it was rich and slightly sweeter than the others. It should go well with a fruit tart, or with some Asian food.

With the 1985 Champagne René Collard Millésimé Cuvée Reservée, we had the most extraordinary wine of the evening. This Champagne was an unusual blend of 90% Pinot Meunier and 10% Chardonnay. It had a deep golden color, a smoky nose with notes of red berries, and on the palate, it surprisingly tasted like a sherry! A perfect match for our foie gras toasts.

The evening ended with petits fours and a Champagne rosé. Made of 100% biodynamic Pinot Noir grapes, the 1993 Champagne Fleury Brut Rosé Fleur de l'Europe had an exquisite salmon color and a delicate red fruit nose. On the palate, it was dry, elegant, and delicious with the hazelnut cookies.

A warm thank you to Arnaud, Gary and our hosts, Sabrina and Marty for this exceptional and festive evening!

Arnaud and Gary

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your notes Catherine!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!


Gary Westby said...

Thank you so much for the detailed account of a wonderful evening!