Dec 012012

Taittinger is my mother in law’s favourite champ.  It is her go to for all occasions that need to be appropriately fêted.  I love that Grace Kelly was their spokesperson and they did indeed have a brilliant marketing campaign.

I have written about the Tattinger demi-sec and adore Domaine Caneros–their sparkling house in Napa Valley that is fashioned after a French chateau–amour!  I will not be addressing either of these here, but specifically reporting about their Brut.

There is no question that Tattinger Brut is good. The bigger question here is how does it compare to other bottles in a similar price point?  The only true way that this can be decided is by a blind tasting which we will definitely do at some point again this year and will surely include the Germ’s mother who is such a fan.

The bottle that we had was yummy–but it was lacking.  One glass into it, I became quickly snuffed up.  This is a relatively new phenomena that I have inherited from my mother and is the result of a mild  sulpha allergy which is getting worse.  Growing up, I recall my mother becoming extremely congested, often with red wines, but the bottom line was the congestion was the result of sulphites present in the bottle.  Sulphites in champ?  It didn’t cross my mind.  I checked the back label of the bottle and there it was.  The disclaimer–this bottle contains sulphites.  Since we always have many bottles of champagne on hand, I checked a few others.  Surprsingly, Taittinger was not the only bottle to contain sulphites.  Since I haven’t had this reaction from many other bottles of champ, I am going to be on the watch, trying other bottles that do contain sulphites and see if the reaction (which I will say is quite a sniffly unpleasant mess) continues.

Founded in 1734, the Taittinger Champagne house is based in Reims. The flagship wines of the house are the Comtes de Champagne (composed of 100% Chardonnay) and Comtes de Champagne Rosé (1

Champagne Taittinger was established in 1931 by Pierre Taittinger on the foundations of Forest-Forneaux, itself established in 1734 and the third-oldest wine producing house of Champagne. Taittinger is today proprietor of approximately 600 acres of vines among which are included parcels in the one hundred – percent rated villages of Cramant and Avize in the Cote des Blancs; and Bouzy, Mailly, Ambonnay and Verzenay in the Montagne de Reims. The Taittinger Estate is one of the three most extensive in the Champagne district, and the firm’s major holdings in Chardonnay vineyards are the physical expression of the Taittinger philosophy and style.Medium straw color, with an impressive mousse and a fine, active bead; plenty of yeasty bread dough on the nose, which, with a good dose of minerality, takes on a supporting role to the rich under-ripe apple in the flavor profile. Plenty of froth in the mouth, zippy acidity, good intensity and nice length on the finish. Solid, straightforward Champagne, making no pretension to be anything more than it is, and quite enjoyable for all that; frankly, I could drink this two or three times a week.

That being said, we finished the bottle–snuffed up be damned.

 Posted by on December 1, 2012
Nov 132012

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…

Jay-Z featuring Mary J Blige – Can’t Knock The Hustle
Jay-Z – Dead Presidents
Nelly – Ride Wit Me feat. St. Lunatics
Jay-Z – Feelin It
Puff Daddy ft. The Notorious B.I.G., The LOX & Lil’ Kim – It’s All About the Benjamins
 Posted by on November 13, 2012
Aug 172012

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 on August 17, 2012
Mar 072012

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 on March 7, 2012
Feb 032012

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 on February 3, 2012