An Exploration of Champagne Ruinart Roses

Apr 22, 15 An Exploration of Champagne Ruinart Roses

Posted by in Champagne

“Champagne is best drunk between 9 am and 9 am the next day…” according to Ruinart Chef de Cave, Frédéric Panaïotis. I couldn’t agree more, which is how I found myself one Friday morning in Mayfair ready for a tasting of Ruinart’s rosés going  back to the 1980’s. The morning was dedicated to an exploration of Ruinart’s rosés. According the tasting notes, …”Ruinart is recognised by many as a reference for Blanc de Blanc Champagne and the Rosé wines in its portfolio contain a high percentage of Chardonnay grapes.  Frédéric describes the Ruinart Rosé as “A harmonious blending of two grape varieties, that gives a silky generous feeling on the palate.  The Chardonnay provides exceptional aromatic freshness while the Pinot Noir offers intense colour and delicate red fruits with an unexpected hint of exotic fruits…” I enjoy vertical tastings very much because it’s a chance to see how wines evolve and champagne is no different. We started with their NV rosé as a benchmark to see how the wines evolve over the years. This NV is full of berries and even has a few tropical notes to it. Fred noted that they are hoping to achieve an aromatic style of champagne, bursting with raspberry and strawberry. Fred says this is a rosé for jacuzzis, I’ll have to take his word for it! As we went through the wines, we went from Dom Ruinart 2002, 1998, 1996, 1990 and finished off with the Dom Ruinart 1988. The 2002 was still vibrant and pale pink in colour, still very aromatic on the nose. It was when we got to the 1990’s that the rosés began to turn darker in hue, almost onion skin in colour. The champagnes were also spicer and full of candied fruits on the nose and palate. By the time we go to the Dom Ruinart 1990, we were getting into Christmas pudding territory on the nose, with hints of dates, mushrooms and figs. This is definitely a food wine. Fred recommended this...

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Tasting Vin Clair at Veuve Clicquot, Future Champagne in the Making

Feb 17, 15 Tasting Vin Clair at Veuve Clicquot, Future Champagne in the Making

Posted by in Champagne

I like to think that vin clair tasting is similar to Bordeaux en primeur in that it’s a tasting where you are given a glimpse of the wine to come. With vin clair though you have to use your imagination a lot more to envision how the final blend will turn out. Bear in mind also that it’s not 2 or even 10 vin clair that have to be tasted, it can run into the hundreds. The process often takes weeks before the final assessment of each wine is done and the blend selected. Vin clair is the wine that is produced after the first fermentation of the grapes. Just a reminder, to make champagne, the wine goes through 2 fermentations. Vin clair or base wines are blended together and then put in bottle for the second fermentation which produces all those lovely tiny bubbles. If you like champagne, you’ll hate vin clair but then again, it’s not made for consumption now but in 3 years time, at the very least. These are wines that are very young, they are usually tasted 6 months or so after harvest to access their potential. The aim is to have wines with lots of acidity as well as showing the typicity of the 3 grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir, meunier. This is where the winemakers vision comes in, he or she must imagine how the blend will taste after a minimum of 3 years in bottle and often the wine stays in the bottle for much, much longer. As I’m here in champagne at the moment, I was invited to taste a few vin clair with the Chef de Cave of Veuve Clicquot, Dominique Demarville. He had a few samples of pinot noir, chardonnay and meunier to taste with each wine coming from a different parcel of grapes and a different village. Dominique wanted to take us on a journey of the region with grapes from the north to the south and east to west. We had our...

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Blending masterclass at the Krug Celebration

