You might call me a born-again Champagne fanatic. There was a time when I didn't care for the stuff, but that was only because I had lived my life without ever tasting really good Champagne. Now, unfortunately, I've had the chance to understand the difference between the stuff you can get for $30 and the stuff costing around $200, and I live in a constant bittersweet state of longing that marks the lives of the truly devoted.
I've written before about the travesty of wine and its associations with upper class sensibilities in this country. Equally as tragic, and no doubt related to this phenomenon, we Americans seem to think that Champagne is really only for special occasions, and deprive ourselves of the joy and the food friendliness of one of the world's greatest wines. Given how well Champagne goes with fried food, the ubiquitous staple of most Americans' diets, we're missing out on some truly great wine experiences every day.
Almost weekly I find myself glaring at bottles of Syrah and Malbec on my cellar wall wishing I could turn them into bottles of bubbly. OK, so maybe it never gets quite that bad, but for whatever reason, I really have decided that I own far too little Champagne.
Which brings me to yesterday's
melee tasting of Champagne put on by the Institute of the Masters of Wine. Part benefit, part community outreach, their annual Champagne tasting is one of the highest quality wine tastings put on for the public each year. They bring in (as you will see below) many of the top Champagnes in the world (minus only a few names like Salon and Selosse, as well as a few top cuvĂ©es from the biggest houses) for the pleasure and education of about 200 attendees.
This year's tasting featured about 120 different wines, of which I got to slightly less than 100 before the evening wound up. My scores, and tasting notes on my favorites are below. Enjoy, and remember the immortal words of Mark Twain: "Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right."
WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
1999 Bollinger Brut "La Grande AnnĂ©e." $110. Where to buy?
1995 Henriot Brut "CuvĂ©e des Enchanteleurs." $130. Where to buy?
2000 Dom PĂ©rignon Brut. $120. Where to buy?
1998 Dom PĂ©rignon Brut RosĂ©. $300. Where to buy?
1998 Taittinger Brut "Comtes de Champagne" Blanc de Blancs. $230. Where to buy?
WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2001 Delbeck Brut. $60. Where to buy?
1999 Alfred Gratien Brut MillĂ©simĂ©. $??
1995 Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires. $90. Where to buy?
1998 Lanson "Noble CuvĂ©eÂ de Lanson". $??
1997 Lanson "Noble CuvĂ©eÂ de Lanson" Blanc de Blancs. $??
2002 Perrier-Jouet Brut "Fleur de Champagne" RosĂ©. $250. Where to buy?
1998 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. $175. Where to buy?
NV Camilles Saves Brut "CuvĂ©e RosĂ©". $55. Where to buy?
2003 Taittinger Brut "Comtes de Champagne" RosĂ©. $199. Where to buy?
WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2000 Vilmart & Cie. "Coeur de CuvĂ©e"
NV Ayala CuvĂ©e RosĂ© Nature
2002 Besserat de Bellefon "CuvĂ©e des Moines" Brut
1998 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame
2002 Deutz Blanc des Blancs
2002 Drappier "Grande SendrĂ©e"
2000 Drappier Blanc de Blanc "Signature"
NV Rene Geoffroy "CuvĂ©e Volupte"
NV Godme Brut RosĂ©
NV Alfred Gratien Brut "CuvĂ©e Paradis"
NV Alfred Gratien Brut Blanc de Blancs
1998 Henriot Brut MillĂ©simĂ©
NV Krug "Grande CuvĂ©e"
NV A. Margaine "Le Brut"
NV Monmarthe Brut "PrivilĂšge"
1998 G.H. Mumm Brut "R. Lalou"
2000 Perrier-Jouet Brut "Fleur de Champagne"
1999 Pol Roger Brut Blanc de Blancs
2000 Pol Roger Brut RosĂ©
1999 Pol Roger Brut
NV Ruinart Blanc de Blancs
NV Ruinart RosĂ©
NV Vilmart & Cie. "Grand Cellier"
NV Vilmart & Cie. Brut "Cuvee Rubis" RosĂ©
WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
NV Besserat de Bellefon "CuvĂ©e des Moines" Brut
NV Henri Billiot Brut RĂ©serve
NV Chartogne-Taillet Brut "CuvĂ©e Ste. Anne"
2002 Veuve Clicquot
1999 Charles Ellner Brut MillĂ©simĂ©
2000 Gimonnet et Fils "Oenophile Maxi Brut"
2004 Gimonnet et Fils Brut "CuvĂ©e Gastronome" Blanc de Blancs
NV Alfred Gratien Brut
NV Alfred Gratien Brut RosĂ© "CuvĂ©e Paradis"
NV Piper Heidsieck RosĂ© Sauvage
NV Lallement Brut "RĂ©serve"
NV G.H. Mumm "Mumm de Cramant" Blanc de Blancs
1999 Bruno Paillard "Brut Assemblage"
NV Bruno Paillard Brut "PremiĂšre CuvĂ©e"
NV Pierre Peters Brut "CuvĂ©e RĂ©serve" Blanc de Blancs
2003 Pierre Peters Brut Millesime Blanc de Blancs
NV Louis Roederer Brut "PremiĂšre"
NV Camilles Saves Brut "Carte Blanche"
2002 Taittinger MillĂ©simĂ©
NV Varnier-Fanniere Brut "Grand Cru" Blanc de Blancs
WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2002 Ayala "La Perle" Nature
NV Goutorbe "CuvĂ©e Prestige"
NV Hebrart Brut Selection
1997 Lanson "Gold Label" Brut
NV Lanson "Noble CuvĂ©eÂ de Lanson" RosĂ©
NV Lanson "Rose Label" Brut RosĂ©
NV Milan Brut "Speciale" Blanc de Blancs
2003 MoĂ«t et Chandon "Grand "
NV Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs "RĂ©serve PrivĂ©e "
NV Bruno Paillard Brut RosĂ© "PremiĂšre CuvĂ©e"
NV Perrier-Jouet "Blason" Brut RosĂ©
2000 Perrier-Jouet Brut "Fleur de Champagne" Blanc de Blancs
WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
NV Aubrey Brut
NV Besserat de Bellefon "CuvĂ©e des Moines" Blanc de Blancs
NV Besserat de Bellefon "CuvĂ©e des Moines" RosĂ©
NV Bollinger Brut "SpĂ©ciale CuvĂ©e"
NV Delbeck Brut "Heritage"
NV Drappier Brut Nature Zero Dosage
NV Rene Geoffroy Brut "Empreinte"
NV Henriot Blanc "Souverain" Blanc de Blancs
NV Monmarthe Brut "Secret de Famille"
NV Pehu-Simonet Brut "Selection"
WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
NV Gaston Chiquet Brut Tradition
NV Deutz Brut
NV Perrier-Jouet "Grand Brut"
WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
NV Veuve Clicquot Brut "Yellow Label"
NV Drappier Brut "Carte d'Or"
NV Godme Brut Blanc de Noirs
NV Goutorbe Brut RosĂ©
NV Monmarthe Brut "RosĂ© de Ludes" RosĂ©
WINES SCORING BETWEEN 7.5 AND 8
NV Veuve Clicquot Brut RosĂ©
NV Drappier RosĂ© "Val des Demoiselles"
NV Henriot Brut RosĂ©
NV G.H. Mumm Brut RosĂ©Ă„
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