Tasting Group: Champagne



By Kori ~ November 24th, 2010.

Since we live in Washington State and often drink wines from Washington State, we want to make sure that we continue to hone our knowledge of the entire world of wine and maintain well-rounded palates in order to make us even more objective when we evaluate wines from Washington State. Therefore, we are thoroughly enjoying our Wine Peeps Tasting Group which includes what we think is an excellent peer group of knowledgeable wine lovers to taste, share, and learn more about wine together. Unlike our monthly wine tasting dinners in which the guests rotate, this tasting group includes people who are committed to getting together once a month which we believe benefits all of us. In addition to trying varieties and regions that we do not taste frequently, the other main difference between this group and our wine tasting dinners is that each group member brings a bottle consistent with the month’s theme so no one knows all the wines in the blind tasting.

The holidays always get me in the mood for sparkling wine. Last week, our tasting group met and explored Champagne. Champagne is the most well-known sparkling wine in the world, but it can only be called Champagne if it is produced in the Champagne region of France. The Champagne region is one of the coldest and most northerly winegrowing regions, which is why it is best suited to sparkling wine. Champagne is produced from any or all of the three grape varieties allowed for sparkling wine production in the Champagne region: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The majority of Champagne, about 85 percent, is non-vintage and produced in a “house style” by blending wines from several vintages. In the best years, a vintage Champagne is produced in which all of the wine is from the year indicated on the bottle.

We tasted six bottles of Champagne, and the consensus favorite was the 1996 Moet et Chandon Dom Perignon Brut Champagne. Colby and I were glad to see this wine do well in the blind tasting because it has special significance to us personally. It is our “anniversary” wine. Each year, we enjoy a bottle of Dom Perignon to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The tradition began when members of our extended family gave us a bottle of Dom Perignon and made a special toast at our rehearsal dinner. The 1996 vintage itself is not significant for us other than we purchased a case of it several years ago and have been working through the case each anniversary since then. We have occasionally opened a bottle of it for other occasions such as this tasting. We have five bottles left and were thrilled to find that it is still drinking well at 14 years old.

If you like Champagne and enjoy history, you might be interested in a book I read last year, Champagne: How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times by Don and Petie Kladstrup. It was a fascinating read and would make a great stocking stuffer.

Unfortunately, one of the bottles in our tasting was corked so you will only see tasting notes below for five sparkling wines. All five would make good choices to enjoy during the upcoming holidays. From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

1996 Moet et Chandon Dom Perignon Brut Champagne (Champagne, France): Pale to medium, golden yellow. Small, fast bead of bubbles. Very aromatic with citrus fruits and floral aromas on the nose. Lemon, lime, yeasty, and nutty flavors come through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with very crisp acidity. Well-balanced and elegant with a long, lingering finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: K&L Wine Merchants (California), $125; Available elsewhere, $205 to $300

NV Deutz Brut Classic Champagne (Champagne, France): Pale, straw yellow. Small, fast bead of bubbles. Aromatic with cheesecake and milky aromas on the nose; lime, yeasty, and nutty flavors on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with lively acidity. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Whole Foods (Seattle, Washington), $42; Available elsewhere, $29 to $55

NV Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne (Champagne, France): Pale, straw yellow. Small, fast bead of bubbles. Aromatic with corn and play-doh aromas that lead to flavors of corn, bread, and green apple. Dry and medium-bodied with lively acidity and a long, slightly bitter, finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Available from various retailers, $36 to $60

NV Henri Abele Brut Champagne (Champagne, France): Medium straw yellow. Small, fast bead of bubbles. Nutty and yeasty aromas on the nose. Lemon, lime, bread, and nutty flavors on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $36.79; Available elsewhere, $27 to $40

NV Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut Champagne (Champagne, France): Medium yellow. Medium, fairly fast bead of bubbles. Vegetal, petrol, and applesauce aromas on the nose. Beer, yeasty, and creamy flavors come through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Available from various retailers, $29 to $33


Filed under: Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, French Wine, Sparkling Wine, Tasting Group, Wines Over $25

Reader's Comments

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