May 07, 13 Blending masterclass at the Krug Celebration

Posted by in Champagne, France

They say the best time to taste wine is first thing in the morning. Although I’m not a morning person, AT ALL, I do tend to agree with this particular trope. And so, at 9am on our last day at Krug we were all assembled in the tasting room of the house to try our hand at blending a Grande Cuvee 2012. Krug is one of the last houses to blend their ‘non-vintage’ champagne, the Grande Cuvee and they had just finished putting the 2012 version together a week or two earlier. Every year, they start with all over again, not considering what they have done in the past. Initially, Chef de Cave Eric Lebel and his team started out in September with over 300 wines to choose from to use for the blend. Over the next few months they held one tasting a day to determine which should go into the blend. I asked Frederica, one of the winemakers,why they had only one tasting a day? Surely it would be faster to do 2 or 3 tastings each day. She said that they had tried to do 2 a day but in the end it was too difficult to give accurate assessments of the wines and so they reverted back to one tasting a day. Eric, has a special black notebook where he keeps notes on each of the wines tasted. He has to answer two questions every year: 1) to make a vintage champagne and 2) which wines should be saved as reserve wines. For 2012 it has been decided not to make a vintage Krug as the harvest was so small that they would not have enough wine left for the reserve if they made a vintage champagne. On to our little experiments to create a Krug Grande Cuvee. As the previous day we had tried the base wines of 2012, now we were being giving a combination of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot muenier – 16 2012’s and 12 reserve wines...

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Krug Celebration – a tasting, Clos d’Ambonnay & Clos du Mesnil

May 03, 13 Krug Celebration – a tasting, Clos d’Ambonnay & Clos du Mesnil

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Despite all that Krug the night before, I didn’t have even a headache the next day. I’m not sure if that is is a good or bad thing, the ability to drink copious amounts of Krug and feel fine the next day but maybe I’m just lucky. We started bright and early with a short tour of the cellars and the winery. Krug uses oak barrels for all its fermenting and aging. However, as Eric pointed out, the barrels are all old barrels, most averaging about 20 years of age, the oldest dating back to 1964. An interesting side note, all champagne houses historically used oak barrels until the 1960’s when the change was made, seemly en masse, to stainless steel or concrete. After the tour, we commenced a tutored tasting of the 2012 vintage base wines. Chef de Cave Eric Lebel and his team of winemakers walked us through the 2012 vintage. Krug had just finished blending their 2012 Grande Cuvee and it was fascinating to get to try the base wines or vin clair as they are called in French. The base wines are still wines that are blended before going through the second fermentation. Kurg uses chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier in their Grande Cuvee. 2012 was a difficult year, having late frost, mildew and uneven flowering but luckily a warm and sunny August and September saved the vintage and although it was small, it has proven to be a great year. If you’ve never tried base wines, let me tell you now, it’s not exactly a pleasurable experience – base wines are naturally very acidic with not a lot of body, they’re not meant to be drunk now but only after going through the second fermentation and after many years in the cellar. Trying the base wines certainly does give you an appreciation for the imagination, artistry and hard work that goes into blending the wines that eventually become champagne. Krug have 3 main criteria when they are choosing...

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Krug Celebration, the first night… vintage magnums

Apr 29, 13 Krug Celebration, the first night… vintage magnums

Posted by in Champagne

Late last year I attended the Krug Institute of Happiness and left a very happy camper indeed. I do enjoy a glass or 3 of Krug so you can imagine my delight when I was invited to participate in  the Krug Celebration. A 3 day event of all things Krug at the house in Reims. Spring time in Champagne is lovely. However, this year Spring was still waiting to, er, spring, and so it was a rather wet and drizzly afternoon as we headed to the main house of Krug to meet Olivier and his team of winemakers. After brief introductions all round, we headed down to the cellars for the first of many “surprise” tastings – as Olivier told us, with a twinkle in his eyes. And  what a surprise it was – a vertical of magnums, 1961,1969, 1971, 1973 and the youngster, 1981. The main purpose was to show that “…there is no hierarchy amongst the vintages…each one is a unique expression of the year…” Olivier explained that even today, they adhere to the notes that Joseph Krug put down in his now iconic cherry coloured leather notebook when they are blending their champagne. As Olivier said, if they get stuck, they have Joseph at hand, in the form of his notebook, to guide them. There is no recipe per se at Krug. Their aim is to show the very best expression of champagne in each bottle. To that end, they have over 200 base wines to choose from including reserve wines that go back 15 years or more for their non-vintage Grande Cuvee. In comparison, most other non-vintages only use wines from a 3 or 4 years. Krug only make 2 cuvees (and since the 90’s, a rose), the Grande Cuvee which is for all intents and purposes their non-vintage and the vintage. It was a fantastic trip into the past, the magnums were set deep in the cellar facing the Krug library of champagnes. It was awesome to see all...

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