My wine group got together last night for our annual summer evening of Champagne. Our location was the house of good friends Ed & Joan, on their deck over the waters Lake Samammish – a perfect setting for tasting a lot of wonderful bubbles. The wine group of 8 guys meets about 10 times per year, and we generally do Champagne in the summer. This is the one time of year that all of our significant others join us. My wife is always happy about it, because she loves Champagne.
Most of our wine tastings are blind, but not this time. Ed and Joan made a wonderful flank steak with green beans cooked in some sort of bacon fat – and the most amazing potatoes cooked in duck fat! It was the perfect pairing for the Champagne and an excellent way to kick off the pending trips to France that three of the couples are planning this fall.
Everyone agreed that the line-up of Champagnes this year were all excellent – here are the wines that people brought:
NV Guy Charlemagne – Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) – Champagne, France: Very nice toasty nose of bread and ginger spice. Medium to full-bodied with baked apples and bread, with a nice medium – long finish. This is a very nice bold masculine-styled Champagne, especially for the price range of $45. (91pts.)
NV Besserat de Bellefon – Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) – Champagne, France: Nice subtle nose of lemon and yeast, medium-light bodied with clean Chardonnay fruit and lemon in the mouth. Medium lemon/apple finish. My wife liked this more than I did. It was more feminine in style and around $35. (89pts.)
NV Aspasie – Cepages D’Antan – Champagne, France: This is Aspasie’s high-end wine and they are owned by the Champagne house Ariston. Exotic nose of ripe lemons and blood oranges, combined with smokey wood notes. Medium-full bodied with spiced baked apples and lemon, good acidity and a medium-long finish. This is a very nice Champagne that will age well over the next ten years, $100. (93pts.)
1998 Taittinger – Comtes des Champagne – Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) – Champagne, France: This is the high-end wine for Taittinger and it was an absolute beauty tonight. Big, zesty lemony fruit on the nose. Full bodied in the mouth with lemon, baking spices and intense electric acidity. There was great minerality pouring through on the very long persistent finish. This was the best showing I have had with a Taittinger Champagne in a very long time and it was the surprise of the evening. This wine is feminine in style and still needs another 10 years to reach maturity. Once it gets there it will be a show stopper, wow. $185. (96pts.)
1996 Egly Ouriet – Grand Cru – Champagne, France: Smaller producer and not easy to get, but Egly Ouriet makes some great wines in all price ranges. This was Egly Ouriet’s high-end wine. Big, rich toasty apple and lemon fruit combined with ginger and baking spices, like nutmeg. This wine is a big masculine styled Champagne, that just begs you to have food with it, not a delicate sipping Champagne by any means. Very long, rich, spiced green apple fruit finish, beautiful $125. (95pts.)
1996 Pol Roger – Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc – Champagne, France: Big, bold spicy lemon fruit nose that carries through to the palate. Nice long spicy fruit finish with very good acidity. This is a Pol Roger middle end wine and they consistently make a great Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc in a masculine style $85. (94pts.)
1996 Bollinger – Grand Annee – Champagne, France: Very nice ginger bread and lemon nose. This Champagne is full-bodied and very smooth in the mouth. You get baked apples and lemon, combined with again ginger bread and very nice acidity on the very long finish, great wine and getting better $125. (94pts)
1996 Krug – Champagne, France: Big, strong nose of baked bread, apples and lemon. Very masculine in style, huge, bold whole grain bread combined with spicy baked green apples and lemony acidity. This wine is very smooth in the mouth, but with huge body. The extremely complex finish of bread, spices and fruit, is incredibly long. The finish stays in the mouth long after you have swallowed it. The 1996 Krug is definitely a Champagne to have food with and is one of the best Champagnes that I have ever had. It is still young, but has a long life ahead of it. It is hard to imagine, but this champagne will get better with more time in the bottle. In ten years, the 1996 Krug will be an absolute rockstar $350. (99pts.)
When we have people over for dinner, we generally start the evening off with some Champagne. Most people think of Champagne as something you open for a special occasion. I say Champagne is great for any day of the week – life itself is enough of a celebration, and we certainly proved it last Tuesday night! Thanks Ed and Joan!