As much as we love all the classes on our calendar, we have a soft spot for our annual Champagne class. Our customers seem to as well, because we’ve had to start doing two sessions to satisfy the demand! Two evenings of bubbly? Well, twist our arms…
Every year we try to present a mix of big-name classic Champagnes and more unusual, under-the-radar producers to give you a balanced perspective on this most celebratory of beverages. Champagne can be an intimidating subject, so we try to take the mystery out of it by showing a wide range of styles and explaining some of the lingo attached to Champagne – that way, when you are in a restaurant or shop and want to splurge on that special bottle, you’ll know what you’re looking for.
We usually get about 50% toward that goal before the evening devolves into a big party. Bottles get just a smidge too warm and start festively frothing when opened, Doug gives up on making us all study maps of the Cote des Blancs, and we give into the holiday spirit and have a few more sips of our favorites.
At our first session, the crisp, edgy Gatinois rose Champagne stole the show. Unfortunately, any kind of pink wine makes folks suspicious – people see that color and think the wine is going to be sweet and boring. Not so with this beauty! With its notes of cranberry and rhubarb and smoky, mineral notes, this is a Champagne that can stand up to serious food.
Another new addition to our Champagne lineup was Coessens, a unique blanc de noir that wowed everyone with its complexity. Technically in Champagne, a blanc de noir can be made from either of the two red grapes commonly used in Champagne, Pinot Noir or the less-favored Pinot Meunier. Coessens, made by a small grower producer in Aube, is made from all Pinot Noir, and has the richer mouthfeel to prove it.
In our second session shortly after Christmas, we were reminded of how much we love the Guy Larmandier Blanc de Blancs. Blanc de Blancs are generally made with all Chardonnay grapes, as this sparkler is, and are considered to be the lighter, more elegant counterpart to the fuller, more brooding blanc de noirs. A perfect wine for crispy appetizers – or popcorn with truffle oil!
Another Champagne that surprised us was the Egly-Ouriet Les Vignes de Vrigny. This is an unusual wine in that Pinot Meunier, usually considered a lesser blending grape in Champagne, is the star of this wine. It’s made from all Pinot Meunier, and we were all shocked by its depth and complexity. In addition to those intriguing blood orange notes mentioned in the review, we thought the mouthfeel was exceptionally round and almost buttery. A very impressive surprise from this small producer!
We hope those of you who attended had as much fun as we did, and that those of you who didn’t are inspired to keep the bubbly fun going this year! Who says it has to be New Years Eve or your anniversary to pop something special?