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Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 26, San Francisco

MW_logo.jpgI never liked Champagne until I had the really good stuff. For years I went to weddings and New Year's Eve bashes and dutifully tried all the bubbly, but didn't see what the fuss was about. My lack of experience with quality Champagne was understandable, given how much money I, and the people I hung out with, were typically spending on bubbly. 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.

Once I understood what I was missing, 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 Monday, September 26th. 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 3:00 PM upstairs at the Ferry Plaza Building for the annual Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting. Ordinarily I don't post about events so far in advance, but this one has limited tickets and is bound to sell out, for obvious reasons.

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. I just wish the good stuff just didn't cost so much.

In the meantime, we should go hang with the MW's and drink as much as they'll pour us.

Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting
Monday, September 26th, 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 (8)

amy wrote:
09.02.11 at 10:39 AM

I wanted to love this event, as I do love champagne. But I found it far too crowded to be enjoyable at all. Also, they seemed to have limited bottles, so at several tables we were told that certain bottles could not be opened yet and to come back later. But they seemed aware of the problem last year, so perhaps changes have been made?

V wrote:
09.04.11 at 6:23 AM

The first time I had champagne was at my wedding - it was incredible. Up to that point, I'd had only bruts and cavas. I'd like to also point out that the US has a completely separate standard for calling a beverage "Champagne" - it doesn't have to be from Champagne, France, oddly enough.

Alder wrote:
09.05.11 at 4:26 PM


You're quite mistaken, I believe. The US has signed on to EU regulations protecting place names, and the TTB (the government agency responsible for authorizing every bottle of liquor sold in this country) will not approve for sale any beverage that represents, or could be mistaken as suggesting, that it comes from one of these protected areas. The ONLY bottles of sparkling wine sold in the US that can bear the name "champagne" are a select few individual brands that contained the name PRIOR to this agreement (e.g. Korbel, and a few others).


Alder wrote:
09.05.11 at 4:37 PM


I think it was oversubscribed in some past years. Hopefully they'll keep ticket sales reasonable.

david pierson wrote:
09.05.11 at 9:44 PM

Curious Alder.. does it have to be champagne?? I've had some wonderful sparkling wines from CA that were half the price of champagne and just as good... lots of bubbles, dry, nice finish.. your thoughts???

Alder wrote:
09.05.11 at 10:35 PM

There are a few exceptional California Sparkling wines (J. Schramm, Joy!, Roederer Ermitage) but many of the "better" California sparkling wines can't hold a candle to decent Champagne, IMHO.

Macy wrote:
09.06.11 at 10:57 AM

I feel the same way about Champagne as you use to feel. I guess I will have to make it up to SF to check it our myself and see if I get the same results.

09.07.11 at 8:32 AM

Very crowded tasting, but I go every year. Too many wines to taste them all, especially with the crowds, so I cherry pick or decide to focus on a category like Blanc de Blancs and spend lots of time with them.

I doubt that it will be any different this year, but I will go back.

As for CA bubbles vs. Champagne, Alder has described the nomenclature issue that allows Korbel, among others to retain use of the name.

But I would humbly differ on his qualitative evaluation. The $20 CA bubblies are very close to and sometime better than the $40 French non-vintage Bruts. Great Champagne is a revelation, and I love it, but at the $20-40 end of the spectrum, I find CA wines kicking butt in blind tastings.

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