Wine Tasting Dinner: Champagne



By Kori ~ November 16th, 2011.

The holidays always get me in the mood for sparkling wine. On Friday evening, we decided to get a jumpstart on the holiday season by featuring Champagne in our 101st wine tasting dinner. Champagne is the most well-known sparkling wine in the world, and 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. All six wines in this tasting were Brut (or dry, the most common style).

All of these Champagnes paired nicely with Mom’s dinner menu which included curried butternut squash soup, shrimp Louie salad, broiled lobster tails, roasted asparagus with balsamic browned butter, seasoned white, brown, wild, and red rice, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. While we would recommend all six wines, the top three were excellent and definitely stood above the rest. The Taittinger was the clear favorite. However, we had an interesting discussion around the dinner table after the wines and their prices were revealed. While all six wines were good, there are much better values to be found in domestic sparkling wines. So if your pocketbook doesn’t allow for spending over $40 for a bubbly, you might consider trying Domaine Ste. Michelle and Mountain Dome in Washington State, Argyle in Oregon, and Domaine Carneros in California.

I encourage you to pick up some Champagne or sparkling wine to enjoy as an aperitif at a holiday party, to take to relatives on Thanksgiving or Christmas, or to pop on New Year’s Eve. Cheers!

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

NV Taittinger Brut Champagne (Reims, Champagne, France): Medium straw yellow. Small, fairly fast bead of bubbles. Aromatic with apple, apricot, yeast, and floral notes on the nose. Apple, pear, lemon, and some creaminess come through on the palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with crisp acidity. Well-balanced with a long, refreshing finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Wine World (Seattle, Washington), $43; Available elsewhere, ~$47

NV Duval-Leroy Brut Champagne (Champagne, France): Pale to medium straw yellow. Small, fairly fast bead of bubbles. Nice nose with honeysuckle and fresh citrus aromas. Pear and more citrus notes come through on the palate. Dry and light-bodied with crisp acidity. Well-balanced with a long, refreshing finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Wine World (Seattle, Washington), $45; Available elsewhere, ~$35

NV Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne (Chouilly, Champagne, France): Pale straw yellow in color. Small, fast bead of bubbles. Nice nose with apple, pineapple, mango, and floral aromas. Tropical fruits, particularly papaya, and a hint of honey come through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with crisp 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: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $24; Available elsewhere, ~$32

NV Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Champagne (Reims, Champagne, France): Pale to medium straw yellow. Small, fast bead of bubbles. Aromatic with apple, lemon, and yeast on both the nose and palate. Dry and medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long, slightly bitter, finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Wine World (Seattle, Washington), $57; Available elsewhere, ~$52

NV Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne (Reims, Champagne, France): Medium yellow. Small, fairly fast bead of bubbles. A bit stinky with aromas of overripe apples and compost. Some minerality comes through on the palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with lively acidity and a medium to long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Wine World (Seattle, Washington), $36; Available elsewhere, ~$35

NV G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut Champagne (Reims, Champagne, France): Pale straw yellow. Small, very fast bead of bubbles. Apple, vegetal notes, especially Brussels sprouts, and a hint of sulfur come through on both the nose and palate. Dry and medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Wine World (Seattle, Washington), $45; Available elsewhere, ~$39


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

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