A Night in Reims (Champagne Tasting)

by Abigail

Champagne is a drink of beauty; It’s delicate, yet unapologetically powerful in its elegance. It’s a wine style that should be celebrated more, any day of the week, not only consumed on special occasions.

Champagne became known as a celebratory wine during its popularity in the Belle Epoque, a period of time between the end of the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 and the beginning of World War One in 1914. It was an era filled with optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity, and innovation.  During this period, Champagne was consumed in plenty and became part of the celebration myth that it is still wrapped up in today.

We open a bottle on new years eve, at graduation and weddings, yet it’s not widely consumed on other occasions. This tasting was to show the beauty of Champagne, to see it as versatile as other wine styles, and to show how unique champagne can be.
In this tasting, I wanted to pour everything we have to the shelves, but unfortunately, I couldn’t. Instead, I decided to show Champagne in a few different stages and styles; Aperitif, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Vintage. The reason for doing this was to exemplify the difference between each and every style of champagne, without pigeonholing into one characteristic.

Here is the lineup that we tasted our way through!

Champagne Pol Cochet Symbiose NV
A beautiful organic Champagne and a Kensington Wine Market exclusive! “On the nose, its aromas of orange and honey evolve towards notes of mango and mandarin. The palate is fresh, full-bodied, revealing vanilla flavours and lemon meringue. The finish is long and persistent,” according to the Champagne house. Serve chilled, as an aperitif or with a dessert such as lemon meringue pie. Mostly Pinot Noir (65%), and the rest is Chardonnay.

Champagne Jacque Lassaigne Les Vignes de Montgueux NV
This is Lassaigne’s entry-level Champagne as meant as an aperitif. Fresh, delightful and wonderfully complex. The grapes are harvested by hand—from 9 different sites—at their maximum ripeness before being destemmed & gently pressed. The fruit undergoes complete malolactic fermentation & no sulphites are added to the blend. The wine is aged in new & old barrels for 12 to 24 months and held in bottle for 1 to 5 years until it is disgorged, corked & released.
Pale straw in the glass with lovely mineral, dried fruit and citrus zest aromatics that reflect the purest expression of the Montgueux terroir. The palate is vibrantly alive with crisp citrus and melon flavours that are backed by deft acidity & dazzling minerality. The finish resonates with succulent citrus notes.

Champagne Laherte Freres Rose de Meunier NV
Pink bubbles for a special occasion, or any time you just want to celebrate a day in style. This one comes from the Laherte family; they both grow the grapes and make the Champagne, which means this one is a “grower Champagne” — rare, in these days of big Champagne houses. This Rosé de Saignee is produced with the Pinot Meunier grape variety which comes from plots situated in “Les Beaudiers.” A beautiful aperitif! Aurélien Laherte is one of the hottest growers in Champagne today.

Champagne Marie Courtin Eloquence 2013
A Kensington Wine Market exclusive! Dominique Moreau took over a small vineyard of mostly 40 to 50-year-old vines with a vision of creating single-vineyard, single varietal, single vintage Champagnes from biodynamically grown grapes- farmed with meticulous care and vinified au naturel. Brut Eloquence (100% Chardonnay) is at first rather cool and inward, then explodes on the palate with great intensity. It is a fabulous wine endowed with tons of persistence and sheer energy. The aromas and flavours build towards the rich, generous finish. The winery is named after Moreau’s grandmother Marie Courtin.

Champagne Ulysse Collin Les Maillons Blanc de Noir NV (Favourite wine of the evening)
“Insanely beautiful…Beguiling, totally fascinating,” according to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, which gave this fabulous Champagne 95 points. Sweet red berries, rich citrus, wax, flowers, and subtle spices waft from the glass, but the Maillons is all about weightless, crystalline purity, tension, and grace. From a purely textural standpoint, the Maillons stands apart for the finesse of its mousse and its exceptional overall harmony. Olivier Collin crafts beguiling, totally fascinating Champagnes from his tiny facility in the sleepy town of Congy. The wines are fermented and aged in barrel (with some lees stirring) and bottled without fining or filtration. Between 20 and 40% of the wines, each year are kept back as reserves. This Cuvee is a Pinot Noir from a 6-hectare “lieu-dit” called Maillons, which has heavy clay soils over chalk. Olivier owns 2.5 hectares here, and his vines average 40 years old. It’s a truly amazing wine, with lots of personality and character.

Champagne Dumangin Vintage 2006
A grower-producer in the heart of Chigny-les-Rose, Giles Dumangin has champagne coursing through his veins. Dating back to the 1650s, the Dumangin’s have always worked with the vines of Champagne, but it wasn’t until 1890 when Hippolyte Dumangin created Champagne Dumangin in the 1er Cru vineyards of Chigny-les-Roses. Five generations later, Champagne Dumangin is producing an array of champagnes, from their classic feminine style to their newer, high-end cuvees. Their Vintage Cuvee is a blend of Chardonnay (54%) and Pinot Noir (46%), and with 9 years en tirage (on the yeast), this wine shows beautiful and elegant complexity. Expect notes of brioche, grilled almonds, blossom and lemon drops, with a bright acidity that extends the finish. Pair with fresh seafood, or simply enjoy as an aperitif.

Thank you again for everyone who attended this evening, and thank you to Peasant Cheese for supplying the nibbles!

- Abigail Pavka
abigail@kensingtonwinemarket.com

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