Nov 132012
 
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For our anniversary this year, we splashed out and treated ourselves to a bottle of Louis Roederer’s 2004 Cristal.  I was obsessed with trying Cristal, not only because of the roll it has played in hip hop culture, but mainly I wanted to see for myself what all the hype was about.  This Cat loves rap music and just how many times can one hear Jay-Z mention popping bottles of Cris without wanting to pop your own?

One of the reasons that Cristal was so influential in the rap and hip hop community is because it was considered the highest status (most expensive) champagne you could purchase.  In economic terms, it is considered to be a Veblen good–an item that is perceived as exclusive as long as the price remains high–think Rolls Royce Phantom or an Hermes Birkin bag.

In 2006, Frederic Rouzaud, the managing director of Cristal was asked how he felt about his product being accociated with the hip hop ‘bling’ community and he answered “That’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business”. Rouzard then said he approached the new hip hop Cristal relationship with “curiosity and serenity”. As a result of these comments, which were perceived by the hip hop community as both racist and patronizing, there was a huge down turn not only in sales, but also in references to Cristal in music.  In 2005, Cristal was the 8th most referenced product in all of Billboard music only after brands such as Mercedes and BMW.  A boycott led by Jay Z ensured that the hip hop community substituted their champagne allegiance to any other house.  Jay Z  favours Dom Perignon and Armant de Brignac.

None of Jay Z’s night clubs 40/40 carry Cristal any longer nor does Crissy find its way into his personal flutes.

 

Here are my thoughts on our bottle of 2004 Cristal:

The bottle is clear glass and comes wrapped in gold cellphone to avoid exposure to UV light.  Most champagne bottles are dark brown or green glass so cellphone is not needed.

Cristal is considered to be the first prestige cuvée and created for Alexander II of Russia.  Legend has it that there was political unrest and Alexander feared assassination.  Alexander demanded that his champagne to be served in a clear bottle so he could ensure there weren’t any bombs inside which would be too hard to detect inside the typical dark green bottle.  He also and he wanted watch the bubbles. The now iconic Cristal flat bottom clear glass bottle was born (via Flemish design).

The blend of grapes is 55% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay.  The champ was delicious.  It was smooth and creamy, but not with much minerality which I really missed.  I loved the silky persistent bubbles, but the absolute bottom line for me, is that the price of this bottle does not reflect the deliciousness.  The cost was 4-6X that of a non-vintage, and easily doubles many other houses vintages (like Dom or Grand Dame).  My preference would be to have more as delicious bottles than this Veblen bottle which was  definitely good, but not 4X the price good.

 

Champagne Detail #4:  Scarborough Research found that people who have attended a hip-hop concert are 77 percent more likely than the general public to buy Champagne.

 

Just a few hip hop Cristal referencing videos to get you going…

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 16:56
Aug 172012
 
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Pierrel Brut Champagne is a gem.  With a gorgeous, non-traditional bottle, this champagne hails from a relatively new house and a young blender.  Pierrel champagne is unexpectedly delicious.

Lets start with the bottle–it is like nothing I have ever seen.  The new design keeps out harmful UV rays, shuns tradition and makes Pierrel a standout.

The champagne is refined with delicate bubbles which allows for its golden, elegant mousse.

There are notes of citrus and floral–but they are not overwhelming, allowing this champ to be enjoyed on its own or beautifully paired with food.  If you love minerality in your champ (as I do), this bottle is for you. There are lovely and complex undertones which surely come from the blend of 50% chardonnay, 40% pinot menuier and 10% pinot noir.  Pierrel should only be described as elegant.

I will continue to keep my eyes peeled for Pierrel Champagne and will look forward to popping more bottles when an occasion presents itself.  There never seems to be a shortage of occasions non?

 

Champagne Detail #4:   The cage, the collar or the muselet–are three different, all correct names for the wire contraption that holds the cork in place.  This cage (what we call it in our house) ALWAYS has six turns.  I finally have a favourite number!

 Posted by at 16:23
Mar 072012
 
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Without question, one of the most underrated Champagnes around is Paul Laurent. 

Bottom line, it is delicious. Easily enjoyed on its own, Paul Laurent also pairs very well with most dishes, and costs significantly less than its counterparts.  Value! This wonderful champagne is full of character and refinement.  Paul Laurent is one of the newer champagne houses, hailing from the Gruet family who have also expanded into the sparkling wine business in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I discovered Paul Laurent years ago when I was making an effort to branch out beyond the few big houses that were always my go-to bottles.  Boozy best friends were over, a bottle was popped and we discovered the magic of Paul Laurent together.  We were oohing and ahhing over the smoothness, the balance, the lovely colour and delicate bubbles.  We were all converted into fans immediately.

Paul Laurent is a blend of pinot noir (80%) and chardonnay (20%) and made in the traditional méthode champenoise.  It always delivers and can be consumed at any and every moment. I adore that it emphasizes the taste of even the most simple dishes and enhances the pleasure of the most elaborate ones.

Don’t miss this delicious, refined, delicate AND economic champagne.

 

Champagne Detail #3–The pressure in a bottle of champagne is 90 pounds per square inch–almost three times more pressure than in a car tire.  If you want to blow the cork, do it outside!

