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09.21.2009

Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 28, San Francisco

I need to come clean about something. It wasn't too many years ago that I really didn't care for Champagne. After all the weddings and at least 15 New Years Eves and countless other occasions, I was pretty underwhelmed with the stuff. It was astringent, chalky and the pleasure of the bubbles didn't really make up for the flavor.

But then one day someone handed me a glass (I don't remember exactly what it was) and I came to a horrible, immediate realization. Up until that point I had just never had any MW_logo.jpgGOOD Champagne.

My lack of experience with quality Champagne was perfectly understandable at the time, given how much money I, and the people I hung out with, were typically spending on all our wine, sparkling and otherwise. It's a sad reality of the wine world that by and large most quality Champagne starts at about $35 to $40 a bottle, and the really good stuff starts in the $60 to $80 price range.

I quickly did everything I could to correct my misguided understanding of what the Champagne world had to offer, but it was not an easy task. There are very few opportunities to taste a lot of Champagnes side-by-side, even if you are a member of the trade. As a consumer, such opportunities are incredibly rare, especially compared to the relative frequency of opportunities to taste, say, as many Zinfandels as you want, or a lot of Rhone Varietals.

All of which brings me to next Monday, September 28th. If you are interested in giving yourself a little education when it comes to Champagne, or if you're educated already and simply want to soak yourself in a few bubbles, then you ought to be in line at 5:00 PM upstairs at the Ferry Plaza Building on 9/28 for the annual Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting.

Put on by the Institute for the Masters of Wine as both a fundraising as well as a general outreach event, this tasting offers an incredible opportunity to taste some of the world's best Champagnes, poured by some of the world's most knowledgeable wine experts. The last one of these tastings I attended, all the top cuvees from Dom Perignon, Salon, Taittinger, Bollinger, Roederer and more were on offer. The Institute claims that this tasting is "the most prestigious tasting of Champagne in North America," and who is going to argue with...The Institute?

Of course, I'm now officially a Champagne fan, and my love for good Champagne has been deepening for several years. I kid you not when I say that not a week goes by when I don't think to myself that I should be buying, cellaring, and drinking more Champagne. And just as soon as we get through this recession, that's exactly what I'm going to do.

In the meantime, I'm going to go hang with the MWs and taste as much as they'll pour me next week. You should too.

Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting
Monday, September 28th, 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Ferry Building Marketplace
One Ferry Building, Second Floor
San Francisco, California 94111
ph. 913-385-7376

Tickets for this event are $50 and should be purchased in advance online (the event will most likely sell out, as there is limited capacity). Proceeds benefit the Institute for the Masters of Wine, and in particular their scholarships for aspiring students, I believe.

Comments (5)

Jamie wrote:
09.22.09 at 3:04 AM

I had exactly the same experience, although I had my "hang on a minute" moment when I tried Graham Beck Methode Cap Classique - South African sparkling made using the Champenoise method. "New World" sparkling made using the traditional French method can be just as good, and substantially cheaper!

Richard wrote:
09.22.09 at 6:07 AM

I too have not been a huge fan of champagne.. normally reaching for a red dry wine instead. However, I had the opportunity to try a Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle this Summer. Whoa .. this was different to just about any I had tasted before with vibrant tropical fruit, creamy mouthfeel, and delicious finish. Would love to try more like that one!

Dylan wrote:
09.23.09 at 8:10 AM

Based on your recent post about the "average consumer" I have a feeling that many people will not have the opportunity to taste the good stuff you mentioned. However, this event does look like a great opportunity for people who are in the area. Do you make a concerted effort to drink champagne on non-celebrations, or do the bubbles still flow only within the bounds of NYE and Weddings?

Alder wrote:
09.23.09 at 9:21 AM

Dylan,

I try to drink Champagne as often as I can afford it. At the moment, that's not a lot, but yes, I'm very much against the idea that Champagne is just for celebrations. It is one of the most food friendly wines in existence.

Alder

Joanna Breslin wrote:
09.27.09 at 5:08 PM

I am fond of Champagne and would love to "hang out with the MW's". The choice of the date, however, was seemingly made without considering that Monday is Yom Kippur. I am not a particularly observant Jew, but I feel that it would be quite inappropriate for me to be present at this event. Surely the most prestigious tasting of Champagne in North America could have been planned more thoughtfully.

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