This year, venture beyond the big names (grand marques) and try champagnes with superior character, structure and heart — grower producer champagne. With more than 4000 to choose from, these affordable, often less known bottles, from some of the 320 villages in Champagne, are a world waiting to be discovered.
A TOAST TO 2020
Why wait to splurge? If 2020 has taught us anything it’s to make the most of the present. No other duo could be more indulgent than seafood and champagne. Here is a quick guide to everything bubbles.
Top Festive Food Pairings
Oysters topped with caviar
Foie gras on toast
Duck breast with cherries
Roasted bass with mild Thai curry
Cheese platter including: epoisses, tome de brebis
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Your senses play a crucial role in appreciating a fine glass of champagne. Think about colour, smell and then proceed with the taste.
Look at the effervescence of bubbles, paying close attention to the ‘liveliness’ or intensity as well as the small froth forming at the top of the glass. Next, observe the colour. Is it pale straw indicating a younger wine or salmon pink, foretelling the length of time of grape skin contact (likely Pinot Noir) with the juice? Ask yourself what scents or bouquet can you pick out from the glass. The majority of champagne can be divided into four categories: fresh fruit, floral, dried fruit and nuts and baked goods. Finally take a sip or two. Do you taste the freshness of citrus? This is a signature of brut, non vintage champagne made from mostly chardonnay, while the rich taste of oak, nuts and baked brioche is characteristic of a vintage style.
WHATS THE DIFFERENCE
Champagne Bottler Codes:
NM (Négociant-Manipulant) Champagne house that buys its grapes.
Most well known grand marques (famous houses) belong to this category.
RM (Récoltant-Manipulant) Growers who produce their own grapes and make their own champagne. There are more than 4,000 in the Champagne region.
CM (Cooperative de Manipulation) A grower cooperative that combine their grapes for one or more houses.
Small grower-producer, and grower cooperatives create champagnes that though less known, result in more interesting, ‘artistic’ champagnes that speak to the terroir with grapes often from Grand Cru, and Premier Cru vineyards in Champagne. Sip as an aperitif or with a full meal and discover a world unto itself.
Champagne Bruno Paillard Extra Brut Première Cuvée
Made from first press juice of which 20% is barrel fermented, this fresh non vintage champagne is bright and focused. The medium body of this expressive bubbly, produces a zesty lemon curd aroma with notes of dried and fresh flowers. Rich depth comes courtesy of the Pinot Noir and Meunier. Half of this blend is made from reserve wine dating to 1985.
Champagne Devaux Cuvée D
Comprised of equal parts pinot noir and chardonnay with half of the reserve wine fermented and aged in oak barrels and left on lees for five years, results in maturity that shows through the toasty notes and weight, yet with enough bracing acidity, from fresh strawberry and citrus flavours.
Champagne Charles de Cazanove Champagne Premier Cru Brut
Arresting yellow-gold flecks in the glass reveal ripe orchard fruit with a decidedly spicy nose that carries through on the palate. Comprised of equal amounts pinot noir and chardonnay from premier cru (or better) vineyards and left on lees for three years, these bubbles offer zingy freshness of apple and lemon zest with gentle toasted brioche-meets-nut characteristics, and a hint of honey.
Champagne Pierre Paillard N/V Brut
Grower champagne and cousin to negociant Bruno Paillard, all of the uncloned pinot noir and chardonnay grapes come from 28 acres of estate grown grapes from the prestigious Bouzy region. A low dosage of 3.5g/l, with 60% pinot noir and 40% chardonnay delivers a mineral freshness yet floral champagne accompanied by apple, lemon curd with delicate biscuit notes lingering with a creamy finish.
Compte Audoin de Dampierre Cuvée des Ambassadeurs N/V Brut
50% chardonnay (mostly from Avize and Cramant) to 50% pinot noir (from Bouzy and Verzenay) with base wine from three different years, 2009, 2010 and 2011 that results in a full bodied style, yet delicately balanced. Deep yellow hued, with pear forward aromas and delicate baked pastry. A bold sipper that is best paired with an entrée, like rabbit blanquette or simple sole meunière.
Canard Duchene Authentic Brut
A light, fresh style that is characteristic of the house, using 45% pinot noir, 35% pinot meunier, and 20% chardonnay. Fresh fruit like apple and apricot is balanced against brioche toastiness. Pale straw in colour, and enough acidity to offer a well balanced glass with medium length.
Champagne Deutz N/V Brut Classique
Pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay are blended in equal quantities, resulting in a golden hued glass of bubbles. The mellow nose resounds with green apple, and a hint of brioche. On the palate, mineral chalkiness blends seamlessly with the fruit which would be ideally paired with wood roasted oysters.
This original wines and spirits article first appeared in the Winter 2020/2021 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.