 Posted by at 14:01
Feb 032012
 
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I really do love Moët & Chandon.  Until pressed in a blind tasting, I was convinced that Moët was my absolute favourite (but of course, I am very open to finding a new favourite and recommendations are always welcome).  Moët & Chandon was the champagne of choice on my wedding day.  The first bottles were popped while getting ready before I walked down the aisle…Delicious.  Is there anything so festive or celebratory as champagne?

 

Moët is lovely and smooth.  It provides all of the elements that a fine bottle of champagne needs to deliver.  As one of the oldest, biggest and most powerful champagne houses, Moët & Chandon has a lusciously rich history which includes everything from a current Royal Warrant to supply Queen Elizabeth II with champagne to holding some of the most notable historic champagne accounts like Napoleon and Queen Victoria–to name only a few. The Moët brand continues to maintain a significant presence in the world of champagne, luxury goods and beyond.   In 1987 a merger of Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy took place, creating the powerhouse luxury brand known as LVMH where Christian Dior is the main holding company with over 42% of the shares and 59% of the voting rights.  There are over 60 high end brands under the LVMH umbrella which includes everything from Fendi to Céline, Bulgari to Donna Karan.

For the past 21 years, Moët & Chandon has been the official champagne of the Golden Globe Awards.  This year, every table had a magnum of 2002 Grand Vintage (yum) in a silver ice bucket on the table, of course with the label proudly displayed.  Everyone loves the Golden Globes because it is a boozy event, but what makes it even more fun is the fact that it is a champagne boozy event. The best kind of boozy event ever!

Moët usually runs slightly less in cost than Veuve, but it is generally more expensive than the smaller, lesser known champagne houses.

The colour is straw, with gorgeous, delicate ribbons of bubbles and a lovely smooth finish.   It is a solid go-to champagne, maintains serious brand power and is always widely available. Moët performed very well at our blind tasting with many people ranking it as their favourite champ.

In 2011, Scarlett Johanson became the face of Moët & Chandon’s latest advertising campaign with a truly stunning array of pictures.  Each one is more beautiful than the next. It is so fitting to have such a gorgeous startlet photographed with champagne–non? Here are a few of the images from the campaign…

Moët will not disappoint.  Their California house Chandon is a much less expensive option and will be discussed further in a later crémant entry and truly explored in a future blind crémant tasting.

Champagne Detail #2 : You pronounce the T.  The proper pronunciation of Moët is MO–ette.

 Posted by at 11:14
Jan 152012
 
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With the launch of this website, obviously it would have been madness not to pop a bottle in celebration.  Life is full of so many wonderful occasions that need/should be celebrated by popping something delicious.  Enter stage right Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.

For the Germ’s birthday in November, we had a blind tasting to narrow down what really is our favourite champagne.  On the flight we had three premium, big house champagnes and one crémant de Loire. Kitty and the Germ both chose Veuve Clicquot as our number one pick.  We will forever continue these blind champagne tastings (SO fun!) and this year Veuve will remain on the flight.

Founded in 1772 in Reims, Veuve was an early pioneer in champagne production methods, still in practice today.  Their méthode champenoise  was a game changer for the industry and continues to be widely used.  Méthode champenoise  is when a second fermentation takes place in the bottle.  With this new method, Veuve Clicquot  rapidly gained popularity and favour in many of the royal courts.  Today it continues to hold warrants of royal appointment.

Kitty and the Germ are fans of Veuve Cliquot for many reasons–but it is important to note that we confirmed our preference through a blind tasting.

Here are a few pros regarding Veuve.  We love how widely available it has become.  Seek and ye shall find.  In the US, most liquor and big box stores like Target and Costco will always carry it.  It also serves as a great price point marker to know exactly how much it costs everywhere we go–because we can always find it and it is on most wine lists.   We also appreciate how consistent the non vintage Brut is and we have yet to meet a bottle we didn’t like.  The magnums (1.5 L) are frequently  considered higher quality and more delicious than their 750 ml sisters because less oxygen is used during the fermentation process (méthode champenoise).  This widely held opinion has not been proven and remains only a theory and a matter of taste.  I happen to believe that a magnum is more delicious.  Maybe it is the lack of oxygen, but perhaps it is the joy I feel knowing that there are two bottles inside which means more to share…There are some champagnes (I know who they are and will expose them during this champagne year) that induce heartburn with the first acidic sip.  Not Veuve.  Veuve is smooth, refined, not too delicate and gives you a  kiss goodnight as a finish.  Finally,  I adore their branding, packaging and vintage ad campaigns.  Orange also happens to be my favourite colour and they have simply done a smash up job on their marketing.  LOVE.

I do need to mention that their latest vintage release (2002) was not as delicious as expected.  Compared to its cheaper non-vintage cousins, we were slightly disappointed, especially due to price point consideration (double+)

Pair Veuve with anything, at any time of the day.   Be sure to always have a chilled bottle on hand and be ready to celebrate all of life’s big and little achievements and markers.

(on move-in day with pizza–perfection)

Champagne Detail#1  Veuve is the French word for Widow.  François Clicquot died 7 years after marrying Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin–leaving her everything.  His Veuve (Widow) took control of the small company, which at the time also had significant interests in banking and wool.  She moved the focus to their champagne production and showed the world that a woman can lead and create an empire–all hail the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.

 Posted by at 10:30