November tasting promises to be surprising
By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
Nov. 13, 2002
Three years ago, with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, we decided to feature champagne at our November tasting and have done so ever since. After all, what is more festive during the holidays than champagne?
In the past we've served a combination of French champagnes and sparkling wines from the United States, Australia, Spain or Italy. True champagne, however, can only be made in the champagne district of France. All sparkling wines are imitations, even if they are made in the same manner as the French product.
This year we've decided to go all out. Six of the seven wines to be served Nov. 21 will be actual French champagnes. Only one will be a California sparkling wine and, as you will see, we have a reason for including it.
We're going to do something we've never done before. We're going to match champagne producers against themselves, one of their vintages against another of their own, one style head-to-head with a different version made by the same producer.
For example. Drappier is a highly respected French winery. One reference book says this about them: "Drappier's champagnes are brilliantly consistent, ultra fruity and rapidly acquire mellow biscuity complexity."
First, we will taste their non vintage Blanc de Blanc Cuvee Signature bottling. Rated 89, it has been reviewed as "rich, round and mouthfilling, yet maintaining a sense of finesse. The flavors evoke hazelnut, lime and dough, allied to a soft structure, all in an upfront style."
Then we will serve Drappier's 1990 vintage champagne, their Grande Sendree. It was given an 86 by the reviewer with this note "Easy to enjoy for its straightforward fruit flavors and slightly sweet balance."
We shall see for ourselves.
Next we will match two wines produced by Deutz one of Champagne's smallest grand marque houses. It was founded in 1838 by Prussian immigrant William Deutz. Small as they are, they still produce 180,000 cases per year.
Both of their wines on our tasting list are rated 89. One is the Deutz Brut champagne 1990 vintage, carrying this review: "A generous, fruity, easy-going champagne with lots of fruit character and good balance."
It will be paired with the Deutz Blanc de Blanc champagne from the 1993 vintage. Incidentally, "Blanc de Blanc means "white wine made from white grapes." Its reviewer said, "Smooth and delicious. An enticing combination of subtle fruit flavor, supple texture and lingering aftertaste make this appealing."
May the best wine win.
Then comes a Piper-Heidsieck, one of France's best known champagnes. This winery is big business. They have 235 employees who produce 680,000 cases each year. A few years ago the winemaker upgraded Piper-Heidsieck champagnes by pouring more fruit into the blend and sourcing much of it from the warm Aube vineyards which gave the wine a soft but simple, fruity aroma and more fruit on the palate. The change was well received.
We mentioned that we were going to pour a California sparkling wine. About 10 or 15 years ago the owners of Piper-Heidsieck decided they could increase their business by opening a winery in California using the knowledge and methods of their French operation.
Thus, Piper-Sonoma was born the Sonoma meaning, of course, made in that area of California. Piper-Sonoma wines have been quite popular and they sell for about half the price commanded by the company's French made wines.
That's why the Piper-Sonoma is on the list. We'll drink it against its big brother from France and compare the two. In view of the price differential, that should be interesting
Our door wine will be a French Champagne made by Pommery, another famed producer with headquarters in the city of Reims. This company was born in 1836 under Madame Pommery. Its extraordinary vineyards are located on seven different hillsides that are unique to the region but which produce first class grapes. The wines are stored in caves under ground that are so deep they are reached by 116 steps.
We have selected Pommery's 1992 vintage which has been described as "distinctive in style and generous for a lean vintage. Has assertive toasty, earthy aromas, ample fruit flavor and a mouthfilling mousse." It is rated 87.
If you have ever bought French champagnes you know they are pricey. Therefore, we have had to set the tasting fee at $35 per place but remember there will be seven of these great champagnes served. Please make a reservation by calling 482-0930.
We need to know how many are coming when we purchase these wines. To be certain you will have a place, make out your check to Wines Unlimited and mail to P.O. Box 5223, Meridian, MS 39302. The tasting is Nov. 21 (it has been moved up because the following Thursday, our regular day, is Thanksgiving.)
It will be at Northwood Country Club beginning at 6:30 p.m., but you do not have to be a member to attend. The public is invited. Please call at your earliest opportunity.