Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Welcome to Recent Disgorgements

Welcome to my new blog, which I intend to be a collection of tasting notes and general thoughts on Champagne (both the drink and region). Or all Champagne, all the time, if you will.

I hope folks will chime in early and often.

My first visit to Champagne was over the final week of 2009 - I hope to get back in early 2011. Two of the highlights included visits at Chartogne-Taillet (one of their vineyards is pictured to the right) and Vilmart, both growers/farmers who are doing special things at their respective domains.

There was a time I loathed the beverage, though I suspect my dread had its roots in sucking down room temperature “Champagne” at weddings and other various celebrations, such as New Year’s Eve. I use quotes, as it was effervescent but hardly drinkable, let alone Champagne. (PSA time: If you’re going to serve unsuspecting folks that during the holidays, at least have the decency to chill it.) So I lay blame at the feet of various hosts throughout my life. I can’t help but look back and think: “Did they hate me?” And really, “Champagne” was the only wine I was ever offered – though perhaps a lukewarm glass of Pinot Grigio or Kendall Jackson Chardonnay was thrust upon me at some point as well. I’ve since blocked out all negative wine memories. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts.

Which leads me to December of 1999. I was living in Chicago and dating my wife-to-be, who was toiling for “Big Five” accounting firm Arthur Andersen. She received a couple of bottles of Domaine Chandon, a sparkling wine made in California and which is owned by Champagne giant Moet et Chandon, from Jeffrey Skilling. Just kidding, her boss gifted her the wine and this was pre-Enron scandal. (And no, she didn’t work on the account.) With dinner one night, she popped the cork on a well-chilled bottle and poured a couple of glasses. Instinctively, I cringed when she handed me a flute. Have you ever eaten or drank something which made you ill, and then avoided that food/beverage like you would someone stricken with SARS or the Ebola Virus? OK, I wasn’t quite at that level with “Champagne.” I’d much have preferred a cold beer, of that I’m certain. But as we are wont to do when we’re new to a relationship and hoping to impress a date, I accepted the flute, clinked glasses and took a reluctant sip.

A pleasurable sip. No gag reflex or lunging for a taste of a cold beer to chase the taste from my palate. So I took another sip and enjoyed it as much as the first. I couldn’t believe how extraordinary this wine was, it must cost $100, no? Because up to that moment in time, I had been trained like a Pavlov dog that wine tastes bad and should only be doled out to punish those you dislike.

A $14.99 bottle of NV Domaine Chandon sparked my interest and thirst for Champagne.

What bottle first opened your eyes?


  1. Bravo on starting a Champagne blog! Not only is the subject matter more than worthy, I already like your approach—both informed and informal. Looking forward to following it.

    To answer the question at the end of your post, I also had bad times, early on, with Champagne. Only for me it was people serving ice-cold Mumm Cordon Rouge. I never "got" it. For me, I think things gradually started to change, because I remember my curiosity about champagne growing about five years ago, and seeking out grower champagne. And yes, inevitably, a real "ZOMG" moment was that first whiff of Selosse Initial...

  2. Merci Beaucoup, Mme Bowman. I hope to keep it on the lighter side, though geekiness will shine through.

    Too funny that your suds were being served too cold. I like my bubbly somewhere between cellar temp and room temp (in my house like 65 degrees), so low 60s? Too cold and the intricacies don't shine through, too warm there's no precision to the flavors.

    Totally agree about grower Champagnes, there's really character and a uniqueness to the better ones that the best tete du cuvees from the big boys are lacking, even if they're tasty drinks, too.

    Makes me think about last New Years Day, Vilmart, Selosse and Jacquesson (and Rousseau!) :)

  3. NV Bollinger was my undoing. I never paid much attention to the bubblies until that Bolly. I'd been to some tastings that featured some of the trophy wines but it seemed that the best wines were always north of the $100 level so they were easy to look past at first. Then I drank another NV Bolly and Bing this $30 bottle was goood. So after tasting a couple more bottles I noticed that the Lot # L632101 was substantially better than other lots. So I ended up going thru several hundred cases at Binnys and snapped up all of those.

  4. Paul that's a great NV isn't it?

    Lot L827104 was a score for me, too - tasted more complex than other bottles, I tried to grab as many as I could when it was $39.99 around here.